Merlot is a grape varietal that is praised and loved by many all over the world. But what exactly makes this grape so special? In this article, we look at the origins of merlot, the main regions where it is grown and it’s most defining characteristics. 

Merlot: The Origins Of This Beloved Grape Variety

The earliest mention of this grape varietal was recorded in the French wine region of Bordeaux in approximately 1784. It is believed that during this time, it was most often used when making blended wine. Directly translating to ‘The Little Blackbird’, Merlot became known for its ability to add softness and fruit-forward characteristics to wine when combined with the French favourite, Cabernet Sauvignon. 

As the popularity of Bordeaux wine increased, so inevitably did the popularity of Merlot. Soon, this grape varietal was being planted all over France, especially on Bordeaux Right Bank. Sadly, Merlot is susceptible to frost, mildew and rot and successive bad vintages through the ’50s and ‘60s prompted a 5-year ban in 1970 on new plantings by the French Government. After the ban was lifted, it was widely planted once again.

What Are The Main Wine Regions That Grow This Grape? 

One of the defining characteristics of Merlot, according to many wine enthusiasts, is the fact that it is a bit of a chameleon – it is adaptable and can take on the character of its location and winemaking techniques. 

The popularity of Merlot has led to its introduction in many wine regions all over the world, from the Golden State of California to Down Under in Australia. Let’s take a look at some of the modern interpretations of this French classic varietal.

Tuscany

Merlot is the fifth-most planted grape in Italy and has featured prominently in many Tuscan blends, more commonly known as Super Tuscans. They often use Merlot to make a single varietal wine or blend it with other grapes such as the local Sangiovese or more international varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.  

The warm climate helps ripen the Merlot grape varietal and soften harsh tannins making the Tuscan versions range from big, bold and oaky to restrained, delicate and earthy. 

California

The second most popular red wine varietal in the United States, Merlot has been produced in California since the mid-19th Century.  In fact, it was Californian winemakers that originally made the first 100% Merlot wine.

Typically warm California wine regions such as Napa Valley and Paso Robles produce a Merlot that is round and lush with jammy fruit character, most often complimented with spice and vanilla notes from oak ageing.

Chile 

Although Chile is widely known for its red wine varietals Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenère, Merlot has quickly become prominent. Chilean Merlot tends to be full-bodied yet delicate and is capable of standing out against even the strongest of flavours.  Colchagua Valley’s Apalta sub-appellation is an area where you can find some great examples of Merlot.

Merlot: Tasting Notes & Flavour Profile

Similar to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot is characteristically known for its supple tannins and moderate acidity. Although the climate and region in which it is produced play a large role in the taste and flavour profile, many warm climate Merlots will offer luscious notes of black cherry, blackberry, plum, cocoa and herbs.  

Often these flavours can also be layered with notes of clove, vanilla and cedar, especially when new oak ageing comes into play.  Merlot can offer the wine lover a range of complex and inviting aromas and vibrant palate of sweet spice and fruit. 

Great Examples of Merlot Available For Delivery in Ontario

If you are looking for quality Merlot, here are some great choices available for home delivery in Ontario.  

From the right bank of Bordeaux comes a smooth and silky Château Les Vieux Ormes, Lalande de Pomerol.  From one of the oldest family-owned vineyards in the region, this Merlot dominant blend offers complex flavours of red and black fruit, sweet spice and layered tannins. Perfect with grilled steak, grilled salmon and mushroom-based dishes.

Or how about a wine from the famed Wagner family in Napa Valley, the Emmolo Merlot.  Rich, dark and round, you can expect ripe berries, candied fruit, earthiness and leathery tannins. A great fall wine to enjoy with wild game.

Something from down-under?  The Kingston Estate Merlot from the Limestone Coast. Ripe plum and raspberry with a hint of sweet oak on the nose, the palate offers supple fruit and silky tannins. To be enjoyed any night of the week with pasta dishes, roasted poultry or lamb casserole.

Looking to explore more of this versatile and adaptable grape? Get in touch with the team at Small Winemakers and we can help you select the best Merlot for your needs.

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