Merlot

Merlot is a dark blue-coloured wine grape variety, that is used as both a blending grape and for varietal wines. The name is thought to be a diminutive of merle, the French name for the blackbird, probably a reference to the colour of the grape.

To learn more about this grape – read on.  To find wines made with this grape, scroll down to the bottom.

Merlot Grape

Its softness and “fleshiness”, combined with its earlier ripening, makes this a popular grape for blending with the sterner, later-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon, which tends to be higher in tannin.

Along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, Merlot is one of the primary grapes used in Bordeaux wine, and it is the most widely planted grape in the Bordeaux wine regions. It is also one of the most popular red wine varietals in many markets. This flexibility has helped to make it one of the world’s most planted grape varieties. As of 2004, Merlot was estimated to be the third most grown variety at 260,000 hectares (640,000 acres) globally. The area planted to Merlot has continued to increase, with 266,000 hectares (660,000 acres) in 2015.

While Merlot is made across the globe, there tends to be two main styles. The “International style” favoured by many New World wine regions tends to emphasise late harvesting to gain physiological ripeness and produce inky, purple coloured wines that are full in body with high alcohol and lush, velvety tannins with intense, plum and blackberry fruit. While this international style is practiced by many Bordeaux wine producers, the traditional “Bordeaux style” of this grape involves harvesting earlier to maintain acidity and producing more medium-bodied wines with moderate alcohol levels that have fresh, red fruit flavours (raspberries, strawberries) and potentially leafy, vegetal notes.

Merlot is one of the world’s most widely planted grape variety with plantings of the vine outpacing even the more well-known Cabernet Sauvignon in many regions, including the grape’s homeland of France. Here, France is home to nearly two thirds of the world’s total plantings of Merlot. Beyond France it is also grown in Italy (where it is the country’s 5th most planted grape), Algeria, California, Romania, Australia, Argentina, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Greece, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland, Croatia, Hungary, Montenegro, Slovenia, Mexico and other parts of the United States such as Washington, Virginia and Long Island. It grows in many regions that also grow Cabernet Sauvignon but tends to be cultivated in the cooler portions of those areas. In areas that are too warm, Merlot will ripen too early.

In places like Israel, it’s the second most widely planted grape variety after Cabernet Sauvignon with 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres) in cultivation, making very “New World-style” wines. The grape can also be found in Turkey with 429 hectares (1,060 acres) in 2010 as well as Malta and Cyprus.

Synonyms

Over the years, Merlot has been known under many synonyms across the globe including: Alicante, Alicante noir, Bégney, Bidal, Bidalhe, Bigney, Bigney rouge, Bini, Bini Ruzh, Bioney, Black Alicante, Bordeleza belcha, Crabutet, Crabutet noir, Crabutet noir merlau, Hebigney, Higney, Higney rouge, Langon, Lecchumskij, Médoc noir, Merlau, Merlaut, Merlaut noir, Merle, Merle Petite, Merleau, Merlô, Merlot noir, Merlot black, Merlot blauer, Merlot crni, Merlot nero, Merlott, Merlou, Odzalesi,Odzhaleshi, Odzhaleshi Legkhumskii, Petit Merle, Picard, Pikard, Plan medre, Planet Medok, Plant du Médoc, Plant Médoc, Saint-Macaire, Same de la Canan, Same dou Flaube, Sème de la Canau, Sème Dou Flube, Semilhon rouge, Semilhoum rouge, Semilhoun rouge, Sémillon rouge, Sud des Graves, Vidal, Vini Ticinesi, Vitrai and Vitraille

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