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How To Tell A Merlot From A Cabernet (And Other Wine Mysteries)...

Mar 8, 2008
Red wines are simply beautiful. Striking shades of ruby glimmering through the glass delight those who enjoy it. France has traditionally been the top producer of red wines in the world. Two of the absolutely most versatile of reds to have emerged from there are Merlot and Cabernet. Both these wines have enough body to be enjoyed with most hearty meals such as beef, stews, poultry, pork and rich seafood, such as lobster. Yet there are some big differences between them.

Merlots are well known for their fruitiness. Often when you hear Merlots described the first words are the type of fruit taste it has, followed by a variety of other flavors and aromas found in the wine such as oak, earthy, chocolate, smoky and a variety of other adjectives. Merlots offer a variety of types from a light fruity wine that is easy to drink to a much more complex, tannic wine that can easily be paired with beef.

Cabernet tends to be discussed in more complex terms than Merlots. In general Cabernet tends to be a little more tannic, with less sugar than Merlot. Merlot grapes actually ripen earlier than Cabernet, hence the mildness of Merlot wine compared with Cabernet. Also, Cabernet is usually aged longer than Merlot before serving hence the more sophisticated tastes. While there are numerous similarities between the two types of wine, from their aromas and flavors to their food pairings, Cabernet tends to be the more mature of the two, in age, history and taste.

Another wine mystery, which needs to be unveiled, is that of the Beaujolais Nouveau. What is it and why is it so popular in mid-November? Basically, Beaujolais Nouveau is a lightweight, young wine, which is usually fermented for just a few weeks. It hails from the Beaujolais region of France and goes on sale each year on the third Thursday of November. It has a limited shelf-life and is definitely not the wine you want to put away in the back of your wine cellar to let it age. In fact it is best drunk fresh. In the worst years of production, Beaujolais Nouveau is only good for its first couple of months. In good years, it may be drunk up to a year later. In the early twentieth century, Beaujolais was not allowed to be sold before mid-December, but the rules were relaxed to mid-November in 1951. The immaturity of this wine often leads to unfavorable ratings, however it should be noted that Beaujolais Nouveau is very different from other French reds and should not be judged on the same standards. It has practically no tannins and should be served chilled. Beaujolais Nouveau has benefited from marketing in a way that no other wine has.

France offers a wide variety of red wines from the different regions of the country. Each wine has its own special aspects just waiting to be discovered. Before dismissing any of them, do a little research to find a highly recommended one, pair it with a suggested food and set aside all preconceptions. Who knows - you might just surprise yourself!
About the Author
Browse wine lover's gifts and fine wine accessories at The Wine Standard. Find wine gifts like wine glasses and decanters that will make any wine experience twice as fabulous.
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