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Home | Red Varieties | Merlot - Cabernet Sauvignon’s . . .

Merlot - Cabernet Sauvignon's Fruitier Brother

With origins in the Bordeaux region, Merlot is the second most planted red grape in the world. The varietal is the main component of the blends emanating from the southwest area in France where it has solidified its standing as a world class grape. Merlot has spread throughout the world and has made its mark on several wine growing areas. Although it may trail Cabernet Sauvignon in terms of popularity, Merlot remains one of the wine world's most important varietals.

Where is Merlot Grown?

Outside of Bordeaux, Merlot has trotted the globe and made its home in a number of regions. It is planted in a number of European countries and cultivated in the New World as well. Yet, many would argue that you have to go back to its roots to witness Merlot at its pinnacle.

France - On Bordeaux's Right Bank, Merlot has been king since Rome called it a suburb. While Cabernet Sauvignon may shine on the other side of the Gironde, Merlot is the dominant grape on the eastern side. The regions of St-Emilion and Pomerol are the two key appellations within the region, producing the highly sought after blends that can sometimes reach astronomical prices. Yet throughout the Right Bank one can find excellent examples of Merlot. The grape is cultivated in a number of regions throughout the country and has seen a steady increase in quantities planted in southern France.

Key Right Bank Producers to look for: Château Petrus, Château Lafluer, La Mondotte, Chateau Figeac, Clos Fourtet, Chateau Pavie, Chateau Angelus, Chateau Cheval Blanc, Chateau de Valandraud, Chateau Le Pin, Vieux Chateua Certan, and Chateau L'Eglis-Clinet.

The United States - In California, the cultivation of Merlot is widespread. The grape has had the longest history of success in Napa Valley, Sonoma, and Monterey County. Although it can stand alone, many vintners follow the French example and blend the grape with other varietals. Unconstrained by French winemaking laws, California winemakers have the creative license to experiment with different variations.  In Washington State, Merlot helped put the wine industry on the map. To the east of the Cascade Mountains, the enormous Columbia Valley sits at approximately the same latitude as Bordeaux. The 17 hours of summer sunshine enjoyed there was a major factor in its rise to the second most widely planted red grape in the state. Vintners are now crafting distinct and expressive examples from Washington. Elsewhere in the US, Merlot is thriving in Oregon's Rogue Valley, Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, and the North Fork of Long Island in New York.

US Producers to look for: In California- Duckhorn, Groth, Beringer, Cafaro, Paul Hobbs, Gary Farrell, Pride Mountain, and St. Francis. In Washington- Stimpson Lane Vineyards & Estate, L'Ecole no. 41, Woodward Canyon, Canoe Ridge, Efeste, Januik, Pepper Bridge, and Reininger.

Around the Globe: Other regions where the fruity red can be found are in the blends of Italy's Friuli-Venzia Giulia, Argentina's Uco Valley and Mendoza regions, and Chile's Colchagua Province.

Merlot Styles

At its height, Merlot produces soft, velvety wines with an array of fruit aromas. Plum, blackberry, blueberry, and cherry scents are usually identified. The wines can also produce vegetable aromas such as olives or mushrooms as well as floral and herbal aromatics of eucalyptus, thyme, or oregano. This assortment of smells is also apparent in the general styles that can be found throughout the world. Sometimes one will encounter a soft, fruity wine with delicate tannins, while some are big and bold with firm tannins. The range of styles make Merlot an asset to certain vintners due to the versatility and creative license it allows for.

Merlot Profile













Black Current











Alcohol content generally medium to high producing a full bodied wine. 
Medium Acidity levels Medium tannins


Wide range but quality new world Merlots can be found in the $10 - $20 range.  For Merlot based Bordeaux from the better Chateau expect to pay $40 +





To help understand your wine profile read Your Wine Profile.


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·  Cabernet Sauvignon - The King of the Wine World?


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