It adds softness and mouth-watering fruit creating the perfect marriage with the more masculine grape Cabernet Sauvignon. The name Merlot derives from French "Merle" (Blackbird) for its dark color.
100% Merlot wines exist and they are some of the world´s most expensive wines such Chateau Petrus (Pomerol, Bordeaux) or Ornellaia (Bolgheri, Tuscany).
Merlot is known to be easy to drink, both alone and with food and therefor a perfect introduction to redwine for the newcomers.
First mentioned in 1784 by a Bordeaux officer.
Long considered a secondary grape (mostly blended) because it´s not easy to stand the competition with Cabernet Sauvignon!
In February 1956, a deep freeze hits France and Merlot and Malbec vinyards are destroyed.
After the frost comes a disease (rot) and a "Planting Ban" from French governement.
In 1975 the ban is lifted and planting of new vines starts again.
But they have to compete with hundred of years old vines of Bordeaux.
The increasing demand creates a planting boom in 1980s.
Parents: grapes Cabernet Franc and Magdeleine Noire des Charentes.
Sibling grapes: Carmenere and Malbec.
Bad soil means higher quality grapes!
It sounds like a paradox but in poor soils the roots must work harder, branching off to find nutrients. This increases the root to soil surface.
Merlot loves sand and gravel mixed with iron rich clay. The sand provides nutrients while the stones absorb the heat, help ripening and draining. The special mix of sand, gravel and iron is known as "crasse de fer".
The better performance in the world is in Saint Émilion and Pomerol region on the Right Bank of Garonne river, in Bordeaux.
Merlot's soft, berry-like style, accompanied by moderate acidity and tannin, has made the grape popular.
While Cabernet Sauvignon is hard and unobtrusive, Merlot is open and accessible.
Merlot is often mixed with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, primarily to fill in the slightly lean, dry character of the Cabernets.
Merlot is easily one-dimensional on its own, and should be enjoyed for its succulent, drink-friendly style.
The best Merlots are berry-like, full-bodied wines with the scent of anise and an earthy, herbal-like undertone.
Merlot is thus generally soft, juicy and berry-like as a young, and it goes towards the earth with a touch of humus and vegetal spices as ripe, but the wine never becomes aggressive and dry.
Synonyms: Begney, Seme dou Flube, Bigney Rouge, Crabutet, Merlau, Medoc Noir, Langon, Merle Petite, Semillon Rouge, Plant du Medoc, Plant Medoc, Vitraille, Saint-Macaire, Seme de la Cana.
Chateau: Petrus (Pomerol Right Bank), 100% Merlot, is one of the most expensive wines in the world.
The best Merlots are produced in Pomerol and Saint Émilion in Bordeaux. It is the most widely planted grape in the Bordeaux Region.
Merlot is the fifth most widely planted grape variety in Italy. It is commonly found in the north of Italy, in the regions of Alto-Adige, Friuli, and Veneto, where the Merlots are juicy, soft and pleasant with fresh acidity. In Tuscany it is a part of the "Super Tuscan" blend.
In the new world, Merlot is commonly found in USA, Argentina, Australia, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa.
California weather makes the grapes ripen fully.
Australia is new to Merlot (1980) but is fast growing. Best areas: Coonawarra, Margaret River, McLaren Vale, and the Barossa Valley.
Argentine terroirs have great potential. Best areas: Uco Valley and Patagonia.
Best areas: Apalta, Colchagua Valley.