M&M’s® & Merlot
These are truly two cultural classics! Way back when, there was only one kind of M&M®, the “plain” kind, and an aunt might come over with a bag of them to share while playing cards. It was a treat, an extravagance. Perhaps it was even a reminder that as long as you had M&M’s, life was good. Since 1941, M&M’s have been a part of our lives.
And remember the colors? We were convinced that we had our favorite M&M based on whether it was yellow, brown, green or orange. Then when blue came out in 1995, we had a new choice! That hard candy shell always gave way to a delicious handful of surprising goodness and smiles. We could bake with them, mix them into our Rice Krispies™ treats, or eat them by the handful.
This is where M&M’s and Merlot have a lot in common, not only in the tradition of Americana, but also in layers of flavor, perception and affordability. Merlot was one of the most common wines for decades. Known for its approachability, reliability and blending qualities, the Merlot grape is considered one of the royal varietals of France. Merlot is most commonly experienced as a more herbaceous and ripe wine, with an easy sense of the fruit itself on the palate. Some Merlot vintages can age very well over time or be consumed easily as a blend and enjoyed with a variety of cuisines at price points from $7 to $50 or more.
Before you chuckle, you might be surprised that M&Ms and Merlot go very well together. Many of our traditional candies and cookies pair extremely well with the wines we hold dear. For this tasting, we opened a 2010 Merlot from Napa Valley and paired it against the standard M&M’s. Yes, we were happy to conduct “research” to ensure that our findings are just right.
M&M’s come in a variety of flavors. We focused on five flavors and found that the Merlot affected the flavor and finish of all of them in an enjoyable way.
Merlot wine really enhances the M&M’s classic creaminess of smooth milk chocolate. There is a remaining fine-sugar quality on the palate and the wine doesn’t overpower the chocolate; it just blends very nicely.
The initial crunch of the chocolate covering really satiates the snack factor as the obvious nuttiness is actually enhanced by the Merlot. The taste buds get a sense of earthiness as it finishes off the back of the palate.
If you haven’t enjoyed these yet, they are hard candy-coated chocolate with a filling similar to a malted milk ball. I found that the initial crunch had some saltiness at the front of the tongue but melted away with the wine like a very dry cracker.
With an almost toasted profile, this M&M tastes like a rich decadent dessert where the Merlot is a qualified supporting character, letting the smoky sweetness reside on the palate. The oak of the wine barrel is subtle and enjoyable. This combo was definitely my favorite.
Tasting similar to a dense baking chocolate, this variety has a definite richness through which the wine brings out a nutmeg-like spice in the middle of the palate. It’s quite enjoyable and makes me crave an espresso coffee.
Merlot has had some identity challenges, especially with the 2004 comedy film Sideways which caused the very classic wine to struggle in the consumer’s mind as a worthy addition to the wine cabinet. After the film, we all felt sorry for Merlot trying to remind us that as the consistent wine for blending and standing on its own, it really just wanted to be enjoyed and appreciated for its simple and straightforward qualities, much like the film’s Miles, who struggles to appreciate himself and demonstrate his best qualities. Currently, Merlot is bottled both as a single varietal and blended, grown and produced in many areas of the world’s wine regions.
As a classic, affordable treat, a bag of M&M’s can brighten a day no matter your age. Mars Candy originally released the plain variety in 1941 as pure chocolate pieces. When the peanut variety was released in 1954, the hard shell candy coating was added, which launched the advertising slogan “melts in your mouth, not in your hand.” As classics, both Merlot and M&M’s have evolved to keep up with our ever-changing tastes and palates. M&M’s are as much a part of our history as is Merlot, which may be forgotten with all the new wine varietals that show up on our grocery store shelves. Some folks may think of it as Grandma’s and Grandpa’s wine, but it has withstood the test of time and is still relevant today.
As Krispy M&M’s are re-released this year, give them a try with your favorite Merlot and let us know what you think!
Sources: mms.com and the experience of the author.