Merlot is a red grape grown throughout the world, but most often associated with the fine wines of Bordeaux, particularly in the right bank regions of Saint-Émilion and Pomerol.
In the vineyard, Merlot ripens early and its grapes are large and thin-skinned. It is susceptible to frost, rot, downy mildew and coloure (shot berries). Merlot wines tend to be plump and full bodied, with soft fruit flavors.
Merlot is the progeny of two grapes, Cabernet Franc and Magdeleine Noire des Charentes. Cabernet Franc is also a parent of the Cabernet Sauvignon, which may help to explain how the flavor profiles of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon-based Bordeaux wines can often be so similar.
Interestingly, the popularity and production of Merlot in the USA was seriously impacted with the release of the 2004 film Sideways. Throughout the film, the main character passionately extolled the virtues that Pinot Noir held over Merlot. The resulting “Sideways Effect” led to a global shortage of Pinot Noir on the bulk wine market, and turned many consumers and producers away from Merlot, especially in California. After a decade, however, the Sideways Effect has subsided, and consumers are returning to appreciating the grape and the high-quality domestic wines made from it.
Merlot in Bordeaux
, Merlot is blended alongside Cabernet Sauvignon and, to a lesser extent, Cabernet Franc. The Merlot grape is at its very best in the fine wines of Saint-Émilion and Pomerol on Bordeaux’s right bank. This subregion, also known as the Libournais, is home to a host of appellations that make Merlot-dominant wines—including Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux, Fronsac, Lalande de Pomerol and various Saint-Émilion “satellite” appellations, like Puisseguin Saint-Émilion and Montagne Saint-Émilion. Merlot tends to dominate the blends in these wines, and is more often blended with Cabernet Franc than Cabernet Sauvignon. Pomerol superstars like Petrus, Le Pin and Lafleur are some of the finest (and certainly most expensive) expressions of Merlot in the world, as are the wines from top Saint-Émilion estates like Ausone, Pavie and Angélus, among others.
Merlot Elsewhere Around the Globe
Outside of Bordeaux, Merlot is grown widely throughout the southwest of France, often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon. In the Languedoc, Merlot is very popular in the everyday wines of the Pays d’Oc IGP, while it is also permitted in the AOP wines of Cabardès and Malepère.
Merlot is common in Italy, notably in regions like Friuli, Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto.
Elsewhere in Europe, Merlot is cultivated in Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Moldova, Romania, Slovenia and Slovenia and Switzerland, to mention just a few.
In the new world, Merlot is grown in Argentina, Australia, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa, Uruguay and the U.S., among others.
If you have a preferred region or price range, use our online Buying Guide below and use the appropriate filters to help make your selection. Our expert tasters will help you to locate the best Merlot bottle to meet your needs!