Noble Grape Challenge, Red Wine

The Soft and Sensuous Side of Wine

It’s time for another installment of the Noble Grape Challenge. Last episode we explored Grenaches, and today we get to know our new friend Merlot.


About the Noble Grape Challenge

Wine Folly created the Noble Grape Challenge as a way to learn the spectrum of wine flavours found in red and white wines. Taking nine reds and nine whites, we’ll go through them from lightest to darkest, learning about the key characteristics and flavours of each.


Get to Know Merlot

Merlot often gets a lot of hate in the wine world, which isn’t something I agree with. Merlot will always have a place in my heart because it was the first varietal I got to know when I started getting more serious about wine. Don’t expect to hear me muttering these words any time soon.

Merlots are pretty middle of the road in terms of body, which is probably part of why they get a bad rap. I think the medium body makes a Merlot quite approachable, especially since it’s often accompanied by a really nice softness on the palate. Soft and versatile – that’s Merlot to a tee.

Merlot grapes are grown a lot in France, California (and Washington State) and Italy. Since France and Italy like to blend their grapes I found it a little challenging to find an affordable bottle that was a good price, but I eventually settled on one from California.

Flavours vary depending on whether the grapes were grown in a warm or cold climate, but for  California Merlots the flavours that tend to stick out are red berries (raspberry, cherry) and some chocolate flavours (mocha, cocoa). I like that Merlots have both zing and depth in their flavour.


To try out Merlot I tasted Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi 2013 Merlot.





Tasting notes

The colour is red with some brownish undertones, and is more opaque than the wines we’ve tried so far in the Noble Grape Challenge. The nose has a bit of wood and smoke on it, which I always love smelling. The flavour was very smooth and inviting – the typical Merlot softness is definitely there. There’s a bit of zingy tannin on the finish, which I’m not a fan of, but overall I like the flavour. I didn’t finish the bottle for this tasting so I’m hoping that the natural oxidation that happens when you open a bottle will help mellow the zing.



Bottom Line

It’s in line with what I expect from a Merlot, and it’s a good wine for the price. If you’re looking for something that’s a step up I would recommend checking out something from Robert Mondavi Winery (as opposed to the Woodbridge line) or Beringer.


Have you tried any Merlots lately? What did you think?


Next up in the NGC – Sangiovese!


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  • Reply Effi - the wine sinner March 5, 2015 at 10:30 am

    Hey there, I really liked your post! Yes, I have tasted a Merlot lately that I liked – the Ronan by Clinet, Bdx Superieur 2011. It is very silky and fruity with lots of blackberry and ripe, dark cherry.

    • Reply meg March 5, 2015 at 2:53 pm

      Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed it! I’ll have to see if that wine is available here, our liquor system is pretty regimented. It sounds delicious though!

  • Reply Sarah March 5, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    While I’m not a huge fan of merlots (though I would give them another try), I completely agree with you about Robert Mondavi wines. I first found their wine in the US where you can get their Private Reserve line for about half the price they are in Ontario. The Robert Mondavi Private Reserve Cab Sauv is one of my all-time favourites!

    • Reply meg March 5, 2015 at 2:54 pm

      The Robert Mondavi really knows his stuff! He really is a trustworthy label, which is handy to have when you’re shopping. I haven’t had the private reserve cab sauv, but of course now I’m going to have to try it!

      • Reply Sarah March 19, 2015 at 8:36 pm

        Of course! I actually haven’t had it in awhile, so I’ll have to try it again. With so many great choices, I can’t remember if the Private Reserve is really worth the price tag.

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