Vol. 1, No. 16, May 3, 1999
© Copyright 1999 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.
Nowadays, though, folks who knew that asking for Chardonnay was a with-it way to get a glass of white wine have learned that a call for Merlot brings forth a dry, fruity red that's easy to enjoy. (Should you be in any doubt, it's "Mare-low," if you please, with a French twist and the accent on the "Mare.")
The Merlot grape has been cultivated for two centuries or more in France, where its name in dialect reportedly means "little blackbird." Until quite recently, though, it has been used primarily in blended mixtures -- particularly in Bordeaux -- rather than standing on its own.
Some more serious wine fanciers shun the modern unblended Merlots because some of the budget-level examples are one-dimensional and boring, Merlot can make a wine that's soft, fruity and sippable. That's a combination that's hard to dislike!
What's your opinion on Merlot? Great wine, or best reserved for blending? Write me at email@example.com if you've got Merlot tales to tell. And, as always, please don't hesitate to drop us a line if you'd like to comment on our topics and tasting notes, suggest a topic for a future bulletin, or just talk about wine.
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Lava Cap 1996 El Dorado Merlot ($18.99)
FOOD MATCH: A fine match with a hearty Portuguese-style kale and sausage soup.
The Hogue Cellars 1995 Columbia Valley (Washington State) "Barrel Select" Merlot ($14.99)
FOOD MATCH: A partial success in a risky match with Kung Pao chicken with peanuts: The wine's ripe fruit is a treat with the chicken and the earthy flavors of brown bean and hoisin sauces and roasted peanuts, but the hot and spicy flavors of this fiery dish would be a problem with any wine.
Casa Lapostolle 1997 "Cuvée Alexandre" Rapel Valley (Chile) Merlot ($19.99)
FOOD MATCH: A natural partner with steaks.
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