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The Merlot Grape


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About Merlot

(Synonyms: Bigney, Crabutet, Langon, Médoc Noir, Merlau, Merlot Noir, Picard, Sémillon Rouge, Vitraille)

Background

Map showing Bordeaux

Merlot is a red-wine grape originating in Bordeaux, but now very widely grown (worldwide, it is the third-most-planted wine grape). It is widely considered one of the dozen and a half or so “Noble wine grapes” of the world, and indeed was one of the original three red-wine grapes so designated.

Merlot is one of the traditional grapes used in the red-wine blends that characterize Bordeaux (blends known to the British as “claret”). Americans are used to wines that are bottled and marketed by varietal name (which now requires that the wine must be at least 75% of the named type); but in most of Europe, the tradition has been to produce named blends, with laws specifying—usually quite tightly—what percentages of what grapes may be used. The principal Bordeaux grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, though there are others. Merlot wines are considered to be softer and “fleshier” than the “sterner” Cabernet Sauvignon, and thus act to moderate Bordeaux blends with body and softness. Merlot tends to be very much the dominant grape in so-called “Right Bank” Bordeaux reds (whereas “Left Bank” reds tend to be dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon).

Merlot is now immensely popular worldwide, and scarcely any winemaking country does not have extensive Merlot plantings. That has inevitably resulted in large amounts of harmless but bland and undistinguished Merlots, which have in recent times given the type a somewhat diminished level of respect, even though some of the world’s greatest wines (such as Château Pétrus) are almost wholly Merlot.

Merlot is (like any grape, really, but especially like Zinfandel) capable of yielding hugely various wines, depending on the vintner’s concept of what the type should be. But, broadly speaking, Merlots are relatively unaggresive, “rounded” (or even “fleshy”) wines dominated by red-fruit aromas and tastes. Some winemakers, however, opt to make their Merlots emulate Cabernet Sauvignons, and those are rather higher in alcohol and tannin, with more intense flavors. Others feel that that is not true to the basic nature of the grape, and make more restrained wines from Merlot.

“If ever there were a red answer to Chardonnay, Merlot is it.”
       — Jancis Robinson

The general sense in the business seems to be that in the New World, Washington State is the clear winner on Merlot, with California still struggling to emerge from the bad old days, but with Chile (and sometimes Argentina) producing some pretty good value wines. In the Old World, quality is there, but pricing on what is available in America is high, saving the Cru Bourgeois wines of the Right Bank.

Factoid: It is now thought that Merlot is a cross between Cabernet Franc and the obscure grape Magdeleine Noire des Charentes. It is related to Cabernet Franc and Carmenere.

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Some Descriptions of Merlot Wines

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Some Merlots to Try

(About this list.)

Falesco “Tellus” Merlot

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks



Marques de Casa Concha Merlot

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks



Casa Lapostolle “Cuvee Alexandre” Merlot
(Blended with some Carmenère.)

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks



Columbia Crest “Grand Estates” Merlot
(Cut with 5% Cabernet Sauvignon.)

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks



Montes “Alpha” Merlot
(This is not their “M”, which is a blend, though even this one has a small percentage of Carménère.)

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks

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For a Splurge

Our nomination is the Long Shadows “Pedestal” Merlot.

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker pages.
• This wine’s CellarTracker pages.
  (CellarTracker has two listings for this wine.)
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks

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This page was last modified on Monday, 23 March 2020, at 3:52 pm Pacific Time.