Merlot Day 2021: 17 things you didn’t know about Merlot

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To celebrate International Merlot Day 2021 this Sunday, we’ve put together a list of things you might not already know about Merlot. As always, we’ve reached out to French wine importers in Australia and they share their French Merlot recommendations to celebrate International Merlot Day 2021.

Merlot Day 2021

If you’d like to read more about Merlot, take a look at our article from 2020.

 

THE GRAPES

  1. The word Merlot most likely comes from the French word for blackbird Merle. This is thought to be because of its colour.

 

  1. There are over 50 synonyms for Merlot!

International Merlot Day 2021

  1. Merlot is the result of a cross between Magdeleine Noire des Charentes and Cabernet Franc.

 

  1. Merlot grapes are soft and fleshy and ripen early and have a dark blue colour.

journée internationale du merlot

BLENDS

  1. Bordeaux wines often blend Merlot with Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Shiraz Cabernet.

 

  1. Perhaps most commonly, Merlot is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and the two varietals are often grown in the same regions. Merlot ripens earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon though so it is planted in the cooler parts of those areas.

 

THE WINES

  1. Traditional Bordeaux style wines use Merlot grapes harvested early, which keeps acidity and produces more medium-bodied, moderate alcohol level wines with fresh, red fruit flavours such as raspberries and strawberries and occasionally leafy, vegetal notes.

 

  1. New World Merlots place emphasis on late harvesting. This produces ripeness and inky, purple-coloured wines full in body with high alcohol and velvety tannins of intense plum and blackberry fruit.

 

  1. Pétrus, one of the most famous and rare wines in the world, is comprised of almost all Merlot. In the Pomerol area within Bordeaux, where Merlot usually accounts for around 80% of the blend, the iron-clay soils of the region give Merlot more of a tannic backbone than what is found in other Bordeaux regions.

A POPULAR GRAPE TO PLANT

  1. Merlot is one of the world’s most planted grape varieties. In 2004, it was estimated to be the 3rd most grown variety globally with 260,000 hectares (640,000 acres). By 2015, that had increased to 266,000 hectares (660,000 acres) worldwide!

 

  1. In France, Merlot is the most commonly grown grape variety. France grows nearly 2/3 of the world’s total plantings of Merlot! In 2009, Merlot cultivations made up 115,746 hectares (286,010 acres) in France!

 

WHERE MERLOT IS FOUND IN FRANCE

  1. Merlot is mostly found in regions found in the South-West of France such as Bordeaux, Bergerac and Cahors where it is often blended with Malbec.

 

  1. Languedoc-Roussillon however has also made significant increases to its Merlot plantations. In this region, Merlot made up 29,914 hectares (73,920 acres), which is more than double the 11,000 hectares devoted to Cabernet Sauvignon in the Languedoc. In Languedoc-Roussillon, Merlot grapes are often used in the production of wine with the designation Vin de Pays wine.

 

  1. Vines of merlot can also be found in significant quantities in Provence, the Loire Valley, Savoie, Ardèche, Charente, Corrèze, Drôme, Isère and Vienne.

International Merlot Day 2021 journée internationale du merlot 2021

MERLOT IN AUSTRALIA

  1. Merlot is Australia’s 3rd most planted red wine grape varietal following Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.

 

  1. While it can be found in most of Australia’s wine regions, the largest Merlot plantings are in the Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale and Coonawarra in South Australia; the Yarra Valley and Murray Valley in Victoria; Margaret River in Western Australia; and the Riverina in NSW.

 

  1. Australia also found that some of its vineyards labelled as “Merlot” were in fact Cabernet Franc, which is the “father” of Merlot.

journée internationale du merlot

 

French Merlot recommendations for International Merlot Day 2021

Thirsty? Read on for recommendations of French Merlots to drink for Merlot Day 2021 and beyond.

 

Airoldi Fine Wines

Daniel Airoldi from Airoldi Fine Wines shares his recommendations for International Merlot Day 2021.

SPECIAL OFFER: 20% off all orders from Airoldi Fine Wines when you use the code “Marseillaise” at checkout.

 

Do French merlots differ much from Australian merlots and if so, how?

Merlot is a fast maturing grape variety that can accumulate a lot of sugar in a relatively short period of time, which means that if the climate is too hot, you can find Merlot with too much alcohol and unbalanced wines. Unfortunately many Australian Merlots have traditionally suffered from the climate but also from clones not adapted to the Australian terroir. New clones are now showing the great potential of this Bordeaux grape variety in Australia. It should be noted that Merlot is beginning to suffer from global warming in France too.

 

Airoldi FIne Wines - Chateau FlamandWhich French Merlot do you recommend for those with a lower budget and why?

The Château Flamand-Bellevue 2018 which is a Bordeaux AOC exceptionally fresh and fruity for its price.

What would you serve with this Merlot?

This wine will go very well with grilled meats this summer.

 

 

Chateau Beau Soleil Airoldi Fine WInesWhich French merlot would you recommend for those with a bigger budget and why?

The Château Beau Soleil 2015 which comes from the birthplace of the Merlot grape, Pomerol. It is a superb yet affordable Pomerol, which is not often the case in the smallest appellation in Bordeaux!

What would you serve with this Merlot?

Duck confit and sarladaise potatoes.

 

 

Bottli

Amélie from Bottli tells us her French Merlot recommendations for International Merlot Day 2021.

 

We recommend a wine a wine derived from organic farming and produced in one of the most illustrious regions of the Bordeaux constellation, classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Saint-Emilionnais.

 

Didier Le Calvez’ passion for his wine and his culture goes back to his early childhood when he spent his holidays at his Grandmother’s in Cadaujac. Since then, he has always been interested in the evolution of the market: from the wine farms of his childhood in Pessac Léognan, to the birth of the immense Californian vineyards of the 1970s, which told of an idea of the American dream… Olivia Le Calvez, who is passionate about wine and authenticity, also has memories of her childhood in the middle of the vines, in the Haut Médoc. This intimate connection between the two of them and the land of grapes has undoubtedly nourished their entrepreneurial dream.

After several years of research starting in 2007, Olivia and Didier’s dream took shape in the form of an authentic Gironde stone house nestled in the green and gently curving landscape of the right bank. This former wine estate with its magnificent cellars, which for more than a century was in the hands of the Estager family, is surrounded by a beautiful vineyard perched high (100 metres) on the plateau of Puisseguin, one of the four “satellite” villages of Saint-Emilion. Only a humble stream, the Barbanne, a sub-tributary of the Dordogne, separates them from the illustrious fortified town.

 

After two years of research, we fell in love with a vineyard that had the ideal terroir and climate, combined with a perfect grape variety, 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. Everything came together to make a wine as I imagined it, rich in flavour and full of subtlety.

 

Thus was born Château CLARISSE, named after their daughter (who was one year old when the first bottle was made, in 2010), to write a beautiful family story…

 

Chateau Clarisse Castillon - Boltti - journée merlot

Which merlot would you recommend for a smaller budget and what would you serve with it?

The Clarisse Castillon. This light and fruity wine, 100% merlot. As an aperitif wine it goes exceptionally well with cheese, charcuterie, tapas… It is also a refined accompaniment for chocolate desserts.

 

 

And for a higher budget and what would you serve with it?

Clarisse Vieilles Vignes (which means old vines). This bottle is best paired with all types of classic meat dishes, veal, pork, beef, lamb, duck, game, roast chicken, roasted, braised and grilled dishes.

 

 

Clos Cachet Fine Wines

Ashleigh Huggins from Clos Cachet Fine Wines talks to us ahead of International Merlot Day 2021.

 

Which French merlot do you recommend for those with a smaller budget and why?

Gavoty Rouge - Clos Cachet - Merlot DayDomaine Gavoty – Rouge Cuvee Cigale VDP $25 (100% Merlot)

The Rouge Cigale by Domaie Gavoty is grown and bottled in the village of Cabasse, fifty kilometres from Saint-Tropez. WIth a host of Rose wines produced on the Domaine, Roselyne Gavoty has also created a pure red wine from Merlot grapes. Her organically grown vineyards, ploughing and yields management all ensure an increased concentration within her wines to bring fresh and fun flavours for an enjoyable glass.

 

Tasting Notes: A fresh and juicy wine on the nose displaying delicate fruits, with wild berries, blueberries and hints of mint. The palate is gracious, round, and filling with a silky, comforting tannin structure. A wine of joy, easy to drink now.

 

What would you serve with this merlot?

Enjoy with kangaroo or eye fillet, dark chocolate or aged hard cheeses.

 

Which French merlot would you recommend for those with a higher budget and why?

Haut Roc BlanquantHaut Roc Blanquant – St Emilion Grand Cru 2015 $110 (Blend 90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc)

This primary Merlot blend from Bordeaux, named after a historic parcel of the vineyard of Bélair-Monange. Set in one of the highest areas of the limestone plateau, the name translates literally to “high white rock”. Released in very limited quantities, Haut Roc Blanquant is produced from a selection of grapes offering charm, elegance, and approachability from a young age ensuring that every individual will enjoy a glass of this wine and the perfect option for all forms of entertainment.

 

Tasting Notes: The bouquet is full of bright, ruby red fruit and seductive cocoa powder and caramel roundness. The palate is powerful but silky, with red crunchy fruit and well-integrated, refined tannins. Drink now or up until 2025.

 

What would you serve with this merlot?

Charcuterie platter, charcoaled red meat or pasta dish.

 

Le Plonque

Margot Dumas from Le Plonque shares her Merlot recommendations.

SPECIAL OFFER: Receive a 15% discount on your orders at Le Plonque when you use the code “MATILDA15”. Please note that this code will not work on wines that are already discounted.

 

journée internationale du merlot 2021

Which French Merlot do you recommend for those with a lower budget and why?

The low budget Merlot is the Dallau rouge 2016 at $24.90.

 

What would you serve it with?

This is a superior Bordeaux, easy to drink and perfect for grilled meats and barbecues. It’s a great little wine to drink with friends for a sunny picnic in my opinion.

 

It has delicious crisp red fruit aromas and is great after oxygenation (carafe friendly!).

 

Which French merlot would you recommend for those with a bigger budget and why?

journée internationale du merlot 2021The slightly more upmarket wine would be the Château D’Aiguilhe 2012 – Castillon Côte de Bordeaux

 

It’s $47.90 so still quite affordable but it’s a wine we might want to open for a special occasion or give as a gift.

 

This wine is a 2012, so it is almost 10 years old, so it might be better to decant it (but not essential). This is an elegant wine, with a nice structure and silky tannins. It has beautiful red fruit aromas (more jammy than fresh) and notes of leather and cigar.

 

What would you pair it with?

It will go well with red meats of character such as beef or game. Why not for a Christmas meal with mutton or lamb?

 

Popsy & JJ

JJ from Popsy and JJ recommends Chateau Haut-Maco Jean Bernard Cotes-de-Bourg Bordeaux 2015 $39.99 for International Merlot Day 2021.

 

Popsy & JJ International Merlot Day - journée internationale du merlotChateau Haut-Maco is family owned and for four generations they have farmed these pristine vines in the small town of Tauriac, in the Côtes de Bourg region on the right bank of the Dordogne River. When we tasted and discussed this wine with Hugues and his sister Anne we felt their passion and love for the family wines. This example is a gorgeous, silky smooth medium to full bodied wine that is 80% merlot and 20% cabernet blend.

 

The earliest recorded mention of merlot was in the notes of a local Bordeaux official who in 1784 labelled this grape as one of the area’s best. Aside from being the most planted grape in Bordeaux, these particular merlot clones planted in Chateau Haut-Maco are very special and rare indeed. In the late 1990s, researchers at University of California showed that the earliest merlot clones were the offspring of cabernet franc and a half-sibling of cabernet sauvignon, carménère and malbec.

 

Chateau Haut Maco - International Merlot Day 2021/ la journée internationale du merlot 2021

Enough of the history lesson! The first thing you notice after pouring this wine is the colour. A dirty, intense red colour that can be directly related to the clay and limestone soil. An amazing complex aroma of dark fruit and berries. The oak is perfectly integrated with soft spices coming through. Tannins are delicate and smooth. The flavours are dark fruit and the finish is silky. This wine just keeps on giving after each mouthful! This is ready to be enjoyed right now however if you love it so much you can cellar it with confidence. It was a lovely food match with BBQ beef fillet with Dijon mustard.

What’s your favourite French merlot? Happy International Merlot Day 2021 for Sunday!

 

Other French wine varietals

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International Riesling Day: everything you need to know about riesling and which to drink

International Sauvignon Blanc Day: all about sauvignon blanc and which ones to drink

 

RED WINE VARIETALS

Discover 15 things you didn’t know about Carignan for Carignan Day 2021

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Marselan: A French grape you’re more likely to find in China than in France

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CHAMPAGNE

20 Champagne facts to celebrate Champagne Day this week

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ChampagneDay 2021: how well do you know champagne? Plus champagne recommendations

 

ROSÉ

International Rosé Day 2021: 11 things you may not know about rosé

 

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International Merlot Day 2021

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