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Merlot wine is made from merlot grapes. They were first grown in France, however in the mid 19th century they were brought over and started growing in California. Merlot wine is a popular red wine, used for many different purposes.
Merlot is not well suited for long aging, so until recently the wine made from merlot grapes was used solely as a blending wine. Because it is so soft and compliant, it's used often to mix with Cabernet. It helps bring a more mellow aspect to the harsher wines. Lately however, Merlot has been discovered as a delicious wine on its own. It is being grown now for that primary purpose in places such as California and Chile.
Merlot grapes are more tolerant of soil conditions than Cabernet grapes are. Merlot grapes also bud earlier, and therefore can be harvested earlier. Merlot is able to mature in regions that are cooler than those required for Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot is more susceptible to fungus and mold diseases and therefore a bit harder to grow. Merlot varies widely in quality around the world depending on location and producer.
The flavor of merlot is similar to cabernet but is a little less distinctive and slightly more herbaceous in both aroma and taste. Both under ripe and overripe grapes lean away from the fruit, so ripeness in critical when picking grapes for merlot wine. At its best, Merlot makes a wine that is dry, rich in flavor and smooth as it finishes in your throat. At its worst, Merlot makes wine that is dry but thin in taste and texture, and not very pleasant to consume. Most of what you will come across are likely to be of pretty good quality. Merlot has a slightly lower natural acidity than cabernet; therefore it usually has a lusher feel in your mouth.
Some health officials have said that red wine, which includes merlot wine, would be beneficial to your health. It helps to increase your "healthy" cholesterol, HDL's, which help prevent blood clotting, lowers blood pressure, and protects your arteries from damage. Doctors recommend only one glass a day though, and don't recommend it at all if you already consume a large amount of alcohol each day.