Merlot – the little Blackbird – is a black grape from France that has conquered the world.
Merlot is known for producing soft wines e.g. low on tannins. This is due to the grape being large with comparatively thin skin.
Flavours are typically of black cherry, dark skinned berries, plums, and chocolate. Occasionally you might also find herbs in there. Acidity tends to be on a medium level.
Merlot is produced both as varietal wine and used for blending. You can also find white Merlot varietal wines. Most famous are the wines from Bordeaux, blends with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, as well as the world famous varietal wines from the region’s eastern part, such as Petrus and St. Emilion.
A varietal, soft Merlot will match a variety of dishes, starting with a Pasta Bolognese to pizza and grilled chicken. Its sweetness makes it a wonderful companion to fried vegetables, tomato based dishes or dishes with a black pepper tone.
It is also an excellent paring with hard cheese, especially if it comes with some saltiness, as does for example Parmesan.
A Merlot dominated Bordeaux blend will gladly take on heavier dishes such as steaks, but also grilled veal, pork, or lamb.
Poultry or duck will also be wonderful companions. The wine is best served at 16-18°C/61-64°F.
Where is it grown?
With 267.215 ha/660,304 ac, Merlot is the second most planted grape in the world. This corresponds to an increase of twenty-six percent between 2000 and 2010.
France is the country with the largest acreage covered with Merlot, and the variety is also France’s most planted grape. However, in terms its relative importance (measured as its plantings in comparison to the total planted area in France, its PTPA value), it is not the grape with the highest percentage.
France holds 43% of the worlds Merlot plantings, and Bordeaux alone holds 69.000 ha/170,000 ac, e.g. 25% of the worlds Merlot plantings (!). In Bordeaux, Merlot vines cover 55% of the vineyards. The wine produced from these planting would be enough to fill approximately 385 000 000 bottles of wine.
The PTPA values for each country is shown in brackets in the list below
- Most planted grape rank = 1
- France 114.675 ha/283,369 ac (14%)
- Bulgaria 10.573 ha/26,126 ac (19%)
- Japan 817 ha/2,018 ac (22%)
- Most planted grape rank = 2
- China 3.560 ha/8,798 ac (12%)
- Most planted grape rank = 3
- USA 22.729 ha/56,165 ac (10%)
- Uruguay 875 ha/2,162 ac (11%)
- Canada 999 ha/2,467 ac, (as “Vidal”) (10%)
- Most planted grape rank = 4
- Italy 28.042 ha/69,293 ac (4%)
- Chile 10.041 ha/24,811 ac (9%)
- Australia 10.028 ha/24,779 ac (7%)
- Mexico 391 ha/966 ac (7%)
- Switzerland 1.028 ha/2,451 ac (7%)
- Most planted grape rank = 5
- Romania 10.988 ha/27,152 ac (6%)
- Moldavia 8.123 ha/20,072 ac (9%)
- Russia 1.588 ha/3,924 ac (6%)
- Algeria 1.510 ha/3,731 ac (5%)
- New Zealand 1.369 ha/3,383 ac (5%)
- Most planted grape rank = 6 or lower
- Spain 15.540 ha/38,400 ac, MPG rank 13 (2%)
- South Africa 6.497 ha/16,054 ac, MPG rank 7 (6%)
- Argentina 6.282 ha /15,523 ac, MPG rank 11 (3%)
- Ukraine 2.820 ha/6,968 ac, MPG rank 6 (5%)
- Hungary 1.907 ha/4,713 ac, MPG rank 11 (3%)
- Greece 1.248 ha/3,084 ac, MPG rank 13 (2%)
- Slovenia 996 ha/2,462 ac, MPG rank 6 (6%)
- Croatia 780 ha/1,926 ac, MPG rank 6 (4%)
- Brazil 766 ha/1,892 ac, MPG rank 12 (2%)
Merlot is an old variety recognised as indigenous to the Bordeaux region. The old age is not only suggested by the number of synonyms, there is also written documentation about wine made from this grape dating more than two hundred years back.