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Merlot Grapes

Merlot is a dark blue colored grape variant which is exclusively used in the production of wines. These grapes are used not only for blending, but also for making varietal wines.

This grape variant derives its name from merle, which is the French name for blackbird, with a reference being made to its eating habits with this variant of grape being it’s favourite. This grape variant tends to ripen earlier and is known for its soft and fleshy texture.


It is often used for blending with later ripening and sterner flavoured Cabernet Sauvignon which contains a high level of tannin.

Merlot grape is also often used in pairs in Bordeaux wine, thus it being one of the most planted grape varieties in Bordeaux wine regions. Merlot due to its texture and taste is one of the most sought after red wine varietals in many markets of the world.

This grape variant happens to be one of the world’s most cultivated varieties, with approximately 260,000 hectares of land under Merlot plantation in the year 2004.

Merlot variants of grape are grown in Southwest France regions like Bordeaux, Cahors and Bergerac, Friuli wine region of Italy, Spain and Portugal, central European states of Germany, Slovenia, Austria and Switzerland, California and Washington regions of USA. Canada, Mexico, parts of South America and Asian countries like India and China.

Merlot wine styles

Merlot wine is made using two styles.

  1. International style – It tends to have lush, velvety and intense tannin of plum and blackberry fruit.
  2. Bordeaux style – The wines produced using this style tends to have fresh red fruit flavour of raspberry and strawberry with leafy and vegetal notes.
Merlot grapes

Merlot grapes

History of Merlot

Merlot variant happens to be an offspring of Cabernet Franc (father) and Madeleina or Raisin de La Madeleine (mother)and a half sibling of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère and Malbec.

The mother of the Merlot variant was discovered as later as 2000 and upon its discovery started to be known by the name Magdeleine Noire des Charentes. The merlot variant is also known to be related to the southwest France grape variant Abrouriou, though the exact nature of the relationship is not known as of yet.

Grape breeders across the world have used Merlot variant crossed with other grapes variants to create a new variety of grape such as Carmine (with Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon), Evmolpia (with Mavrud),Ederena (with Abouriou), Fertilia (with Raboso Veronese),Nigra (with Barbera), Rebo (with Teroldego), Prodest (with Barbera) and Mamaia (with Muscat Ottonel and Babeascanegra)

Merlot Wines

Merlot grapes tend to make a velvety, soft wine with plum flavours. Merlot wines tend to age faster than a Cabernet Sauvignon, though some variants may continue to develop in a bottle for decades.

The fruity notes associated with Merlot wines include cassis, blackberry, blueberry, black and red cherries, boysenberry, plum, mulberry andollalieberry. Apart from this, it also tends to have vegetable and earthy notes like that of black and green olives, bell pepper, cola nut, fennel, leather, humus, mushrooms, tobacco and rhubarb.

Herbal and floral notes associated with Merlot wines include laurel, green and black tea, eucalyptus, mint, pine, oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage and sarsaparilla.

When Merlot wine spends significant time in the oak barrel, it also tends to show notes of chocolate, caramel, coconut, dill weed, coffee bean, mocha, smoke, molasses, vanilla and walnut

Food pairing with Merlot wine

Merlot wine is such diverse, it can go along with multiple food options. Cabernet-like Merlot wines tend to pair well with most of the items that Cabernet Sauvignon pairs well with.

This includes meats which might be grilled or charred. Softer and fruitier Merlots which tends to have a higher acidic value, usually grown in the cooler climes of the world share its food pairing affinities with Pinot Noir and really complements dishes like mushroom based dishes, salmon, greens like radicchio and chard.

Lightbodied Merlots go well with shell fishes, prawns or scallops, especially if it happens to be wrapped in protein rich foods like bacon or prosciutto.

However, Merlot does not go well with blue veined and strong cheeses which tend to overpower the fruit flavors present in the wine.

Also, the capsaicinin spicy foods can heighten the perception of alcohol which can make Merlot wines taste more tannic and bitter.


Michael Bredahl

Michael Bredahl

Wine Writer

Michael is an online enthusiast, with a lot of knowledge about online marketing. Traveling around the world to hunt for the perfect wine. Latest on Sicily, where Etna has a huge impact on the taste, which is strong with a bitter aftertaste for the youngest wines, but older wines are fantastic. Drinking wine, and writing about them, are one the passions. Remember to drink responsibly 🙂

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