Merlot is the second most planted red grape varietal in the wine-making world. Time to revisit the varietal!


1 / Merlot is a red grape that originates from the famous Bordeaux winemaking region of France. There it is primarily a blending partner with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The country has more Merlot acreage than any other country and it is the most widely planted grape in France.

2 / The DNA of Merlot reveals that it is the offspring of Cabernet Franc (the father) and a now extinct varietal, Magdeleine Noire des Charentes (the mother).
In French the name Merlot means “The Little Blackbird.”

3 / Merlot is one of the three red noble grapes (the others are Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir). The grape commands the highest respect in the professional wine world.

4 / The movie “Sideways,” (2004) starring Paul Giamatti, caused a drop in sales of wine made from Merlot (many vines were pulled out and replaced with Pinot Noir). Merlot sales are rising and consumers are enjoying the wines again.

5 / It produces a dry, medium to full-bodied wine with red fruits such as plums and blueberries. It has lower acidity and softer tannins than Cabernet Sauvignon.

6 / Climate dictates the style of the wine. A cool climate Merlot, i.e. France, is more structured, leaner, possesses a higher presence of tannins and shows more herbal and earthy flavors.

7 / Warmer climate Merlot from Argentina, Australia or California, is more fruit-forward and lush and the tannin is less prevalent. The alcohol content can approach 14.5% when grown in warmer climates.

8 / Oak ageing adds structure and complexity to the wine. Light oak ageing can add notes of vanilla, coconut, violet, caramel and cloves. Heavier ageing adds smoke, toast, truffle, mushroom, earth, coffee, leather, cedar and cigar box notes.

9 / The skins of Merlot are thinner and more sensitive to the climate than Cabernet Sauvignon. It ripens more rapidly though.

10 / The best food pairings for Merlot are steak, beef (grilled, roasted, prime rib), lamb, pork, chicken, duck, pâtés, charcuterie, and caramelized roast vegetables.