Owing to the screen size of your device, you may obtain a better viewing experience by rotating your device a quarter-turn (to get the so-called "panorama" screen view).
This is …

That Useful Wine Site

Search, or just roll your cursor over the colored boxes farther below.
Advertisements appear before actual Search results;
click the "x" above to dismiss Search-results block.


  Site navigation:


  Site navigation:

The Merlot Grape

Quick page jumps:

About Merlot

(Synonyms: Bigney, Crabutet Noir, Langon, Merlot Noir, Picard, Vitraille.)


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 generally considered one of the dozen and a half or so of world-class red-wine grapes (those in boldface in the dropdown varietals lists farther up the page).

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.

Some Descriptions of Merlot Wines

Some Merlots to Try

(About this list.)

Obviously, with a wine type this popular, the possibilities are myriad. We have tried to present a reasonable palette of sources and styles, each representative being one well and widely praised. As with any major wine type (Cab Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and the rest of the usual suspects), one is hard pressed to find Old World specimens of high quality within the under-$20 range, and in fact we show only one (and that from Italy, not France); real values will typically come from the New World. But "New World" is itself quite a various category, from the U.S. to South America and beyond.

The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
Casa Lapostolle Cuvée "Alexandre" Merlot
(Apalta, Chile. Blended with some Carménère.)

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

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Plum, blackberry and boysenberry aromas show nuances of citrus peel and rubber band. On the palate, this is tight, mildly tannic and slightly astringent due to firm tannins. A mix of ripe blackberry and cassis flavors come with chocolaty oak in front of a hard-pushing, lightly herbal finish. 92 points.

This is a delicious wine styled to be both plush and pretty. First is the rich ruby color with glass-staining extraction. Then the aromas of red berries and tarragon traced by a whiff of black pepper. The fruit keeps up the action on the palate, with plum and raspberry the most predominate flavors. A savory note of wet clay and rusted farm equipment keeps the wine from going simple. An element of lemon oil and spice moves into the finish. The fruit keeps on coming.

Muscular, with broad cocoa and plum sauce notes leading the way for an ample core of currant confiture and licorice. The rock-solid finish will need some cellaring to stretch out. 90 points. [Wine Spectator, 31 August 2008]

Lapostolle Cuvée Alexandre Merlot has an intense ruby ​​color with touches of purple and red fruit with an intensity, elegance and complexity intertwined with spicy and cocoa aromas.

Terrific beam of raspberry and blackberry fruit here, with ample dark chocolate and toast. Fleshy, with hints of dried herbs as well. Solid, well-built Merlot that's ripe and modern, but has admirable finesse right now. 90 points. [Wine Spectator, 30 April 2004]

Intense, spicy edge to the richly fruited nose. The chunky, savoury, chocolatey palate is rich and full. Nicely weighted. Very good+

Marqués de Casa Concha Merlot
(Cachapoal Valley, Chile.)

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

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

A juicy and fruity red with walnut, citrus red and dark fruit aromas and flavors. Olive undertones. Medium body, bright acidity and a medium finish. Shows real merlot character and finesse. 91 points. [James Suckling, May 2016]

Deep ruby. Cherry-vanilla and floral pastille scents are complemented by woodsmoke, cola and musky herbs. Supple and sweet on the palate, offering pliant dark berry and bitter cherry flavors and a repeating vanilla note. Smooth tannins shape the finish, which lingers with very good, sweet tenacity. 90 points. [Vinous, 2012]

The crunchy red fruit comes first, but there’s enough tannin power in this merlot to make it more than just refreshing. There’s structure for a steak, and enough acidity to cut the fat from anything off the grill. 90 points.

Robust, concentrated black-fruit aromas bring accents of citrus rind and spice. The palate is rough and rugged, while flavors of blackberry, spice, fig and chocolate finish dark and toasty, with minty oak and tannins still needing to be resolved. 87 points. [Robert Parker, 2012]

A ripe and expressive red, with rich flavors of dark plum, currant and cherry, flanked by notes of graphite and white pepper. The muscular finish is filled with Asian spice and dark chocolate accents. 90 points. [Wine Spectator, 2012]

This opaque and dark ruby colored Merlot from Chile opens with a lead pencil and old leather bouquet with a hint of black cherry-cola. On the palate, this wine is medium bodied, balanced, and juicy. The flavor profile is a mineral infused plum with hints mild black raspberry. The finish is dry and its mild tannins are subtle.

Falesco "Tellus" Merlot
(Umbria, Italy.)

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

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Dark ruby color with slight translucence; blackberry, plum, cherry on the nose; dark cherry, blackberry, plum, strawberry, red and purple fruits, even walnut on the palate. Medium body, easy drinker; silky tannins that continue to show on the long finish and flash some grip in first glass; benefits from air time in large glass or decanter, opening to reveal more depth of fruits and less insistent tannin. Reserved acidity, balanced; some complexity for this price point. Oak and mocha from six months in small French barrels, but by no means offensive (much less than Falesco’s top-shelf merlot, Montiano Lazio). This is not a smooth, insipid merlot with scant character; you get serious Italian red wine attitude, something you expect from Falesco.

The 2013 Merlot Tellus was initially closed during my tasting and opened slowly to reveal red fruit, spice and grilled herb. Fruit is sourced from different soil types and at different harvest times to allow for more variability in winemaking. This is a new product in the Falesco line. The Merlot is smooth and silky on the finish. 88 points. [Wine Advocate]

[V]elvety and sumptuous, it retails for less than $15 in the US. From vineyards in Montecchio, in the heart of Umbria, the Merlot sourced for Tellus is grown in clay and calcareous soils. It’s an open-hearted wine, and softly focused with lush layers of black cherries and plums, leather, and earth. On the finish, dried sage emerges, it achieves nice complexity, given its price. Four stars (or ~8.9).

A merlot with lots of cocoa and walnut aromas and flavors. Medium to full body, round tannins and a fruity finish. I like the combination of fruit and walnut character here. 91 points. [James Suckling]

This wine has great value and quality for the price. It is a medium bodied red with tastes for red fruit, spice and grilled herb. The wine has a silky finish and I my absolute top favorite of the 10 [tasted].

This is a great Merlot from Lazio/ Umbria. The wine shows the grape’s hallmark plumminess and roundedness; also a lot of cocoa and spice and nuts. At about $12, it’s a steal.

If any country could take a grape known in the USA for big-boned, huge-fruited heavy red wines, and create a trademark light- to medium-bodied food wine, it would absolutely be Italy. In the case of the Falesco Tellus Merlot from Umbria, Italy delivered! This wine is not especially light, but it is compared to the American versions, which makes it quite useful as a burger/pizza/pasta weeknight-easy to drink wine. There are typical Merlot flavors of dark fruits and even a little blueberry, but on a lighter frame than many of us are accustomed. Ready to drink now, it is a nice wine at a nice price! 87 Points.

Montes "Alpha" Merlot
(Colchagua Valley, Chile; not their "M", which is a blend, though even this one has a small percentage of Carménère)

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

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Dark deep crimson. So staggeringly rich and silky and sensuous that for the first couple of tastes I didn't know quite what to write. Molten plums, milk chocolate, mocha, and a dried-apricot tang which turns all the opulence and plump boudoir fruit into dramatic fireworks with a freshness that practically crackles across the tongue. It certainly has all the density and concentration of a dark chocolate truffle, and is verging on just-too-sumptuous, but the fine tannins and that tense acidity manage to rein it back just in time. You could sink into an armchair and sip this slowly by the fire, but a food match would need to be carefully thought out… 16.5/20. [Jancis Robinson, December 2014]

The 2010 Montes Alpha Merlot, blended with 10% Carmenere, has a touch of greenness on the nose, while the palate is medium-bodied with supple tannins and a juicy blackberry, cigar box and soy-tinged finish that shows good persistency. This is a commendable Chilean Merlot. 87 points. [Wine Advocate #204, December 2012]

Montes is a winery that has mastered the art of delivering flavour and some complexity at affordable prices, as typified by this ripe, deeply-coloured Merlot from the Colchagua Valley. This has some classic Chilean mint, with attractive plum and black cherry flavours, mid-weight tannins and sweet, assertive oak. 990 points. [Tim Atkin, MW]

This Merlot has super-concentrated cassis on the palate with a touch of dried basil and rosemary and some violet notes. Extremely ripe, sweet and juicy with a full, dense mouthfeel. Gorgeous, but a bit one dimensional. Thankfully the generous acidity prevents this fruit bomb from becoming a cloying mess. Drink alone if your palate is up to it, otherwise soften the impact by drinking with grilled meats or strong cheese. 90 points. [Decanter]

Brilliant ruby. Smoke- and spice-accented cherry and dark berry aromas are complicated by suggestions of cracked pepper and vanilla. Smooth, sweet and open-knit, showing good heft to its juicy blackberry and cherry-vanilla flavors. Generous, supple wine with good closing punch and easygoing tannins. 88 points. [Vinous, May 2015]

Blackberry and spice aromas are earthy, leathery and stalky. This is youthful and tannic at this point, while oaky flavors of clove and wood spice ride heavily atop blackberry and dark plum fruit. Oak notes and firm tannins… 90 points.

There’s a hefty 14.5% alcohol in this heady Alpha Merlot from Montes, which overflows with Sandalwood and cedar, brambles and rich autumnal berry fruit. Twelve months in new and used French oak will account for some of that spiciness, and 10% of Carmenère in the blend adds some fruity gloss. On the palate the hedonism goes on, with a wash of rich, ripe, intense black fruit flooding the palate, but all the time that cedary, smoky quality is layered beneath. The tannins are noticeable, but ripe and thick, and lead on to a long finish with moderate acidity allowing the wine breadth and a certain plushness. 89 points.

Caparone Merlot
(Paso Robles, U.S.A.)

We do not normally list wines chiefly or solely available from the winery, but Caparone Winery has earned entries here for almost all of the half dozen varietals—Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, and Aglianico— that they bottle, so ordering a mixed case or half-case is both reasonable and economical. This is one of the most undeservedly little-known wineries in the country, chiefly because Dave Caparone only bottles about 3,000 cases a year and disdains advertising and competitions.

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• No retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine has no Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

It is less aggressive in structure and power [than Caparone's Cabernet Sauvignon], but is a big wine and not for the faint of heart. It is long on fruit and sports a fat texture, herbal characteristics and a less astringent bite in the finish. Aromatic in the nose, it can be enjoyed now, but it's better to age for removal of any harshness. . . it is also a good buy, not because of any impending softness (a clear taste target of most Merlots) but because it makes a big style statement, the kind rejected by Bordeaux Merlot vintners who look to the grape for quick, soft, supple textures and flavors. Without a doubt, this is strictly a California-styled Merlot and is not another weak attempt to emulate the French. Indeed, Gallic growers are likely to question the validity of this kind of wine making, but would praise it unhesitatingly several years down the road if the wine were tasted blind.

Unfiltered. Nose & palate: herbs, earth w/ aged elements, smooth tannins. Bordeaux style Merlot. Rating: 90

Dave Caparone was pouring the wine. A very honestly brusque person, he merely poured and let his wine speak for themselves. None of his wines are blended. All except the Cabernet Sauvignon (French Camp) and Merlot (Bien Nacido) are estate. All his wines have less than 14% alcohol. All have beautiful acidity and immensely drinkable. All his wines were trusly rustic and had that "Euro-funk" to them that added to their personality. We liked all his wines.

Sourced from Bien Nacido Vineyard. Medium color, this displayed tart black cherry, herbs, and a slightly smoky note. Medium-bodied with bright acidity in the mouth, and finishing with chewy tannins.

Zinfandel, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. All three . . .  wines were $14.00 [now $16], a price point that may cause some of the snobs (but never us hacks) to turn up our nose and expect very little. The snobs would not find what they expect with these wines as they all exhibit very nice fruit and balance. These are food wines, and they are all ready to enjoy with a meal now, but will undoubtedly gain even more balance and structure as they age another year or two. These are all very nice wines, and I think they are worth well more than the price.

[B]ig, smoky, inky and deep, like a Pétrus' backwoods cousin.

Known as a strict purist in his winemaking techniques and for his down-to-earth approach to fine wine, [Dave Caparone] has developed a reputation for his rich, long-lived reds. . . Time has shown that they can age for decades, yet are balanced enough to be approachable when young.

What a pleasure to taste — all big and bold, with great character. . . All Caparone wines are unfined, unfiltered, and made with minimal processing. They're aged two years in small oak barrels. And at $16 each, they’re a great value, in my opinion.

[T]this winemaker is one of my all time favorites. From the Santa Maria Valley in California…and I typically like old world wines, but this is made like an old world wine! It's amazing – complex, earthy, and has what Nick calls a house funk, or character, which for some would be considered off-flavors, but that I personally adore.

The unfined and unfiltered, intensely elegant big reds have established a cult-like following over the years.

Italian varietals with a Bien Nacido Cab and Merlot. Insane QPR! Low alcohol wines, and supposedly built to age as well. May be a bit rustic, but I wish there were more wineries like this that just didn't give a damn and make wine without huge overhead and pretense.

Columbia Crest "Grand Estates" Merlot
(Columbia Valley, U.S.A. Cut with 5% Cabernet Sauvignon.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages (there appear to be two): 1st & 2nd.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

♣This wine demonstrates (again) how much wonderful drinking can be had inexpensively: it is almost universally available at under $10—often quite a bit under.

The barrel program shows an abundance of dark toast, coffee and smoke aromas that meld with black cherry, anise, cedar and chalkboard dust. On the palate, the oak program takes a backseat to flavors of cherry and black currant as vanilla and chocolate fill in behind. Its medium structure creates nice balance as the fruit keeps pushing into the finish.

[It] begins with pleasant aromas of black cherry, plum and blackberry plus a little cola, chocolate and spice. Tasting the medium-bodied wine shows similar flavors to the nose with perhaps a bit more berry fruit. Those cola, chocolate and spice notes continue in the mouth along with vanilla and hints of coffee that lead into the finish of this very, very smooth wine. It ends long, dry and a bit dusty and earthy. This extremely tasty wine was aged in 1/3 new oak for 14 months, which is rather crazy considering [what it sells for].

The toast, freshly ground coffee, dark chocolate and cherry aromas pop. Plum and chocolate flavors are smooth in feel and linger on the finish. 88 points.

Velvety, focused and generous, with black cherry and coffee flavors, hinting at dark chocolate as the finish extends. 89 points. [Wine Spectator]

Well-made Merlot tastes of dark cherries and blueberries, with secondary notes of coffee and chocolate. What's not to like? Columbia Crest nails it. This is a dry red wine with luscious fruit and soft tannins, making it an easy drinker for just about every occasion…My wallet wins on this one.

This impressive value wine starts with aromas of baking spices red cherry and blackberry. There are flavors of red cherry blackberry cobbler and anise. Absolutely delicious effort from Columbia Crest. 90 points.

For a Splurge

Long Shadows "Pedestal" Merlot

• That wine at 1000 Corks
• That wine at Wine Searcher
• Its Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.
• Its CellarTracker pages.





Disclaimers  |  Privacy Policy

owl logo This site is one of The Owlcroft Company family of web sites. Please click on the link (or the owl) to see a menu of our other diverse user-friendly, helpful sites. Pair Networks logo Like all our sites, this one is hosted at the highly regarded Pair Networks, whom we strongly recommend. We invite you to click on the Pair link or logo for more information on hosting by a first-class service.
(Note: All Owlcroft systems run on Ubuntu Linux and we heartily recommend it to everyone--click on the link for more information).

All content copyright © 2019 The Owlcroft Company
(excepting quoted material, which is believed to be Fair Use).

This web page is strictly compliant with the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) Extensible HyperText Markup Language (XHTML) Protocol v1.0 (Transitional) and the W3C Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) Protocol v3 — because we care about interoperability. Click on the logos below to test us!

This page was last modified on Saturday, 7 December 2019, at 5:03 pm Pacific Time.