Washington Merlot: It’s the soil and a lot more

By on September 20, 2015
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Washington Merlot can make a bold and delicious wine.

Harvested Merlot grapes wait to be crushed at a Walla Walla Valley winery. (Photo by Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

It’s as though Merlot was made for Washington’s Columbia Valley.

In many areas of the world, including its native Bordeaux and particularly in California, Merlot would seem to play second fiddle to Cabernet Sauvignon. But Washington Merlot is pretty special. (All of this said, many great Merlots are made in Bordeaux, starting with Chateau Petrus.)

Merlot is a sensitive grape, reacting to its environment as much as most varieties. In regions with rich soils, Merlot will sprout like a weed, focusing on putting out ample leaves and foliage with little effort toward the clusters of grapes.

But in Washington where the soil is sandy and generally devoid of nutrients, Merlot finally struggles. This forces the noble red variety to focus on the reproductive part of the vine: those grapes. And when Merlot finally does that, the result can be dark and rich.

In fact, many West Coast wine experts see Washington Merlot as the bigger, bolder, more tannic wine over Cabernet Sauvignon.

Here are a few of our favorite Washington Merlot food pairings:

  • Pasta dishes such as tortellini in a rich red sauce.
  • Meatloaf.
  • Pizza.
  • Braised short ribs.
  • Pork chops.
  • Roast duck.
  • Grilled flank steak.

Looking for a few suggestions on delicious Washington Merlots? Click that right-facing arrow above to read about a dozen delicious examples we’ve tasted recently.

About Great Northwest Wine

Articles authored by Great Northwest Wine are co-authored by Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue. In most cases, these are wine reviews that are judged blind by the Great Northwest Wine tasting panel.

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