Varietals - Merlot


A distinct, dry, medium to full-bodied red wine with an aroma similar to plums and cherries with hints of black tea, chocolate and coffee. Its gentle fruit components are often used to soften Cabernet's hard edge.

It ripens earlier than Cabernet making it, along with its softer character and different fruit flavors, a perfect addition in the Bordeaux region. Besides being a flavor enhancer, it also provides an insurance policy against inclement weather destroying the Cabernet crop. In those cases, the wine would have more Merlot in it.

In California, it is often used to blend with Cabernet as well as standing on its own, occasionally with Cabernet blended in for added body.



A few outstanding examples exist, but it relegated to a minor role in inexpensive blends with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and the like. 


Almost unknown in the late 70s, Merlot has become one of the hottest grapes in the state. While it still trails Cabernet Sauvignon in acreage, its growth in the 90s far outweighed the growth of Cabernet. In Napa and Sonoma it can produce a big, Cabernet-like wine as well as a traditional softer, juicier offering. Santa Barbara County is turning out impressive wines, most blended with Cabernet Franc. 


Used in the left bank (the Medoc, Côtes de Bordeaux and Graves) to make primarily lighter-styled, earlier maturing wines, especially in the outlying areas like Moulis and Listrac, although there are exceptions. In the right bank, especially in Pomerol, it is transformed into a huge, age worthy, powerhouse with few threats to its world domination of the grape. Very dark and dense with heady aromas and flavors. A lesser role is played in St. Emilion where Cabernet Franc takes the lead, but the best are blends of the two. 


Generally grown in the Northeast along with Cabernet Sauvignon and similarly styled. Its light and fruity components make it an early maturing wine for everyday quaffing. The serious winemakers in Tuscany, however, are turning out Bordeaux-like clones with this grape in the same fashion as they are with Cabernet Sauvignon. Many outstanding examples exist, some blended with Cabernet Sauvignon or Franc and some even with Syrah and some unblended. 

New Zealand

So far, the only successful version of the Bordeaux grapes with a few excellent examples in the warmer North Island. The cool climate, though, still supersedes in producing herbal tones in most of the wines.

South America

A mainstay in Chile and growing in popularity in Argentina. With few exceptions, the finished wine is soft and easy to drink without much character. Those exceptions are likely to increase as foreign investors are looking to Chile's vast plantable acreage to raise the bar of both quality and price. Whether Chile has the soil to produce truly world-class wine from this grape remains to be seen. 

United States

Washington excels with this grape, often besting California's Napa and Sonoma versions. The Columbia Valley's cool nights and longer hours of sunshine can produce wines of incredible longevity. New York's Long Island has had tremendous success with this grape, although precious little is produce