Merlot Grapes

From the Shadows of Blackbirds:

  • Merlot is a black grape producing dry, medium to full-bodied red wines.
  • Its home is Bordeaux in France where it appears in premium blends.
  • It’s cultivated in Veneto, Sicily, and Tuscany.
  • It’s a medium-skinned, early-ripening grape.
  • Wines range from ruby to purple depending on the region.
  • Merlot displays blackberry and plum aromas and flavors.
  • Merlot suits oak which gives it chocolate, vanilla, cedar, and cloves.
  • Cooked black fruit and dark chocolate are features of aged Merlot.
  • It has gentle medium to high tannins and acidity.
  • Merlot is found in varietal wines and blends.
  • It typically has 13.5 – 15% abv.
  • The best Merlot can age for decades.
  • It appears in around 100 DOC and DOCG wines across Italy.
  • In the mid-1990s, half of the vineyards in Chile labeled as Merlot turned out to be a near-extinct grape, Carménère.
  • Merlot is an emerging star among Chinese wines. According to Asia Cellar Merlot is the second most widely cultivated wine grape variety in China, and can be found in the provinces of ShandongHebeiShanxiNingxia, and Yunnan 
  • In 2011, a case of 1961 Pétrus sold for $144,000 making that $12,000 a bottle.
  • Present in 37 countries, in 2015 Merlot covered 266 000 ha, or 3 % of the total world area under

What is Merlot?

Merlot is a French grape that produces velvety fruity wines across all price points. It works successfully in varietal and blend wines and is hugely popular with both consumers and producers.

In Italy, it’s mostly found in northern regions and Sicily

Is Merlot a good drinking wine?

Merlot is a fruit-forward wine that has the flavor and structural versatility to appear in mono-varietal wines and blends. In the latter style, it often appears in Bordeaux wines with Cabernet Sauvignon where it contributes plushness and body. 

In FranceMerlot also grows in the fertile Pays d’ Oc area. As well as being one of Bordeaux’s great grapes for high-end wines, this cultivar lends itself to easy-drinking styles. It’s planted extensively in warm regions across the New World where it makes high-volume, early-drinking wines.

Merlot is a popular grape in Veneto, Sicily, Tuscany, and Friuli-Venezia Giulia. It’s also grown in Abruzzo, Emilia-Romagna, Lazio, Puglia, Lombardy, and Umbria. Merlot has a good balance of fruit and structure, making it a very food-friendly wine.

What does Merlot taste like?

The flavor profile of Merlot varies according to where it grows and its vinification. In moderate regions, it typically displays red and black fruithigh acidity, a medium to full body, and medium tannins.

In hot regions such as California’s and Chile’s Central Valleys, it bursts with concentrated black fruit and has soft acidity and tannins plus a medium to full body. Oak fermentation and maturation add vanillacoffee, and spice

Coastal Super Tuscans combine big, expressive fruit and florals with oaky notes. 

What to pair with Merlot?

Merlot has the components to make it easy to pair with a wide range of foods. Whether it’s a bold Super Tuscan or a leaner Veneto style, when pairing Merlot with food, remember it’s a fruity, mid-weight wine.

Avoid heavy or light dishes although concentrated Merlot can pair with rich foods. Anything too sweet or spicy masks body and flavors while emphasizing astringency and acidity.

What are the main Merlot regions of Italy?

The Tuscan coast has a leading reputation for expressive top-tier Merlot wines whether varietal or blends. Famously dubbed “Super Tuscans”, iconic appellations include Bolgheri DOC and Bolgheri Sassicaia DOC. Super Tuscans can also have DOCG status and, in 1992, a special IGT appellation was created for the exceptional wines of this area.

Inland, Tuscany is also known for using Merlot in some Chianti blends – one a handful of permitted indigenous and international grapes. Sicily and FriuliVenezia Giulia are also fast gaining recognition for their varietal and Merlot-based reds.

Where does the best Merlot come from?

Merlot comes from the Bordeaux region in southwest France. Its name first appeared in viticultural records in the 18th century but was probably present in the region for long beforehand. 

In the late 1990s, grape researchers discovered Merlot was one of Cabernet Franc’s offspring. A few years later, ampelographers established its mother as the lesser-known grape Magdeleine Noire des Charentes. It’s also a half-sibling of other great Bordeaux varietals Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Carménère

The legend goes that its name is derived from the local word for “blackbird” because of its luminous blue-black fruit. Today, Merlot is the most widely planted grape in Bordeaux. It also grows in the South of France under an IGT appellation.

Adaptable and relatively easy to grow, Merlot is found in most wine regions around the globe. It appears in easy-drinking to premium wines, mono-varietals, and blends.

Often, Merlot grows alongside Cabernet Sauvignon because Bordeaux-style blends are popular with vintners and wine drinkers the world over

What kind of wine is similar to Merlot?

  • Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina.
  • Carménère, Cachapoal and Colchagua Valleys, Chile.
  • Cabernet Franc, Loire Valley, France.
  • Valpolicella, Italy.