Merlot, the unfortunate victim of the movie Sideways, is the second most widely planted black wine grape in the world -- by far the most widely planted grape of the entire Bordeaux region and third (behind Carignan and Grenache) as the most planted black variety in France. Merlot was brought to California in the 1850s and 1870s but was not a big seller until the end of the 1980s. In the 1990s, Merlot became to the American consumer what "burgundy" was in the 1970s: the generic red wine flavor of fashion. 

Merlot's flavor profile is similar to Cabernet Sauvignon, as its aromas and flavors include blackberry, cassis, baked cherries, plums, chocolate, mocha and sometimes leather; however, Merlot tends to be less distinctive and slightly more herbaceous overall in both aroma and taste. Merlot has slightly lower natural acidity than Cabernet and generally less astringency, hence usually a more lush mouth feel. 

Merlot pairs well with savory, low acid dishes, such as beef, lamb, chicken and turkey; grilled, roasted or braised veal or pork; chili, hamburgers, meatloaf, mushrooms, risotto and cheese-based pastas. 

Cheeses that go well with Merlot include blue cheeses, Brie and Camembert (without rind), Brillat-Savarin, Cheddar (mild, sharp and smoked), Cheshire, Colby, Comte, Emmental, Gorgonzola, Gouda (including smoked), Gruyere, Havarti, Jarlsberg, Manchego, Monterey Jack, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pepper Jack, Provolone, Roncal and such sheep-milk cheeses as Pecorino Romano and Pecorino Toscana.