Merlot

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Merlot
Grape (Vitis)
Merlot Grape.jpg
Merlot grapes on the vine
Color of berry skinBlack
Also calledPicard, Langon
Notable regions Bordeaux, Long Island, Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Chilean Central Valley, Romania, Australia and Hungary
Notable wines Saint-Émilion, Pomerol
Ideal soilClay
VIVC number 7657
Wine characteristics
GeneralMedium tannins
Cool climateStrawberry, red berry, plum, cedar, tobacco
Medium climateBlackberry, black plum, black cherry
Hot climateFruitcake, chocolate

Merlot is a dark blue–colored wine grape variety, that is used as both a blending grape and for varietal wines. The name Merlot is thought to be a diminutive of merle, the French name for the blackbird, probably a reference to the color of the grape. Its softness and "fleshiness", combined with its earlier ripening, makes Merlot a popular grape for blending with the sterner, later-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon, which tends to be higher in tannin. [1]

Contents

Along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, Merlot is one of the primary grapes used in Bordeaux wine, and it is the most widely planted grape in the Bordeaux wine regions. Merlot is also one of the most popular red wine varietals in many markets. [2] This flexibility has helped to make it one of the world's most planted grape varieties. As of 2004, Merlot was estimated to be the third most grown variety at 260,000 hectares (640,000 acres) globally. [3] The area planted to Merlot has continued to increase, with 266,000 hectares (660,000 acres) in 2015. [4]

While Merlot is made across the globe, there tend to be two main styles. The "International style" favored by many New World wine regions tends to emphasize late harvesting to gain physiological ripeness and produce inky, purple colored wines that are full in body with high alcohol and lush, velvety tannins with intense, plum and blackberry fruit. While this international style is practiced by many Bordeaux wine producers, the traditional "Bordeaux style" of Merlot involves harvesting Merlot earlier to maintain acidity and producing more medium-bodied wines with moderate alcohol levels that have fresh, red fruit flavors (raspberries, strawberries) and potentially leafy, vegetal notes. [5]

History and name

A main cluster and an attached "wing cluster" of Merlot grapes with its characteristic dark-blue color. Winged cluster of Merlot.JPG
A main cluster and an attached "wing cluster" of Merlot grapes with its characteristic dark-blue color.

The earliest recorded mention of Merlot (under the synonym of Merlau) was in the notes of a local Bordeaux official who in 1784 labeled wine made from the grape in the Libournais region as one of the area's best. In 1824, the word Merlot itself appeared in an article on Médoc wine where it was described that the grape was named after the local black bird (called merlau in the local variant of Occitan language, merle in standard) who liked eating the ripe grapes on the vine. Other descriptions of the grape from the 19th century called the variety lou seme doù flube (meaning "the seedling from the river") with the grape thought to have originated on one of the islands found along the Garonne river. [1]

By the 19th century it was being regularly planted in the Médoc on the "Left Bank" of the Gironde. [6] After a series of setbacks that includes a severe frost in 1956 and several vintages in the 1960s lost to rot, French authorities in Bordeaux banned new plantings of Merlot vines between 1970 and 1975. [7]

It was first recorded in Italy around Venice under the synonym Bordò in 1855. The grape was introduced to the Swiss, from Bordeaux, sometime in the 19th century and was recorded in the Swiss canton of Ticino between 1905 and 1910. [6] In the 1990s, Merlot saw an upswing of popularity in the United States. Red wine consumption, in general, increased in the US following the airing of the 60 Minutes report on the French Paradox and the potential health benefits of wine and, possibly, the chemical resveratrol. The popularity of Merlot stemmed in part from the relative ease in pronouncing the name[ clarification needed ] of the wine as well as its softer, fruity profile that made it more approachable to some wine drinkers. [8]

Parentage and relationship to other grapes

Cabernet Franc, one of the parent varieties of Merlot. Cabernet Franc.JPG
Cabernet Franc, one of the parent varieties of Merlot.

In the late 1990s, researchers at University of California, Davis showed that Merlot is an offspring of Cabernet Franc and is a half-sibling of Carménère, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. [9] The identity of the second parent of Merlot wouldn't be discovered till the late 2000s when an obscure and unnamed variety, first sampled in 1996 from vines growing in an abandoned vineyard in Saint-Suliac in Brittany, was shown by DNA analysis to be the mother of Merlot. [1]

This grape, later discovered in front of houses as a decorative vine in the villages of Figers, Mainxe, Saint-Savinien and Tanzac in the Poitou-Charentes was colloquially known as Madeleina or Raisin de La Madeleine due to its propensity to be fully ripe and ready for harvest around the July 22nd feast day of Mary Magdalene. As the connection to Merlot became known, the grape was formally registered under the name Magdeleine Noire des Charentes. Through its relationship with Magdeleine Noire des Charentes, Merlot is related to the Southwest France wine grape Abouriou, though the exact nature of that relationship (with Abouriou potentially being either a parent of Magdeleine Noire or an offspring) is not yet known. [1]

Grape breeders have used Merlot crossed with other grapes to create several new varieties including Carmine (an Olmo grape made by crossing a Carignan x Cabernet Sauvignon cross with Merlot), Ederena (with Abouriou), Evmolpia (with Mavrud), Fertilia (with Raboso Veronese), Mamaia (a Romanian wine grape made by crossing a Muscat Ottonel x Babeasca negra cross with Merlot), Nigra (with Barbera), Prodest (with Barbera) and Rebo (with Teroldego). [1]

Over the years, Merlot has spawned a color mutation that is used commercially, a pink-skinned variety known as Merlot gris. However, unlike the relationship between Grenache noir and Grenache blanc or Pinot noir and Pinot blanc, the variety known as Merlot blanc is not a color mutation but rather an offspring variety of Merlot crossing with Folle blanche. [1]

Viticulture

Merlot leaf from Hedges vineyard in the Red Mountain AVA Merlot leaf.JPG
Merlot leaf from Hedges vineyard in the Red Mountain AVA

Merlot grapes are identified by their loose bunches of large berries. The color has less of a blue/black hue than Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and with a thinner skin and fewer tannins per unit volume. It normally ripens up to two weeks earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon. Also compared to Cabernet, Merlot grapes tend to have a higher sugar content and lower malic acid. [7] Ampelographer J.M. Boursiquot has noted that Merlot has seemed to inherit some of the best characteristics from its parent varieties—its fertility and easy ripening ability from Magdeleine Noire des Charentes and its color, tannin and flavor phenolic potential from Cabernet Franc. [1]

Merlot thrives in cold soil, particularly ferrous clay. The vine tends to bud early which gives it some risk to cold frost and its thinner skin increases its susceptibility to the viticultural hazard of Botrytis bunch rot. If bad weather occurs during flowering, the Merlot vine is prone to develop coulure. [10] The vine can also be susceptible to downy mildew (though it has better resistance to powdery mildew than other Bordeaux varieties) and to infection by leafhopper insect varieties. [1]

Water stress is important to the vine with it thriving in well-drained soil more so than at base of a slope. Pruning is a major component to the quality of the wine that is produced with some producing believing it is best to prune the vine "short" (cutting back to only a few buds). Wine consultant Michel Rolland is a major proponent of reducing the yields of Merlot grapes to improve quality. [6] The age of the vine is also important, with older vines contributing character to the resulting wine. [7]

A characteristic of the Merlot grape is the propensity to quickly overripen once it hits its initial ripeness level, sometimes in a matter of a few days. There are two schools of thought on the right time to harvest Merlot. The wine makers of Château Pétrus favor early picking to best maintain the wine's acidity and finesse as well as its potential for aging. Others, such as Rolland, favor late picking and the added fruit body that comes with a little bit of over-ripeness. [6]

Wine regions

Merlot is one of the world's most widely planted grape variety with plantings of the vine outpacing even the more well-known Cabernet Sauvignon in many regions, including the grape's homeland of France. [1] Here, France is home to nearly two thirds of the world's total plantings of Merlot. [10] Beyond France it is also grown in Italy (where it is the country's 5th most planted grape), Algeria, [11] California, Romania, Australia, Argentina, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Greece, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland, Croatia, Hungary, Montenegro, Slovenia, Mexico and other parts of the United States such as Washington, Virginia and Long Island. It grows in many regions that also grow Cabernet Sauvignon but tends to be cultivated in the cooler portions of those areas. In areas that are too warm, Merlot will ripen too early. [6]

In places like Israel, Merlot is the second most widely planted grape variety after Cabernet Sauvignon with 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres) in cultivation, making very "New World-style" wines. The grape can also be found in Turkey with 429 hectares (1,060 acres) in 2010 as well as Malta and Cyprus. [1]

France

Vineyards and winery exterior of Chateau Petrus Petrus01-MHD.jpg
Vineyards and winery exterior of Château Pétrus

Merlot is the most commonly grown grape variety in France. In 2004, total French plantations stood at 115,000 hectares (280,000 acres). [12] By 2009, that number had risen slightly to 115,746 hectares (286,010 acres). [1] It is most prominent in Southwest France in regions like Bordeaux, Bergerac and Cahors where it is often blended with Malbec. The largest recent increase in Merlot plantations has occurred in the south of France, such as Languedoc-Roussillon, where it is often made under the designation of Vin de Pays wine. [10] Here, Merlot accounted for 29,914 hectares (73,920 acres), more than doubling the 11,000 hectares (27,000 acres) devoted to Cabernet Sauvignon in the Languedoc. [1]

Berries of Merlot being sorted at Chateau Kirwan in a process that removes shot berries and MOG. Chateau Kirwan Merlot grapes being sorted.jpg
Berries of Merlot being sorted at Chateau Kirwan in a process that removes shot berries and MOG.

In the traditional Bordeaux blend, Merlot's role is to add body and softness. Despite accounting for 50-60% of overall plantings in Bordeaux, the grape tends to account for an average of 25% of the blends—especially in the Bordeaux wine regions of Graves and Médoc. Of these Left Bank regions, the commune of St-Estephe uses the highest percentage of Merlot in the blends. [8] However, Merlot is much more prominent on the Right Bank of the Gironde in the regions of Pomerol and Saint-Émilion, where it will commonly comprise the majority of the blend. One of the most famous and rare wines in the world, Château Pétrus, is almost all Merlot. In Pomerol, where Merlot usually accounts for around 80% of the blend, the iron-clay soils of the region give Merlot more of a tannic backbone than what is found in other Bordeaux regions. It was in Pomerol that the garagistes movement began with small-scale production of highly sought after Merlot-based wines. In the sandy, clay-limestone-based soils of Saint-Émilion, Merlot accounts for around 60% of the blend and is usually blended with Cabernet Franc. In limestone, Merlot tends to develop more perfume notes while in sandy soils the wines are generally softer than Merlot grown in clay dominant soils. [6]

Merlot can also be found in significant quantities in Provence, Loire Valley, Savoie, Ardèche, Charente, Corrèze, Drôme, Isère and Vienne. [6]

Italy

In Italy, there were 25,614 hectares (63,290 acres) of the grape planted in 2000 with more than two-thirds of Italian Merlot being used in Indicazione geografica tipica (IGT) blends (such as the so-called "Super Tuscans") versus being used in classified Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) or Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) wines. [1] A large portion of Merlot is planted in the Friuli wine region where it is made as a varietal or sometimes blended with Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc. In other parts of Italy, such as the Maremma coast in Tuscany, it is often blended with Sangiovese to give the wine a similar softening effect as the Bordeaux blends. [10]

Italian Merlots are often characterized by their light bodies and herbal notes. [8] Merlot's low acidity serves as a balance for the higher acidity in many Italian wine grapes with the grape often being used in blends in the Veneto, Alto Adige and Umbria. [6] Global warming is potentially having an influence on Italian Merlot as more cooler-climate regions in northern Italy are being able to ripen the grape successfully while other regions already planted are encountering issues with over-ripeness. [1]

According to Master of Wine Jancis Robinson, some of the higher quality Italian Merlots are often from vineyards planted with cuttings sourced from France. Robinson describes the style of Fruili Merlots from regarded estates as having potentially a "Pomerol-quality" to them while Merlots from the warm plains of the Veneto can often be over-ripe with high yields giving them a "sweet and sour" quality. Robinson notes that the Merlots from Trentino-Alto-Adige can fall somewhere between those of Friuli and the Veneto. [1]

The Strada del Merlot is a popular tourist route through Italian Merlot regions along the Isonzo river. [7]

Spain

In the hot continental climate of many of Spain's major wine regions, Merlot is less valued than it is in the damp maritime climate of Bordeaux or the warm Mediterranean climate of the Tuscan coast. [1] But as the popularity of international varieties continue to grow on the world wine market, Spanish wine producers have been experimenting with the variety with even winemakers in Rioja petitioning authorities to allow Merlot to be a permitted grape to be blended with Tempranillo in the red wines of the region. [6]

In 2008, there were 13,325 hectares (32,930 acres) of Merlot, a significant increase from the 8,700 hectares (21,000 acres) that were being cultivated in the country only 4 years earlier. [1] In 2015, this had dropped slightly to 13,044 hectares (32,230 acres), making Merlot the eighth most planted red grape variety in Spain. The largest concentration of the grape is in the Mediterranean climate of Catalonia and the continental climate of Castilla–La Mancha, with significant plantings also in Navarra and Aragon. In Costers del Segre, the grape is often used in Bordeaux-style blends while in Aragon, Navarra, and Castilla-La Mancha it is sometimes blended with Tempranillo and other local Spanish wine grape varieties.

Central Europe

In Germany, there were 450 hectares (1,100 acres) of Merlot growing in 2008 with the grape mostly planted in the warmer German wine regions of the Palatinate and Rheinhessen. [1]

In Switzerland, Merlot accounts for nearly 85% of the wine production in Ticino where it is often made in a pale "white Merlot" style. [6] In 2009, there were 1,028 hectares (2,540 acres) plantings of Swiss Merlot. [1]

Plantings of Merlot have increased in recent years in the Austrian wine region of Burgenland where vineyards previously growing Welschriesling are being uprooted to make room for more plantings. [6] The grape still lags behind its parent variety, Cabernet Franc, with 112 hectares (280 acres) in cultivation in 2008. Outside of Burgenland, nearly half of all Austrian Merlot plantings are found in Lower Austria. [1]

Rest of Europe

In the Eastern European countries of Bulgaria, Moldova, Croatia and Romania, Merlot is often produced as a full bodied wine that can be very similar to Cabernet Sauvignon. [10] In Bulgaria, plantings of Merlot lag slightly behind Cabernet Sauvignon with 15,202 hectares (37,560 acres) in 2009 while Croatia had 1,105 hectares (2,730 acres). In the Czech Republic, most of the country's 87 hectares (210 acres) were found in Moravia while Moldova had 8,123 hectares (20,070 acres) in 2009. [1]

In Slovenia, Merlot was the most widely planted grape variety of any color in the Vipava Valley in the Slovene Littoral and the second most widely planted variety in the Gorizia Hills located across the Italian border from Friuli. In the Slovene Littoral, collectively, Merlot accounts for around 15% of total vineyard plantings with 1,019 hectares (2,520 acres) of Merlot in cultivation across Slovenia in 2009. [1]

In Hungary, Merlot complements Kékfrankos, Kékoportó and Kadarka as a component in Bull's Blood. It is also made into varietal wine known as Egri Médoc Noir which is noted for its balanced acid levels and sweet taste. [7] In 2009, there were 1,791 hectares (4,430 acres) of Merlot planted across Hungary. Most of these hectares can be found in the wine regions of Szekszárd and Villány on the warm Pannonian Basin with significant plantings also found in Kunság, Eger and Balaton. [1]

In Romania, Merlot is the most widely exported red wine grape variety with 10,782 hectares (26,640 acres) in cultivation in 2008. Most of these plantings are found along the Black Sea in Dobruja, further inland in the Muntenia region of Dealu Mare and in the western Romanian wine region of Drăgășani. Here the grape is often made a varietal but is sometimes blended with other international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and with local grape varieties such as Fetească neagră. [1]

In 2009, Ukraine had 2,820 hectares (7,000 acres) of Merlot in cultivation.

Russia had 1,588 hectares (3,920 acres).

Portugal, has only a very limited amount of Merlot compared to the abundance of native Portuguese grape varieties with 556 hectares (1,370 acres) planted in 2010, mostly in the Portuguese wine regions along the Tagus river. [1]

In Greece, Merlot is one of the top six grape varieties planted in the eastern wine regions of Macedonia (86 hectares (210 acres))and Western Thrace (243 hectares (600 acres)). In central Greece, there were 74 hectares (180 acres) of Merlot in cultivation as of 2012. [1]

United States

Merlot is grown across the United States with California and Washington growing the most. Other regions producing significant quantities of Merlot include New York State with 365 hectares (900 acres) in 2006 with most of it in the maritime climate of the Long Island AVA and multiple regions in Ohio. In Texas, Merlot is the second most widely planted red wine grape after Cabernet Sauvignon with 117 hectares (290 acres). In Virginia, the grape was the widely most widely planted red variety with 136 hectares (340 acres) in 2010, most of it in the Monticello AVA and Shenandoah Valley AVA, while Oregon had 206 hectares (510 acres) in 2008 with most planted in the Rogue Valley AVA. [1] [8]

California

The style of Merlot in California can vary with the grape being found all across the state in both warmer and cooler climate regions. While regional examples of California Merlot exist from places like Napa Valley and Sonoma, many bottles are labeled simply as California Merlot. California Merlot box.png
The style of Merlot in California can vary with the grape being found all across the state in both warmer and cooler climate regions. While regional examples of California Merlot exist from places like Napa Valley and Sonoma, many bottles are labeled simply as California Merlot.

In the early history of California wine, Merlot was used primarily as a 100% varietal wine until winemaker Warren Winiarski encouraged taking the grape back to its blending roots with Bordeaux style blends. [13] Following the "Merlot wine craze" of the 1990s sparked by 60 Minutes French Paradox report, sales of Merlot spiked with the grape hitting its peak plantings of over 20,640 hectares (51,000 acres) in 2004. The 2004 movie Sideways , where the lead character is a Pinot noir fan who expresses his disdain of Merlot, has been connected with declining Merlot sales in the US after its release (and an even larger spike of interest in Pinot noir). [14] By 2010, plantings of California Merlot had dropped slightly to 18,924 hectares (46,760 acres). [1] [15] [16]

In California, Merlot can range from very fruity simple wines (sometimes referred to by critics as a "red Chardonnay") to more serious, barrel aged examples. It can also be used as a primary component in Meritage blends. [10]

While Merlot is grown throughout the state, it is particularly prominent in Napa, Monterey and Sonoma County. In Napa, examples from Los Carneros, Mount Veeder, Oakville and Rutherford tend to show ripe blackberry and black raspberry notes. Sonoma Merlots from Alexander Valley, Carneros and Dry Creek Valley tend to show plum, tea leaf and black cherry notes. [8]

Washington State

In the 1980s, Merlot helped put the Washington wine industry on the world's wine map. Prior to this period there was a general perception that the climate of Washington State was too cold to produce red wine varietals. Merlots from Leonetti Cellar, Andrew Will, Columbia Crest and Chateau Ste. Michelle demonstrated that areas of the Eastern Washington were warm enough for red wine production. [17] Today it is the second most widely grown red wine grape in the state (after Cabernet Sauvignon), following many years of being the most widely planted variety, and accounts for nearly one fifth of the state's entire production. In 2011, there were 3,334 hectares (8,240 acres) of Washington Merlot in cultivation. [1]

Washington Merlots from the Columbia Valley are often noted for their deep color. Columbia Valley Merlot cropped.png
Washington Merlots from the Columbia Valley are often noted for their deep color.

It is widely planted throughout the Columbia Valley AVA but has earned particular notice from plantings grown in Walla Walla, Red Mountain and the Horse Heaven Hills. [17] Washington Merlots are noted for their deep color and balanced acidity. [10] The state's climate lends itself towards long days and hours of sunshine with cool nights that contributes to a significant diurnal temperature variation and produces wines with New World fruitiness and Old World structure. [8]

Canada

In Canada, Merlot can be found across the country from Ontario, where there were 498 hectares (1,230 acres) of the grape in 2008, to British Columbia, where the grape is the most widely planted wine grape variety of either color at 641 hectares (1,580 acres). Here Merlot accounts for almost a third of all red wine grape plantings and is used for both varietal and Bordeaux-style blends. [1]

Mexico

In Mexico, Merlot is cultivated primarily in the Valle de Guadalupe of Baja California, the country's main wine-producing area. Plantings have increased substantially since the 1980s, and cultivation has spread into the nearby areas of Ojos Negros and Santo Tomás. [10] The grape can also be found in the north eastern Mexican wine region of Coahuila, across the border from Texas. [1]

Chile

In Chile, Merlot thrives in the Apalta region of Colchagua Province. It is also grown in significant quantities in Curicó, Casablanca and the Maipo Valley. Until the early 1990s, the Chilean wine industry mistakenly sold a large quantity of wine made from the Carménère grape as Merlot. Following the discovery that many Chilean vineyards thought to be planted with Sauvignon blanc was actually Sauvignonasse, the owners of the Chilean winery Domaine Paul Bruno (who previously worked with Château Margaux and Château Cos d'Estournel) invited ampelographers to comb through their vineyards to make sure that their wines were properly identified. Genetic studies discovered that much of what had been grown as Merlot was actually Carménère, an old French variety that had gone largely extinct in France due to its poor resistance to phylloxera. While the vines, leaves and grapes look very similar, both grapes produce wines with distinct characteristics—Carménère being more strongly flavored with green pepper notes and Merlot having softer fruit with chocolate notes. [10]

Today, "true" Merlot is the third most widely planted grape variety in Chile after Cabernet Sauvignon and Listán Prieto with 13,280 hectares (32,800 acres) in 2009. Most of these planting are in the Central Valley with Colchagua leading the way with 3,359 hectares (8,300 acres) followed by Maule Valley with 3,019 hectares (7,460 acres) and Curicó with 2,911 hectares (7,190 acres). [1]

South America

In Uruguay, Merlot is often blended with Tannat and is the 2nd most widely planted red grape variety, representing around 10% of total vineyard plantings. More widely planted than Cabernet Sauvignon, there were 853 hectares (2,110 acres) of the grape in cultivation in 2009. Brazil is home to 1,089 hectares (2,690 acres) of Merlot (as of 2007) with most of them in the Rio Grande do Sul region that is across the border with Uruguay. Other South American wine regions growing Merlot include Bolivia with 30 hectares (74 acres) as of 2012 and Peru. [1]

Argentina

In Argentina, Merlot plantings have been increasing in the Mendoza region with the grape showing an affinity to the Tupungato region of the Uco Valley. Argentine Merlots grown in the higher elevations of Tunpungato have shown a balance of ripe fruit, tannic structure and acidity. [10] The grape is not as widely planted here due to the natural fruity and fleshiness of the popular Malbec and Douce noir/Bonarda grapes that often don't need to be "mellowed" by Merlot as Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc may benefit from. In 2008, there were 7,142 hectares (17,650 acres) of Merlot growing in Argentina, most of it in the Mendoza region and in the San Juan Province. [1]

Oceania, South Africa and Asia

In New Zealand, plantings of Merlot have increased in the Hawke's Bay region, particularly in Gimblett Gravels where the grape has shown the ability to produce Bordeaux-style wine. [8] The grape has been growing in favor among New Zealand producers due to its ability to ripen better, with less green flavors, than Cabernet Sauvignon. Other regions with significant plantings include Auckland, Marlborough and Martinborough. [6] In 2008, Merlot was the second most widely red grape variety (after Pinot noir) in New Zealand and accounted for nearly 5% of all the country's plantings with 1,363 hectares (3,370 acres) in cultivation. [1]

In Australia, some vineyards labeled as "Merlot" were discovered to actually be Cabernet Franc. Merlot vines can also be found growing in the Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale and Wrattonbully in South Australia. [6] In 2008, it was the third most widely planted red grape variety after Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon with 10,537 hectares (26,040 acres). As in California, the global "Merlot craze" spurred an increase of plantings, most of it in the warm, irrigated regions of Murray Darling, Riverina and Riverland where the grape variety could be mass-produced. Recent plantings, such as those in the Margaret River area of Western Australia have been focusing on making more Bordeaux-style blends. [1]

In South Africa, plantings of Merlot have focused on cooler sites within the Paarl and Stellenbosch regions. [6] Here the grape is the third most widely planted red grape variety, accounting for nearly 15% of all red wine grape plantings, with 6,614 hectares (16,340 acres) of Merlot in cultivation in 2008. The majority of these plantings are found in the Stellenbosch region with 2,105 hectares (5,200 acres) and Paarl with 1,289 hectares (3,190 acres). According to wine expert Jancis Robinson, South African Merlot tend to be made as a varietal in a "chocolately, glossy California style". [1]

In Asia, Merlot is planted in emerging wine regions in India. It can also be found in Japan with 816 hectares (2,020 acres) in 2009 and in China with 3,204 hectares (7,920 acres). [1]

Wines

As a varietal wine, Merlot can make soft, velvety wines with plum flavors. While Merlot wines tend to mature faster than Cabernet Sauvignon, some examples can continue to develop in the bottle for decades. [10] There are three main styles of Merlot—a soft, fruity, smooth wine with very little tannins; a fruity wine with more tannic structure; and, finally, a brawny, highly tannic style made in the profile of Cabernet Sauvignon. Some of the fruit notes commonly associated with Merlot include cassis, black and red cherries, blackberry, blueberry, boysenberry, mulberry, ollalieberry and plum. Vegetable and earthy notes include black and green olives, cola nut, bell pepper, fennel, humus, leather, mushrooms, rhubarb and tobacco. Floral and herbal notes commonly associated with Merlot include green and black tea, eucalyptus, laurel, mint, oregano, pine, rosemary, sage, sarsaparilla and thyme. When Merlot has spent significant time in oak, the wine may show notes of caramel, chocolate, coconut, coffee bean, dill weed, mocha, molasses, smoke, vanilla and walnut. [8]

White Merlot

White Merlot is made the same way as White Zinfandel. The grapes are crushed, and after very brief skin contact, the resulting pink juice is run off the must and is then fermented. It normally has a hint of raspberry. White Merlot was reputedly first marketed in the late 1990s. In Switzerland, a type of White Merlot is made in the Ticino region but has been considered more a rosé. [6]

White Merlot should not be confused with the grape variety Merlot blanc, which is a cross between Merlot and Folle blanche that was discovered in 1891, [1] [18] nor should it be confused with the white mutant variety of the Merlot grape.

Food pairing

In food and wine pairings, the diversity of Merlot can lend itself to a wide array of matching options. Cabernet-like Merlots pair well with many of the same things that Cabernet Sauvignon would pair well with, such as grilled and charred meats. Softer, fruitier Merlots (particularly those with higher acidity from cooler climate regions like Washington State and Northeastern Italy) share many of the same food-pairing affinities with Pinot noir and go well with dishes like salmon, mushroom-based dishes and greens like chard and radicchio. Light-bodied Merlots can go well with shellfish like prawns or scallops, especially if wrapped in a protein-rich food such as bacon or prosciutto. Merlot tends not to go well with strong and blue-veined cheeses that can overwhelm the fruit flavors of the wine. The capsaicins of spicy foods can accentuate the perception of alcohol in Merlot and make it taste more tannic and bitter. [8]

Synonyms

Over the years, Merlot has been known under many synonyms across the globe, including Bégney, Bidal, Bidalhe, Bigney, Bigney rouge, Bini, Bini Ruzh, Bioney, Bordeleza belcha, Crabutet, Crabutet noir, Crabutet noir merlau, Hebigney, Higney, Higney rouge, Langon, Lecchumskij, Médoc noir, Merlau, Merlaut, Merlaut noir, Merle, Merle Petite, Merleau, Merlô, Merlot noir, Merlot black, Merlot blauer, Merlot crni, Merlot nero, Merlott, Merlou, Odzalesi, Odzhaleshi, Odzhaleshi Legkhumskii, Petit Merle, Picard, Pikard, Plan medre, Planet Medok, Plant du Médoc, Plant Médoc, Saint-Macaire, Same de la Canan, Same dou Flaube, Sème de la Canau, Sème Dou Flube, Semilhon rouge, Semilhoum rouge, Semilhoun rouge, Sémillon rouge, Sud des Graves, Vidal, Vini Ticinesi, Vitrai and Vitraille. [19]

See also

Related Research Articles

Cabernet Sauvignon Red-wine variety of grape

Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the world's most widely recognized red wine grape varieties. It is grown in nearly every major wine producing country among a diverse spectrum of climates from Australia Okanagan Valley to Lebanon's Beqaa Valley. Cabernet Sauvignon became internationally recognized through its prominence in Bordeaux wines where it is often blended with Merlot and Cabernet Franc. From France and Spain, the grape spread across Europe and to the New World where it found new homes in places like California's Santa Cruz Mountains, Paso Robles, Napa Valley, New Zealand's Hawkes Bay, South Africa's Stellenbosch region, Australia's Margaret River, McLaren Vale and Coonawarra regions, and Chile's Maipo Valley and Colchagua. For most of the 20th century, it was the world's most widely planted premium red wine grape until it was surpassed by Merlot in the 1990s. However, by 2015, Cabernet Sauvignon had once again become the most widely planted wine grape, with a total of 341,000 hectares (3,410 km2) under vine worldwide.

Sauvignon blanc green-skinned grape variety

Sauvignon blanc is a green-skinned grape variety that originates from the Bordeaux region of France. The grape most likely gets its name from the French words sauvage ("wild") and blanc ("white") due to its early origins as an indigenous grape in South West France. It is possibly a descendant of Savagnin. Sauvignon blanc is planted in many of the world's wine regions, producing a crisp, dry, and refreshing white varietal wine. The grape is also a component of the famous dessert wines from Sauternes and Barsac. Sauvignon blanc is widely cultivated in France, Chile, Romania, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Bulgaria, the states of Washington and California in the US. Some New World Sauvignon blancs, particularly from California, may also be called "Fumé Blanc", a marketing term coined by Robert Mondavi in reference to Pouilly-Fumé.

Cabernet Franc variety of black grape

Cabernet Franc is one of the major black grape varieties worldwide. It is principally grown for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the Bordeaux style, but can also be vinified alone, as in the Loire's Chinon. In addition to being used in blends and produced as a varietal in Canada and the United States, it is sometimes made into ice wine in those regions.

Malbec Wine variety

Malbec is a purple grape variety used in making red wine. The grapes tend to have an inky dark color and robust tannins, and are known as one of the six grapes allowed in the blend of red Bordeaux wine. In France, plantations of Malbec are now found primarily in Cahors in South West France, though the grape is grown worldwide. It is increasingly celebrated as an Argentine varietal.

Barbera Variety of grape

Barbera is a red Italian wine grape variety that, as of 2000, was the third most-planted red grape variety in Italy. It produces good yields and is known for deep color, full body, low tannins and high levels of acidity.

Carménère Variety of grape

The Carménère grape is a wine grape variety originally planted in the Médoc region of Bordeaux, France, where it was used to produce deep red wines and occasionally used for blending purposes in the same manner as Petit Verdot.

Grenache Red wine grape

Grenache or Garnacha is one of the most widely planted red wine grape varieties in the world. It ripens late, so it needs hot, dry conditions such as those found in Spain, where the grape most likely originated. It is also grown in the Italian island of Sardinia, the south of France, Australia, and California's Monterey AVA and San Joaquin Valley.

Sangiovese Wine making grape

Sangiovese is a red Italian wine grape variety that derives its name from the Latin sanguis Jovis, "the blood of Jupiter". Though it is the grape of most of central Italy from Romagna down to Lazio, Campania and Sicily, outside Italy it is most famous as the only component of Brunello di Montalcino and Rosso di Montalcino and the main component of the blends Chianti, Carmignano, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Morellino di Scansano, although it can also be used to make varietal wines such as Sangiovese di Romagna and the modern "Super Tuscan" wines like Tignanello.

Petit Verdot Variety of grape

Petit Verdot is a variety of red wine grape, principally used in classic Bordeaux blends. It ripens much later than the other varieties in Bordeaux, often too late, so it fell out of favour in its home region. When it does ripen it adds tannin, colour and flavour, in small amounts, to the blend. Petit verdot has attracted attention among winemakers in the New World, where it ripens more reliably and has been made into single varietal wine. It is also useful in 'stiffening' the mid palate of Cabernet Sauvignon blends.

Dornfelder Variety of grape

Dornfelder is a dark-skinned variety of grape of German origin used for red wine. It was created by August Herold (1902–1973) at the grape breeding institute in Weinsberg in the Württemberg region in 1955. Herold crossed the grape varieties Helfensteiner and Heroldrebe, the latter which bears his name, to create Dornfelder. Helfensteiner and Heroldrebe were both crosses created some decades earlier by Herold. Dornfelder received varietal protection and was released for cultivation in 1979. It was named in honor of Immanuel August Ludwig Dornfeld (1796–1869), a senior civil servant who was instrumental in creating the viticultural school in Weinsberg.

Agiorgitiko Variety of grape

Agiorgitiko is a red Greek wine grape variety that, as of 2012, was the most widely planted red grape variety in Greece, ahead of Xynomavro. The grape has traditionally been grown in the Nemea region of the Peloponnese but can be found throughout the country including Attikí (Attica) and Makedonía (Macedonia).

Bordeaux wine Wine produced in the Bordeaux region of France

Bordeaux wine is any wine produced in the Bordeaux region of southwest France. Bordeaux is centered on the city of Bordeaux, on the Garonne River. To the north of the city the Dordogne River joins the Garonne forming the broad estuary called the Gironde and covering the whole area of the Gironde department, with a total vineyard area of over 120,000 hectares, making it the largest wine growing area in France.

New Zealand wine Wine produced in New Zealand

New Zealand wine is produced in several winegrowing regions of New Zealand. The country's elongated island geography in the South Pacific Ocean results in maritime climates with considerable regional variation from north to south. Like many other New World wines, it is usually produced and labelled as single varietal wines, or if blended the varietal components are listed on the label. New Zealand is best known for its Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, and more recently its dense, concentrated Pinot Noir from Marlborough, Martinborough and Central Otago.

Abouriou is a red French wine grape variety grown primarily in Southwest France and, in small quantities, California. It is a blending grape that, along with Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Fer, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot, is used to make the Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) wine of Côtes du Marmandais. Abouriou can also be made into a varietal, as it is used in some vin de pays wines. The grape is known for its low acidity and high tannin content.

Marselan French wine

Marselan is a red French wine grape variety that is a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache. It was first bred in 1961 by Paul Truel near the French town of Marseillan. The vine is grown mostly in the Languedoc wine region with some plantings in the Northern Coast of California. It has also become very popular in China. The grape usually produces a medium body red wine.

Loire Valley (wine) French wine region

The Loire Valley wine region includes the French wine regions situated along the Loire River from the Muscadet region near the city of Nantes on the Atlantic coast to the region of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé just southeast of the city of Orléans in north central France. In between are the regions of Anjou wine, Saumur, Bourgueil, Chinon, and Vouvray. The Loire Valley itself follows the river through the Loire province to the river's origins in the Cévennes but the majority of the wine production takes place in the regions noted above. The area includes 87 appellations under the Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC), Vin Délimité de Qualité Superieure (VDQS) and Vin de pays systems. While the majority of production is white wine from the Chenin blanc, Sauvignon blanc and Melon de Bourgogne grapes, there are red wines made from Cabernet franc. In addition to still wines, rosé, sparkling and dessert wines are also produced. With Crémant production throughout the Loire, it is the second largest sparkling wine producer in France after Champagne. Among these different wine styles, Loire wines tend to exhibit characteristic fruitiness with fresh, crisp flavors-especially in their youth. The Loire Valley has a long history of winemaking dating back to the 1st century. In the High Middle Ages, the wines of the Loire Valley were the most esteemed wines in England and France, even more prized than those from Bordeaux.

Regional Bordeaux AOCs

In the Bordeaux wine region there are seven regional Appellations d'origine contrôlée (AOCs) that may be used throughout the Gironde department. These are Bordeaux Rouge AOC, Bordeaux Supérieur Rouge, Bordeaux Clairet, Bordeaux Rosé, Bordeaux Blanc, a dry white, Bordeaux Supérieur Blanc, a sweet white, and Crémant de Bordeaux, a sparkling méthode traditionnelle wine. The regional appellations together form the largest world-class wine vineyard, making up more than half of the production of the prestigious Bordeaux wine region, and representing more than 55% of all Bordeaux wines consumed in the world.

Friuli-Venezia Giulia wine

Friuli-Venezia Giulia wine is wine made in the northeastern Italian region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Once part of the Venetian Republic and with sections under the influence of the Austro-Hungarian Empire for some time, the wines of the region have noticeable Slavic and Germanic influences. There are 11 Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) and 3 Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia area. The region has 3 Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) designations Alto Livenza, delle Venezie and Venezia Giulia. Nearly 62% of the wine produced in the region falls under a DOC designation. The area is known predominantly for its white wines which are considered some of the best examples of Italian wine in that style. Along with the Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, the Friuli-Venezia Giulia forms the Tre Venezie wine region which ranks with Tuscany and Piedmont as Italy's world class wine regions.

Incrocio Manzoni Variety of grape

Incrocio Manzoni or Manzoni grapes is a family of grape varieties named after Professor Luigi Manzoni (1888-1968) of Italy's oldest school of oenology located in Conegliano, in the Veneto region. Manzoni created the new grape varieties by selecting, crossing and grafting vines from various vineyards during the 1920s and 1930s. The family includes both white and red grape varieties. Although most Manzonis are grown in northeastern Italy, they are mainly grown in the Piave area of Province of Treviso and are only now starting to be sold commercially in Europe and the United States.

Douce noir Variety of grape

Douce noir is a red Savoyard wine grape variety that has historically been grown in the Savoy region, but today is more widely planted in Argentina. The earliest mention of the grape dates from when Etruscans first planted Bonarda some 3.000 years ago in the Padana Region. It arrived in Savoie in the early 19th century, and by the end of the century it was the most widely grown red wine grape in the region. In the early 21st century it was discovered that the Bonarda grape, which is the 2nd most widely planted red grape, after Malbec, in Argentina was the Italian wine grape Bonarda Piemontese imported by Italian immigrants. The grape is also grown in California where it is known as Charbono.

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