The Merlot-Cabernet Franc duet is an established and important variant on the classic Bordeaux blend, particularly on the Right Bank. It is used in the prestigious and Saint-Émilion and Pomerol appellations, and makes some very high profile wines.
Merlot is usually used in higher proportions in this blend, thanks in part to its broad appeal and higher profile than Cabernet Franc. It provides most of the fruit component, offering up flavors of mulberries, plum and dark berries. Perhaps more fundamentally, Merlot is well suited to the clay of the Right Bank, and (pre-global warming at least) a more reliable ripener.
Cabernet Franc adds more perfumed fragrances, usually with a distinctive herbal note. Used in higher proportions, it may also add some tobacco-leaf and green bell pepper characteristics. Among Cabernet Franc-dominant blends, Château Cheval Blanc is by far the best known.
The combination has long been an institution on the Right Bank, but the wide spread of these two varieties has seen experimentation from several corners of the winegrowing world. In the US, some top wines are made from Merlot and Cabernet Franc (often with the addition of Cabernet Sauvignon) in California, Washington and New York. The blend is also made in Tuscany and Puglia in Italy.
In the southern hemisphere, Merlot - Cabernet Franc blends are popular in regions that have developed reputations for producing quality Bordeaux-style wines. Examples include South Africa's Stellenbosch region and Hawke's Bay in New Zealand.
Food matches for Merlot - Cabernet Franc wines include:
- Braised lamb with truffles
- Roasted wild boar
- Steak with red wine sauce