The first mention of the Merlot grape dates from the 18th century. The grape variety originates from a cross between Cabernet Franc (also the ancestor of Cabernet Sauvignon) and Magdeleine Noire from the Charentes region of France. The latter is a rare and almost unknown grape variety today which has also given rise to the Côt variety (known as Malbec in some regions).
Merlot is widely planted in the southwest of France, from where it originates, and more specifically in Bordeaux, where it is the most planted grape variety. Secondary to Cabernet Sauvignon in the blends of Bordeaux’s Left Bank, Merlot is undeniably the king of the Right Bank, best represented by the great appellations of Saint-Émilion and Pomerol. Merlot is one of the so-called "international" grape varieties and has been widely exported out of France. It is now a very popular grape variety to plant in Italy, notably the Super-Tuscans, but also in the Napa Valley of California, Argentina, Chile and Australia.
Merlot wines are characterised by a medium acidity, medium tannins and fairly dense body. Depending on the terroir from which it comes, it can develop, as in Bordeaux, red and black fruits aromas (plum, raspberry, blackcurrant, strawberry, fig, etc.), floral notes of violet, anise, liquorice, and tertiary aromas of tobacco, truffle, humus and dark chocolate from oak ageing. In the warmer terroirs of the New World, Merlot wines express similar, but riper aromas of spices and vanilla notes of American oak depending on the ageing process.
Merlot wines boast a remarkable potential for age. And with all these great characteristics, it is no wonder that Merlot is one of the most popular grape varieties in the world.