Published on 07-11-2017
Getting to know Merlot
Getting to know Merlot



Known as “the little black bird,” Merlot comes from the French word, merle, which means
blackbird, and is a beloved
red wine around the world.


Recalling the movie Sideways of 2004, Merlot got quite a knock-down on screen in favor of its cousin, Pinot Noir, when character Miles retorts he will be leaving the party if anyone orders (expletive) Merlot! Around the world it seemed Merlot took a back seat to its big brother, Cabernet Sauvignon, who often stole the show in the blended wines of Bordeaux. This unsung hero of grapes commands a bit more respect, however and is is absolutely a first-class varietal that can stand on its own quite nicely!


Merlot is a dark thin-skinned grape that is most classically used as a blending grape in the wines of Bordeaux. It is the most planted grape variety in France and the second most widely planted grape varietal in the world. It is an offspring of Cabernet Franc and Madeleine Noire des Charentes, the latter being a variety that is near extinction, and has found its place in Italy, Romania, Chile and the United States, notably Washington State and California.


Merlot is known for early ripening and large bunches and regulating crop size is the key to affecting the best quality for this variety. The type of soil and terroir where Merlot is grown is also a very important component in determining the quality of the wine. In conditions that are too warm, Merlot can often turn sluggish and flabby. In places that are too cold, the grape can sometimes be set with mildew and rot. The success to growing good quality Merlot is dependent on choosing locations that allow for slow ripening and then harvesting the grapes before its acidity declines.


“Merlot is the perfect wine for any time”, says Don LaBorde, winemaker at Paraduxx Vineyards, and it’s marvelous comeback is in full swing. During the month of October, Merlot receives worldwide recognition with its own namesake celebration called International Merlot Month. This movement brings together Merlot wine lovers from around the world to honor this versatile, lush and opulent red grape varietal.


Be one of the hundreds of producers, wine merchants, restaurants and wine lovers to taste and toast online, at events, in wine stores, restaurants and homes around the world. The hashtag designate for International Merlot Day social media participation is #MerlotMe. More information about how to be a part of the Merlot Movement can be found at merlotme.com.




Stephanie Culen is a Certified Sommelier, Wine Scout and Personal Wine Consultant
and currently works at Passalacqua Winery


in Healdsburg, California as a Wine Educator and Sales Associate. She is a contributing
writer for Wine Country This Week, as well as www.whichwinery.com, an online resource
for wines and wineries around the world.

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