A red-wine grape widely grown in France's Pomerol and Saint-Émilion districts of Bordeaux and, to a lesser extent, in California and the Pacific Northwest. The wine it produces is similar in flavor to Cabernet Sauvignon but tends to be softer and more mellow. It also matures sooner than Cabernet. Though the Merlot grape has been principally used for blending in the United States, it's now beginning to be appreciated on its own. The French have long known its value as is indicated by the great Château Petrus of Pomerol, which is often 100 percent Merlot. Merlot is rich, jammy and earthy probably the best starter wine in the world. It’s perfect for grilled or smoked meats (it’s the quintessential backyard grilling wine), richer fish and mushroom dishes.