What’s So Special About Merlot?

Merlot has got some major vineyard acres under its belt. It is planted so widely that there’s only one wine grape with more roots in the ground, and that’s Cabernet Sauvignon.

According to Wine Business Monthly: “Merlot is grown all across the globe, including countries as diverse as Italy, Romania, Australia, Argentina, Bulgaria, Chile, Greece, Hungary, Mexico and South Africa. It is the second most-planted grape in Israel and can be found in Turkey, Croatia and Slovenia. In the United States, California and Washington have had the most success with the variety, but even Long Island, New York is having a successful go with it.”

It’s popular for good reason. It has the chops to adapt to a variety of climates and still retain an approachable, supple texture. It’s a key element in Bordeaux, a cornerstone to the iconic blends there, with some estimates reporting that two-thirds of Merlot in the world is at home in France.

Merlot has sides. Climate expression, from cool to warm, brings out profile differences. The New World and Old World also treat this variety differently.

Wines To Try

L’Occasion participates in #MerlotMe each year. This is an opportunity to sample Merlot in conjunction with others in the wine trade, as well as wine lovers who get in on the action. The month of October is dedicated this event.

This year, my cup runneth over with samples that came to my door! (The weather here has been pleasant enough for deliveries, which has helped.) So I have many wines to suggest to readers—a big #MerlotMe 2020 celebration.

Two of the first wines that arrived were paired with a meal we made, a customary favorite stew that we prepare several times during the fall and winter season. It is a riff on cassoulet, based on sausage and white beans, but we also had shaved ham, tomatoes, mushrooms, parmesan cheese and tons of seasonings. Come to think of it—the meal now bears little resemblance to cassoulet, but in spirit, the hardiness and richness is there. We loved this with two bottles of Merlot:

L’Ecole N° 41 Columbia Valley Merlot 2017 ($24)

Chelsea Goldschmidt Alexander Valley Guidestone Rise Merlot 2018 ($25)

In addition to the pairing, we’ve got more to try out and I’m challenging readers to choose one or two to experience over the month of October. Keep this list around when it comes time to plan for Thanksgiving, holiday gift giving or your own meals at home. Most are available right now online, some will be at your local store, and most have an accessible price.

Here’s what is most special about Merlot. The care, thought, work and inspiration that these growers and winemakers put into this variety.

Trefethan The Cowgirl and The Pilot Merlot 2017 ($90)

Trefethan Merlot 2018 ($45)

Markham Napa Valley Merlot 2017 ($29)

Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot 2017 ($56)

Decoy Sonoma County Merlot 2018 ($25)

Mt. Brave Mt. Veeder Merlot 2016 ($80)

Hickinbotham The Revivalist Merlot McLaren Vale 2017 ($75)

Bonterra Merlot 2018 ($16)

LaJota Vineyard Howell Mountain Merlot 2017 ($85)

Rutherford Hill Rosé of Merlot 2019 ($34)

Rutherford Hill Atlas Peak Merlot 2017 ($60)

McIntyre Vineyards Kimberly Vineyard Merlot Arroyo Seco 2016 ($28)

Les Cadrans de Lassègue 2016 ($30)

Additional Merlot Reading

Foolproof Pairing for #MerlotMe Month | on L’Occassion

#MerlotMe In The Kitchen: A #WinePW Special | on L’Occassion

Merlot: The Busy One | on L’Occasion

Evenings With Merlot | on L’Occasion

Washington State Merlot Charms With Quality And Taste | on Forbes

Wine Pairing Weekend

Join the Wine Pairing Weekenders at 10am central on October 10, 2020 to discuss Merlot wine and food pairings. Look for hashtags #MerlotMe and #WinePW.

There is so much to read along this month, with 20 participants! If that doesn’t provide a testament to the special qualities of Merlot, what does? Here’s what’s on:

17 thoughts on “What’s So Special About Merlot?

  1. I love the photoshoot of the bottles with the fall colors and leaves! It really makes me want to drink more Merlot to get into the season!


  2. I love the fall feel of your photos. They make me want to snuggle up in a sweater with one of these bottles. Looking forward to hearing the rest of the pairings, although that soup sounds wonderful.


  3. So many lovely bottles and your photos are stunning with the leaves. I think that your cassoulet inspired stew sounds delicious! (Everything is better with cheese, right?) you are so right about these being great Thanksgiving wines.


  4. Looks like you got quite the abundance of Merlot this year. That happened to me last year and although I was overwhelmed with wines and pairings it was a great experience to taste the vast array.


  5. Merlot is like milk, it’s abundant. However as you say, it’s the care, thought, inspiration of the growing and wine making team that set the grape / wine apart. You have some amazing bottles there Jill!


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