Merlot, with its velvety texture and rich taste, has captured the palates of wine lovers all over the world. Originating in Bordeaux, France, Merlot has grown in popularity thanks to its smooth nature and versatility. However, popular culture, such as the 2004 movie “Sideways”, has imposed a stereotyped picture of Merlot: easy-drinking and approachable, but not serious or sophisticated enough to be considered a great wine. Now, dear VinoVossers, let’s have a thorough or novel understanding of the world’s most loved grape.

Bottle shot of Merlot wine

Merlot is often seen as an easy-drinking, cheaper wine

(Photo: Polina Mukhamedova,

The Queen of Bordeaux

Merlot is often referred to as the “Queen of Bordeaux,” not only for its important role in Bordeaux blends, but also because it is the most planted grape variety in the region. Merlot frequently grows alongside Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot on the Left Bank, where it contributes its luscious fruitiness, soft tannins, and generous mouthfeel to Bordeaux wines.

The dominance of Merlot in Bordeaux blends varies by subregions within Bordeaux. Many Bordeaux wines, generic or regional, are Merlot-based blends. Merlot reigns supreme on the Right Bank, particularly in Saint-Émilion and Pomerol. Saint-Emilion is recognized for producing Merlot- Cabernet Franc wines with juicy plum, fruit cake, and earthy flavors. Pomerol, on the other hand, is well-known for its opulent Merlot wines with black cherry, chocolate, truffle and floral notes, which are described as the epitome of elegance and finesse.

wooden wine case in the back of a bike

Merlot is the “Queen of Bordeaux” (Photo, Elliot PARIS,

Not in the Shadow of Cabernet Sauvignon

While Merlot’s heart may reside in Bordeaux, its vines stretch far and wide. Instead of serving as a blending partner in some other regions of the world, Merlot shines on its own, creating the most intriguing single-varietal wines that range from medium-bodied, fruity, smooth to succulent, robust, and complex. In some cases, however, Merlot produces elegant, earthy, red berry fruits-driven wines that are reminiscent of Pinot Noir or Nebbiolo that cause even the most experienced wine connoisseur to stumble on blind tastings.

Super Tuscans and the Northern Gems

In Italy, the best Merlots lie in the fascinating realm of Super Tuscans. Much like its role in Bordeaux blends, Merlot is a key player in Super Tuscans, often blended with international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon or the Tuscan star, Sangiovese to craft wines of extraordinary depth and complexity. Some of these bottles are among the most expensive and sought-after wines of Italy

With Italy having the second most Merlot plantings, its journey in Italy does not end in Tuscany. If you travel to the northern Veneto and Friuli regions, you’ll find single-varietal Merlot wines that demonstrate the grape’s versatility in entirely new ways. Merlot has a softer, rounder expression in Veneto, with vibrant acidity and juicy cherry aromas taking center stage. Meanwhile, Merlot’s expression in Friuli is more structured, with pronounced herbaceous, spicy and earthy notes that provide depth to its character. These lesser-known gems from Northern Italy highlight Merlot’s adaptability to diverse terroirs and winemaking styles, making it a popular grape not just in Bordeaux blends but also as a captivating solo artist in Italy’s diverse wine landscape.

There is No Such Thing as Bad Publicity

Despite the fact that the “Sideways Effect” has caused a decline in Merlot wine sales in the United States, there is no such thing as bad publicity. Merlot has become a household name in the United States and around the world. Two decades after the movie, Merlot has made its comeback as America’s most favored grape variety, marginally topping Cabernet Sauvignon, according to a survey by YouGov, an international market research company. Merlot has made its mark in the famed Napa Valley and Columbia Valley in the United States.

Merlots from Napa Valley are noted for their opulence, with flavors of black cherry, plum, and chocolate. Merlot from the Columbia Valley in Washington State has a different character, with bright acidity and a firm structure that adds a refreshing twist to the classic Merlot profile.

Scene from the movie sideways

The 2004 film Sideways (Photo: IMDB)

Merlot Without Borders

In other New World regions, Merlot has been adopted by Chilean wine regions such as Maipo and Colchagua, creating wines with lush red fruits, a smooth finish and excellent value for money. Across the Pacific, Coonawarra, McLaren Vale, and Margaret River in Australia highlight Merlot’s fruity flavor, which is generally complemented by hints of eucalyptus and mint, offering an alternative taste from the country’s bold Shiraz and Cabernet. Merlot shines in South Africa’s Stellenbosch and Paarl regions, with the influence and heritage of French winemaking, offering a refined, smooth texture to the blend.

Great Merlot Wines to Try:

So, dear VinoVossers, our wine specialists handpicked these fantastic Merlots for you to sample to give you a complete insight or a fresh discovery of diverse Merlot styles. Enjoy!

Duckhorn Three Palms Vineyard Merlot

Wine Spectator’s 2017 Wine of the Year, a classic Napa Valley Merlot

Bottle shot of Duckhorn Three Palms Vineyard Merlot

Radikon Merlot

The purest expression of Northern Italian Merlot crafted by one of the greatest natural winemakers in Italy

Bottle shot of Radikon Merlot

Hickinbotham The Revivalist Merlot

A highly rated Merlot with elegance and a rich Australian touch

Bottle shot of Hickinbotham The Revivalist Merlot

Sylvia Ba

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