Merlot is a dark blue grape variety used to create varietal wines and blends. The thin-skinned grapes produce fruity and lightly spiced medium to full-bodied red wines. Though native to France, Merlot grapes are a popular grape variety with both Old World and New World winemakers.
Where is Merlot grown?
Merlot’s homeland may be Bordeaux in France, but it is a real globetrotter when it comes to where it can be grown. Capable of growing in cool and warm climates, it is now widely planted in wine regions across the world, including:
- Tuscany, Italy
- California, USA
- Central Valley, Chile
- Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale, Australia
- Paarl and Stellenbosch regions, South Africa
Merlot wine style and character
Merlot creates medium to full-bodied, dry red wines high in alcohol (around 13-14%).
Due to its rich and fruity flavour and smooth, well-rounded style, Merlot is a favourite of experimental winemakers who like to get creative with their blends.
The style can depend on the climate in which Merlot is grown. Warmer climate Merlots have less tannin and are softer and fruitier in flavour, while cooler climates produce more structured, slightly more tannic wines.
Our best Merlot wines
Similar in flavour profile to Cabernet Sauvignon (they are a parent variety in Cabernet Franc), Merlot’s softer tannins result in a fruit-forward wine.
Wines made from Merlot grapes grown in warmer climes burst with dark fruit flavours like blueberry and plum and hints of chocolate, coffee and baking spices like vanilla and allspice.
Merlot grapes grown in cooler climates share some of these flavours but have a taste of riper, almost tart fruits such as fig and cherry and have more floral notes such as violets, mint and tobacco leaf.
You may even taste an earthier quality, with flavours like truffle and forest floor.
Wines created by grapes as fruity as Merlot can handle strong flavours and rich dishes but also pair well with simple dishes such as pizza and marinated chicken and earthy pasta dishes such as creamy mushroom pasta.
Wines made from Merlot grapes suit roasted red meats like veal and lamb.
However, very spicy or delicate dishes can clash with Merlot’s super fruity flavours and medium tannins, creating a confusing and muddy taste.
How to serve
Merlot wines are best served just above room temperature (between 15 -20ºC) and allowing it to breathe for half an hour before serving ensures those fruity flavours and aromas aren’t dulled.