Within the world of contemporary wine, there are few varieties as popular as Merlot – a red wine that has a long and storied history within the industry, and one that remains well loved by countless people from all over the world.
But what exactly is Merlot, and is it considered sweet or dry?
What Is Merlot?
Thought to take its name from the French word merle meaning ‘blackbird’, Merlot is a form of dark blue winemaking grape, which is used to create Merlot wine – a particularly dark variety of red wine that is characterized by its distinct color palette and flavor profile.
There are generally three varieties of Merlot wine that are produced – all of which depend on the location they are created in, the soil that is used, and the kind of grape that is produced. These tend to include:
- A low tannin, fruity, and smooth wine
- A fruity wine with a greater tannic structure
- A ‘brawny’, highly tannic wine with a similar structure to Cabernet Sauvignon (Also check out Super Tuscan Vs. Cabernet Sauvignon)
This makes Merlot one of the most versatile and popular wines on the planet, with a little something to match everyone’s personal preferences.
What Is The Color Of Merlot?
Merlot is known for its rich red color, which is quite a bit darker than even other red wines.
This is due to the variety of the grapes used – but if you are still unsure whether you have Merlot in your glass or not, you can check the color around the rim, which should be a rust/brick color with hints of orange.
The color of Merlot changes with age – diminishing somewhat, and becoming more akin to a garnet coloring, rather than the deep red for which it is mainly known.
What Does Merlot Taste Like?
As you might imagine from the above section, Merlot is considered something of a chameleon wine within the industry – due to the fact that it is so highly versatile, and can thrive in numerous different types of environments around the world.
These differences affect the taste in different ways, however generally speaking, Merlot tends to be medium to full bodied, moderately acidic, moderate to high in alcohol content, with soft tannins.
The taste has also been described (in good Merlot) as being similar to graphite (bitterness/earthiness), somewhat herby, slightly similar to blackberries, as well as having notes of black cherries, plums, and cocoa.
There are also many varieties that have been described as tasting of cloves, vanilla, and cedar.
Is Merlot Dry Or Sweet?
When it comes to the actual taste of Merlot wine, all three main varieties of the wine are considered to be drier than sweet.
While being famous for a fruity flavor, this is not the same as sweetness.
Sweetness is created with sugar content – something that Merlot forgoes – while the fruity character of Merlot is laden with a much more complex flavor combination.
This makes Merlot a much more satisfying wine – especially amongst connaisseurs – as it has a much more interesting palette than sweeter wines.
What Does ‘Dry’ Actually Mean?
When we talk about ‘dry’ wines, this refers directly to the process that they are put through.
When making dry wine, the grapes are pressed – separating the sugar from the fruit, and converting it into alcohol when combined with yeast.
Once all of this sugar is converted, it creates a fully dry wine – however it is common for some residual sugar to remain in the barrels during aging.
This can add a degree of fruitiness, sweetness, or tartness to the wine, which can be attractive in some instances.
However, in some cases, this can be a sign that the wine has been poorly made, and that the process was either done incorrectly, or the appropriate time wasn’t allowed for the process to occur.
The degree to which a wine is considered dry is determined by the degree of residual sugar left over per liter. If there are only a few grams of sugar per liter of wine produced, then it is still considered a perfectly dry wine.
How Should Merlot Be Served?
When people think of red wine, the assumption is that they should be served warm – however this is somewhat outdated amongst modern wine enthusiasts.
The trick with Merlot is finding a sweet spot – avoiding it becoming too warm or too cold, and instead opting for a low-level room temperature to unlock the complex flavors, enchanting aromas, and the famous drinkability.
What Is The Alcohol Content Of Merlot?
Merlot is generally characterized by a moderate to high alcohol content – something that is predominantly due to the pressing process, wherein the sugar is converted into alcohol with yeast, and the ‘dry’ wine is produced.
However, the actual strength of Merlot depends entirely on where it is grown. This is due to the fact that climate has a direct hand in the ripeness of the fruit – something that, in turn, has a direct influence on alcohol content.
Cooler regions like France tend to produce weaker Merlot – with an alcohol content of roughly 13-14% – while hotter climates like California and Chile tend to produce slightly stronger wines, with an average alcohol content of 14-15%.
The same is true with similarly hot regions like Australia.
Is Merlot High In Calories?
As a dry wine, the calorie count is usually lower, as the sugar content has been dramatically reduced due to being turned into alcohol by the addition of yeast.
However, alcohol still obviously has calories – as any regular drinker will know – meaning that even the driest wines are still not free from side effects like weight gain.
Generally speaking, a 5 ounce serving of Merlot has roughly 125 calories, while the full bottle has around 625-650 calories in total.
Additionally, if the Merlot has some residual sugar – even a few grams – then there will be a carbohydrate content to the wine, which will increase the chances of sweetness and the weight gain that comes with sugar.
It is true that, within the world of wines, Merlot is considered one of the most popular varieties on the market today – being widely loved by people all over the world for its aroma, flavor palette, and all-round drinkable qualities.
So if you are looking for a new wine to try, then why not opt for Merlot? Something tells me you won’t be disappointed!
Frequently Asked Questions
Now that we know a little more about Merlot wine, and whether or not it is considered sweet or dry, it is now time for us to answer some frequently asked questions that you might be interested in.
While it might not be the most expensive variety of wine on the market, you would not describe it as cheap either. Instead, Merlot represents a solid, mid-level wine.
Merlot is generally not considered sweet tasting, and can at times come across as bitter – especially in cheaper brands and varieties. However, the complexity of the flavor makes up for the lack of sweetness on the whole.
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