The Grape Comes is making the profile, talking about several grapes. And in today's post, let's talk about a strain from Bordeaux, France - the Merlot.

Its name, which is actually Merlot Noir derives from the name of a bird, which in Europe is called "Blackbird", so from this name came the term Merlot.

The grape would have earned that name not only because it is quite dark, of a bluish black like the bird, but also because it attracts a large quantity of these birds when the harvest is approaching, and its fruit is very mature.

Origin of the Merlot grape

Something important in relation to the origin of this grape is that it is the youngest grape variety in Bordeaux. Being that in 2009 a team from the University of California and the INRA of Montepellier, discovered the genetic origin of the same.

The grape comes from a cross of Cabernet Franc with grape variety called Magdeleine noire des Charentes, the latter a nearly extinct variety, the "mother" of Merlot and Malbec.

These researchers consider that from the Cabernet Franc, the Merlot grape inherited the slightly aggressive texture of its phenolic components, especially the tannins (find out more about tannin, in this post here) and anthocyanins. From Magdeleine, he received as a legacy the condition of maturing earlier and productivity.

Still about its original region, although the region of Bordeaux is famous for the Cabernet Sauvignon grape, Merlot is the most produced there and enters almost all famous blends.

However, only Petrus takes more than 95% of it in its composition. Being the Petrus one of the most expensive wines in the world, produced in the Pommerol region.

The Merlot grape is a variety that adapts very well to colder climates, temperate climate, and places with arid, clayey and even rocky soils.

Still on the Merlot grape, it is a variety that has a finer bark compared to Cabernet Sauvignon, is less resistant to cold soils and usually matures a few weeks ahead of Cabernet.

General Characteristics of the Merlot Grape

  • Fruit of ink film, of deep blue violet coloration and herbaceous flavor;
  • Bunches with medium size;
  • Pretty fine skin;
  • Low level of tannin and acidity;
  • High concentration of sugar and alcohol;
  • Aromatic and smooth.

Regions in which Merlot works best

For this reason, it fits prominently in soils with greater amount of clay, such as those of Libourne (Bordeaux), where clay is predominant. Finally, it is a strain more susceptible to diseases and rot, as well as suffering from the strongest frost.

Characteristics of Merlot wine

Among the wines of the Merlot grape, these are the most varied, there are red, sparkling, rosés ... But, let's try to address the more general characteristics that this variety transmits to wine.

In terms of aromas, fruity, particularly red fruits such as strawberry, raspberry, cherry and even gooseberry are most common.

However, depending on the climate, when warmer, these fruit flavors can evolve into aromas reminiscent of the fruit jellies previously mentioned. There is still possibility to find touches of plum, violet, sweet seasoning and even leather.

Oak barrel in Merlot wine

Remembering that when this wine stages in oak barrels, aromas such as caramel, vanilla and coffee can also arise.

A characteristic, when the grape comes from places of very cold weather, even in late summer, if not handled properly, and especially when harvested before full maturation, aromas of very herbaceous and green tones may appear.

Visual Aspects of Merlot Wine

Regarding the visual and body aspects, in summary, their wines are round, have some potency, can be rich in color, alcohol, and are low in acid. When your tannins do not seem to be as firm, having a period of wood, wine can have good aging potential.

However, the Merlot varietals are very pleasing to the fact that they are round, fleshy and do not lose the elegance in the mouth being a wine quite fruity.

Merlot Wine Colors

When harvested as late as possible, the color intensity and the concentration of the fruity aromas are much higher.

The ripe tannins combine with the good body and with its alcoholic graduation present. What will give the wine structure to support a maturation period in wood, if the producer wishes.

However, the versatility of the Merlot grape allows a wine to be produced to be consumed young, if the producer wishes. In addition to being an important strain for assemblages.

Merlot in Brazil - a success story

That Brazilian sparkling wine is one of the best in the world, we are all already aware. However, we have produced great red wines in recent years. And it can be said that Merlot is the grape responsible for the production of several of them.

In Rio Grande do Sul, a national exponent of grape and wine production, Merlot has shown great versatility in wine styles offered.

During a recent visit, during the 2017 harvest, Vem da Grape had the opportunity to sample some great specimens of this variety in the city of Bento Gonçalves.

In the Vale dos Vinhedos, this variety can produce wines that with certain specifications, are awarded the Denomination of Origin seal, which attests to the quality and typicality of the wine produced in the region. However, there are several wines that do not have the seal of DO Vale dos Vinhedos and are also of high quality.


In the book that gave rise to the movie "Sideways", the protagonist, a frustrated writer named Miles (played by Paul Giamatti) was a confessed fan of Pinot Noir, disdaining and even denigrating the image of Merlot, especially at meals.

The interesting thing is that despite this, at the end of the story he redeems himself and tastes a Petrus - well made wine from Merlot. In the film, however, as the owners of the Château did not agree to show the label, the wine was replaced by a 1964 Cheval Blanc.