Once THE trendy wine, Merlot has fallen out of favor lately. It's too bad really, because it is a wonderful sipper as well as a great food friendly wine. But as approachable as New World Merlot can be, don't forget that it is also the primary ingredient in one of the world's most expensive wines, Bordeaux's magnificent Petrus. Below we have recipes chosen specifically for this grape and more information regarding the wine's history.

Quick Merlot Facts:

Around 300 years ago some of the lighter Bordeaux wines became known as claret in Great Britain. The name is still widely and nowadays refers to all Bordeaux wines. The French use the term clairet as the name for the rosé wines produced in this region.

Although all of the following wines are collectively known as Bordeaux, the specific area in which the wine was produced plays an important role in determining the character of the resulting wine.

Left bank produces cabernet sauvignon dominant blends: the Médoc, Haut Médoc, Pessac-Léognan and Graves. These wines will be more tannic and austere. The right bank produces merlot dominant blends: Saint-Émilion, Pomerol. These wines will be softer and taste fruitier.

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Click on the above link to return to the main wine and food page. There you will find a listing of twelve different varieties of wine and the menus specially chosen to create perfect pairings. Merlot is a gentle fruity wine. Often the strongest of those flavors is plum. Our recipes below empahsize that connection. Click the black bars above each photo to view the recipes.
The ancestral home of the Merlot grape is considered to be the Bordeaux region of France. Named after the country's fourth largest city, Bordeaux, on the Garonne River just off of the Atlantic coast. It has always been a successful trading center. It was the Romans who established viticulture there over 2000 years ago and since that time the Bordelais have been honing their skills as the world's premier winemakers. Although Merlot has lately come into its own as a starring player on the wine scene, early in it's career it was relegated as part of the supporting cast to the region's super-star, Cabernet Sauvignon. Through centuries of experimentation the local winemakers have taken these two extraordinary grapes and perfected the delicate marriages of grape and land. The late-ripening Cabernet now predominates in the more southerly "left" bank of the river, while the early ripening Merlot has found it's home on the more northerly "right" bank. Named after right bank villages near which they are produced, the world's greatest Merlot's go by the names Saint-Emilion and Pomerol.
Perhaps the wines of Bordeaux have been blessed from very early on. In the 8th Century a monk named Aemilio settled in the forest of Combes. Word spread of his holy demeanor. Not long after his death he was canonized and his name lives on in one of the chief wine-producing villages, Saint-Emilion. Later the Franciscans and Dominicans established monasteries on this "hallowed" ground. England saw their wine fortunes increase when Eleanor of Aquitaine agreed to marry Henry II, bringing with her the most highly reputed vineyards in Europe. Beginning in the year 1152, and for 300 years thereafter, Bordeaux owed it's allegiance to the English crown. The subsequent increase in exportation only served to heighten the reputation of the Bordeaux wines. In 1199 King John ruled that an administrative body should be created to oversee and protect the development of viticulture in England's prized possession. His idea, the Jurade, is the oldest such body in France. It's members still don the traditional red robes during official wine-related events.
The 18th and 19th Centuries are seen as the Golden Age of Bordeaux. With wine drinking as the height of fashion, money poured in and many of the area's great chateaux were built. Unfortunately, the close of the 19th Century saw fortunes change dramatically. Phylloxera, an aphid which feeds upon the roots of the grape vines, was inadvertently introduced into the region and devastated the vines. Troubles continued into the 20th Century when competition from overseas finally began to challenge Bordeaux's previously unquestioned role at the head of the wine table. The Bordelais have met the challenge with cost cutting measures coupled with fierce marketing and promotion. The result is a better bottle of Bordeaux, but the trade-off has been that many of the former family-owned chateaux are now controlled by financial and corporate enterprises. Still, a great bottle of Bordeaux is an event and should be treated as an event. This promised land of the grape can still claim the title of "Makers of the World's Greatest Wines".