Body: Medium to full
Tannin: Medium to high
Acidity: Medium to high
Age: Simpler wines are best consumed within a few years of release, but higher quality wines need time to age and develop.
Other: The character and structure of the wine will vary depending on which grape variety is dominant in the blend.
Cabernet Sauvignon (ka-ber-nay SOH-vin-yohn) and Merlot (mer-LOW) form one of the great partnerships in wine. What makes this blend so good is the way these two classic grape varieties complement each other to produce a wine that is greater than the sum of its parts. However, this partnership needs the right conditions in terms of climate, soil type and topography (what the French call terroir) and there is no better place for this than Bordeaux in southwest France.
Merlot brings body, texture and mellowness, which fleshes out the tannic backbone of Cabernet Sauvignon and softens its harsh acidity. Both varieties take well to oak and their combined fruitiness, tannins and acidity ensure that they age extremely well and develop great complexity. They generally display aromas of black and red fruits, infused with vegetal bell pepper and oak fragrances. These aromas are followed on the palate by a broad range of flavors, including blackcurrant, blackberry, black cherry, plum and red berries, which may be accompanied by cedar, coconut, tobacco and vanilla flavors contributed by oak.
There are two types of this traditional blend in Bordeaux, sometimes still referred to as Claret. Those from the left bank (Medoc and Graves) are dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, and those from the right bank (Saint-Emilion and Pomerol) are dominated by Merlot. The former are firmer and more tannic, while the latter are softer and rounder with less tannin. Cabernet Franc also plays an important role in many of these blends, especially those from Saint-Emilion. Two other grape varieties that traditionally play a minor role are Petit Verdot on the left bank and Malbec (often called Cot in France) on the right bank.
From their French homeland Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot have travelled the world and are truly international. Across different countries, with different terroirs, they continue to reveal intriguing aspects of what is arguably the greatest partnership in wine.
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