Merlot Guide


The Bordeaux grape variety is known for being the best blend partner to Cabernet Sauvignon. For the last decades, Merlot has expand to be planted in many vineyards all over the world.

Merlot like Cabernet Sauvignon is a dark variety. It grows large berries. Its early ripeness explains its capability to grow under cooler climates but it means that there is a high risk of spring frost during the flowering period.

Merlot is easily cultivated on a wide range of soils. The robust vines produce high yields so the producers have to prune plentifully to obtain high quality berries. The fruit has to be harvested at its optimal ripeness because Merlot can lose its character when the berry is too ripe.

Merlot caracteristics

Often blend with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, Merlot gives the wine its round structure and smooth texture but does not give specific flavors. The variety is known for its round, smooth and elegant wine. It can be used to soften the more tannic varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon  because Merlot is less acid, tannic and aromatic. However, the varietal Merlot wines can be more full-bodied with higher alcohol level. The classic wines from warm climates have dark fruit flavors, often-dark plum, blackcurrant and dark cherry. The ripest berries give notes of chocolate and stewed fruits. Under cooler climates, the Merlot wines are scarcer. They are elegant, with lovely red fruits flavors and vegetal notes, good acidity and structured tannins.

Where to find the best merlot wines

The best production from Merlot is often matured in oak barrels, the processes giving the wines wooden spicy notes or a creamy character.

The best wines come from Bordeaux Right Bank and the clay rich soils of Saint-Emilion and Pomerol. They are rich, plummy, with a velvety texture and a strong earthy character. They can age well during a few decades.

Merlot is cultivated in Chile to make lovely, light wines with a refreshing quality. In the country, Carménère was in fact mistaken with Merlot. In California, the fruity wines have soft tannins and a good ageing potential.

The grape variety is also cultivated in Northern Italy, South Africa and New Zealand.