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Variety & History of Wine Grape - Research Assessment Answers

November 27, 2017
Author : Charles Hill

Solution Code: 1GIH

Question: Research on Variety & History of Wine Grape

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Wine Grape Research Assignment

Task

Part A:

Each student will be given the name of a "Wine Grape" variety and required to research the history of the grape variety, where it is grow now, identify regional and/or national identity (wine regions), viticulture, grape characteristics, variety profile and the wine styles produced using this grape variety.

Part B:

Utilising the principles of the complement and contrast as discussed in lectures 1 and 7, match a main course with a wine produced from the allocated grape variety, using the menus source from a restaurant that currently holds at least one hat in the 2015 "The Good Food Guide".

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Solution:

Merlot

Merlot is a dark blue variety of wine grape which is used both as a blending grape and for varietal wines.

Viticulture

Merlot grapes grow as loose bunches of large berries. In comparison to Cabernet Sauvignon, merlot grapes have a thinner skin, fewer tanins per unit volume, higher sugar content and lower malic acid. It also ripens faster than Cabernet Sauvignon (Robinson, 1986). It is a variety obtained from Magdeleine Noire des Charentes and Cabernet Franc. It is said that Merlot has acquired its ability to ripe early and high fertility from Magdeleine Noire des Charentes whereas its color, tannin and phenolic content has come from Cabernet Franc (Robinson, Harding, & Vouillamoz, 2013).

Merlot grows well in ferrous clay soil. It becomes susceptible to Botrytis bunch rot infection owing to its thin skin and cold frost due to its tendency to bud early. It is also susceptible to downy mildew and infection by leafhopper insect varieties. Flowering stage is crucial for its good development as unfavorable weather makes it prone to develop coulure (Robinson, 1995).

Plantation

Merlot is one of the most widely grown grape varieties. It outpaces a more famous wine grape variety, Cabernet Sauvignon in many parts of the world, especially the homeland of grapes, France. France accounts for almost two thirds of Merlot plantation. It is also grown in Italy, California, Argentina, Romania, Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Greece, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland, Hungary, Mexico and United State. It is the second most widely grown grape variety in Israel with 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres) of farming. These grape are also found in Turkey, Malta and Cyprus (Clarke, Rand, Rock, & Riches, 2001; Robinson et al., 2013).

Merlot wine was first found in Italy (1855) around Venice under the name Bordò. It is believed that it gained popularity because of its name, which is relatively easy to pronounce and its softer, fruity nature.

Merlot as a varietal wine

As a varietal wine, Merlot can make soft, velvety wines with plum flavors. Generally there are three styles in which Merlot is prepared- (i) soft, fruity, smooth wine containing little tannins, (ii) more tannin containing fruity wine and, (iii) brawny and highly tannic style. But it is famous in two main styles across the world. The "International style" in which grapes are harvested late so as to prepare dark purple inky colored wine with high alcohol, lush, tannins, plums and blackberry fruits. This style is favored by many Bordeaux wine producers. The other traditional Bordeaux style emphasizes on early harvesting of Merlot for making wine. This helps in maintaining the acid content. The alcohol level remains moderate, has fresh raspberry and strawberry flavors and has potentially leafy, vegetal notes. White Merlot, another variety of Merlot wine is prepared by crushing the grapes, draining off the pink juice, and then fermenting it further. It is generally flavored with raspberry. It was first marketed in 1990s.

Merlot as a blender

It is used as a blender with sterner and Cabernet Sauvignon. The features which make it a popular grape for blending include its softness, fleshiness and early ripening (Robinson et al., 2013).

Associated flavor notes

Black and red cherries, blackberry, blueberry, boysenberry, mulberry and plum are some of the fruit notes associated with Merlot. Some of vegetable and earthy notes used to prepare Merlot are cola nut, bell pepper, fennel, black and green olives, leather, mushrooms, rhubarb and tobacco. And some of flowers and herbs related to Merlot include green and black tea, thyme, eucalyptus, laurel, mint, pine, rosemary, sage and sarsaparilla (Goldstein & Goldstein, 2006).

Food pairing

The diversity in Merlot allows it to blend with a variety of food options. It pairs well with grilled and charred meats. Mushroom dishes, salmon, chard, radicchio go well with soft fruitier Merlots with higher acid content. Light-bodied Merlots can pair well with prawns or scallops. Blue-veined cheese heightens the fruity flavors of wine whereas capsaicins in spicy foods can make Merlot taste bitter and more tannic (Goldstein & Goldstein, 2006).

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