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At a glance

Country of Origin: France
Region of Origin: Bordeaux
Typical Product: Red
Structure: Heavy
Climate: Warm - Cool
Soil Type: Clay, Limestone
Serving Temp: 58 - 63F
Ageability: 5 to 7
Blends: Bordeaux
Sauces to Pair:
Meals to Pair:
Other Names*:


Much like Cabernet Sauvignon, UC Davis believes Merlot to be another offspring of Cabernet Franc with which it shares many characteristics.  Native to the Bordeaux Region of France, its one of the primary blending grapes used in the famous Bordeaux blends, usually behind Cabernet Sauvignon, but ahead of Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot or Carmenere.   Although generally thought of as a blending grape in Bordeaux, its total acreage actually is much greater than the next largest planting, Cabernet Sauvignon.

In its native France, it was long known as a grape worthy of producing its own Varietal whereas the trend in California didn't take hold in until the late '70s when Warren Winniarsky (of Stags Leap Wine Cellars Fame) became one of the first to produce a Merlot.  Further skyrocketing the grape to 'star status' was a report in CBS's 60 minutes espousing the health benefits of red wine and Merlot was the grape they happened to choose.  In Italy, its one of the main components of the super Tuscan blends.  Since its acceptance in the New world as a grape worthy of its own place, it's quickly spread to virtually every wine making region in the world.  It shares more in common with its ancestor Cabernet Franc than it does with the other Bordeaux grapes.  In fact, several well established 'Merlot' vineyards in California have turned out to be Cabernet Franc after recent analysis.

Warm but not hot weather is key to an excellent Merlot.  Very hot temperatures cause the fruit to ripen too quickly, destroying any chance to make a balanced wine.  Merlot is a heavy producer, perhaps more so than other Bordeaux grape, and needs aggressive pruning to ensure that grapes retain character.  Thankfully, it is an early ripening varietal so more often than not, fruit is picked long before the first colder, wet weather can cause issues.

Merlot is a relatively thin-skinned grape, creating less tannins in the wine giving a smoother, softer mouth feel.  Despite the loose clusters, which allow for air to circulate between the fruit giving some protection from rot or mildew early rains and cooler weather can be a problem.

Merlot is not a wine where a wine maker can easily hide their mistakes.  Even big bodied Merlots lack the tannins and heavy acids that can hide problems.  Unfortunately, its soft tannins and propensity to fruitiness in California led to its being thought of as the 'starter' red wine for those beginning to develop an interest in wines.  For much of the '90s, perception become reality and the majority of Merlots produced were overly fruity poorly balanced wines.  Since the late '90s though, a growing number of wine makers are reeducating the public by making full-bodied, well balanced Merlots that deserve recognition as one of the great red wines. 
* used in California

Show Me Wineries That Are Selling This Wine With Expanded Listings On

(Please click on the Winery name for more information)

Name Vintage Year Price Tasting Comments
Burrell School
2010  $65.00  Magna Cum Laude 
Byington Winery
2006  $28.00  Messina Vineyard 
Byington Winery
2007  $23.00  Black Ridge Vineyard 
Cuda Ridge
2010  $25.00   
Dark Star
2010  $28.00   
Wood Family
2006  $22.00  One Oak Vineyard 
Leal Vineyards
2008  $36.00  Estate 
2008  $20.00  Private Reserve 
Callaway Vineyard
2008  $38.00  Winemaker's Reserve 
Thomas Coyne Winery
2011  $18.00   
Bodegas Aguirre Winery & Vineyards
2005  Estate Merlot Reserva- 80% Merlot, 20% Cab 
Sarah's Vineyard
2007  $25.00   
2009  $25.00  Merlot of the Violet Flame, Esate 
2007  $25.00  Estate 
Cru Winery
2009  $40.00  Mariposa 
Lorimar Vinyards
2012  $19.00  White Merlot 
Burrell School
2012  $34.00  Estate 
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