The world's favorite red

Merlot wine can cover a range of types and flavors, from a soft, fruity, smooth wine with few tannins, to a wine with a tidy balance of fruit and tannins, to a frankly Cabernet-style bruiser with a big tannic backbone. Mostly, its cup runneth over with dark fruit flavors like cherry, blackberry, mulberry and plum, alongside earthier flavors like leather, tobacco and olives. When aged in oak, you'll often find caramel, vanilla, and oak aromas as well.

In short, blue-black, thin-skinned, Merlot grapes produce wines with complexity and flavors that rival its cousin Cabernet Sauvignon—but with an easier, more voluptuous attitude. Merlots will tend to be a little paler, with rounder and more pronounced fruit and softer tannins—altogether a little more accessible, a little friendlier to the palate.

Which may be why Merlot recently passed Cabernet Sauvignon as the most-planted grape in the world, and why the two are often combined together to produce wines that combine and showcase the best qualities of each—as is often done in wines from France's Bordeaux region.

Experiment with Merlots from around the world to discover its range of possibilities. You're sure to enjoy the education!

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