Merlot is the most planted grape variety in France and one of the big three red wine grape varieties in the world (with Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah / Shiraz). Within Europe, Merlot is also extensively planted in Italy as well Eastern European countries such as Bulgaria, Romania. It is also widely used as a premium wine grape in all cooler parts parts of the so called New Wine World, eg USA, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
Merlot is a thin skinned grape variety which ripens earlier in the growing season and hence favours its use in cooler climates with where late summer and early autumn are short. It can be susceptible to poor fruit setting or coulure and grey rot if the ripening season is wet or humid. Merlot is the magician of red wine varieties – beautiful on its own but a great enhancing partner with other red wines.
Merlot makes a wonderful rich ruby coloured red wine and is famous for its soft full bodied and often plum like taste, usually with low tannin content. Merlot is often blended with its two favourite Bordeaux grape partners: with Cabernet Sauvignon, the Merlot is the faster maturing soft less tannic partner; with Cabernet Franc, it provides body and greater fruit heart to the wine, leaving the CabFranc to contribute its beautiful and long spicy finish. Often, all three grapes can be found in the same blend wine.
Full Merlot wines are a great accompaniment for red meat and richer red meat dishes. Lighter Merlots from cooler climates will also go well with fish such as tuna or salmon as well as white meats such as pork and chicken.