October is the month that Merlot lovers officially celebrate the virtues of their favorite varietal.

During this time, wineries throughout Sonoma County and Napa Valley have begun processing their newly harvested grapes to produce excellent vintage of highly acclaimed Merlots.

Merlot is the second most popular red wine varietal after the nation’s leading wine choice, the Cabernet Sauvignon. In many respects, these two highly sought-after wines can be somewhat similar since the varieties share a common parent, the Cabernet Franc. However, Merlot offers a supple, softer texture, often with fruitier flavors.

Taste, Color, and Dryness

The flavor of a well-made Merlot will vary depending on the growing conditions and climate where the grapes are sourced and the winemaking processes used. A high-quality Merlot should be dry, with moderate acidity, above-average alcohol, soft texture, and ample tannins.

According to Wine Enthusiast, Merlots may come with various flavors “ranging from graphite, herbs, and blackberries, to black cherries, plums, and cocoa, often layered with notes of clove, vanilla, and cedar when aged in oak.”

The word “merlot” is French for “little blackbird,” a reference to the deep dark color of the grapes when fully ripe.

As a product of red-skinned grapes, merlot wines tend to be deep ruby red, although they may be slightly lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and darker than Pinot Noir. Guests of Platypus Wine Tours may have a chance to make these color comparisons during their upcoming Napa Valley wine tours.

As for dryness versus sweetness, better Merlots are usually produced in a dry style. To create a dry Merlot, winemakers add yeast after the grapes are pressed to convert the natural sugars to alcohol, leaving only a tiny amount of residual sugar. This small quantity of remaining sugar adds a trace of richness to the finished wine.

The alcohol-by-volume (abv) content of Merlots will vary by location, with cooler regions like France yielding 13-14% while the warmer climates in California produce wines with slightly higher levels of alcohol.

Serving Temperature

Wine experts agree that “room temperature” is no longer a meaningful reference for serving wines since “acceptable” room temperatures today vary significantly. To optimize the flavors and enjoyment of your Merlot, the serving temperature of Merlot should be between 60° and 65°F.

What Foods are Best Paired with a High-Quality Merlot

When it comes to pairing with foods, Merlot is more versatile than most of the others. While the key to pairing the best wines with specific foods depends on the flavor intensity of both, a full-bodied Merlot matches perfectly with richer, full-flavored foods like beef, lamb, venison, Bolognese, sausage, and rich bean dishes.

Softer, cool-climate Merlots match well with savory dishes like roasted duck and mushrooms, grilled chicken, pork chops, turkey, stuffed ravioli, and prosciutto.

As for cheese and wine pairings, Merlot pairs best with heavily aged, bleu, and very pungent cheeses, according to the experts at unravelingwine.com. So, when serving your aged Cheddar, Gouda, Gorgonzola, Stilton, Parmesan, Camembert, and Brie, break out your favorite bottle of Merlot.

Reserve Your Place for a Platypus Wine Tour

Whether for a join-in scheduled tour or a private tour of wineries in Sonoma County or Napa Valley, make your reservations with Platypus Wine Tours. As the premier wine tour experts, Platypus Wine Tours offers carefully curated, safe, educational, and enjoyable outings for individuals, couples, and groups that participants long remember.

Visit the Platypus Wine Tours website to learn more about their Napa Valley Wine Tours and excursions among the wineries in Sonoma County. If you have questions or wish to discuss your preferences directly, you may phone Platypus Wine Tours at (707)-253-2723.