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The Merlot grape is more delicate than Cabernet Sauvignon and has thinner skins. It also ripens earlier and lacks the astringency and deep tannins. There are, however, examples of Merlot that are almost as full bodied as Cabernet and can be paired with hearty dishes. Lighter bodied Merlots go better with salmon.

California Merlot was first made during the 1880s. However, the Merlot grape did not become popular in the United States until the 1980s. It generally thrives in more climates, but is more delicate than Cabernet.

The European origins of the Merlot grape are in Bordeaux. It is particularly at home in the St Emilion and Pomerol districts on the Right Bank of the Gironde. The soils here have more clay than the Medoc, where Cabernet Sauvignon dominates.

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