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Wine Spectator School

Class 3: International Varieties


The Grape

Merlot, a difficult variety to grow well, does best in heavier sand and clay soils.

It is a thin-skinned grape, and rain at the wrong time can dilute its flavors. Grapes in a single bunch sometimes ripen unevenly, and under-ripe grapes can give the wine overly herbaceous flavors.


The Wine

Merlot has many flavors in common with Cabernet Sauvignon -- berry, cherry, herbs, spices, smoky vanilla from oak -- but tends to be fruitier, with smoother tannins and higher alcohol. It is often called "velvety" by tasters.

Merlot's color can be nearly as intense as Cabernet's, but the wine is frequently not as complex and does not require long aging.




Merlot is the most widely planted red grape in Bordeaux.


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