Merlot tends to produce medium-bodied wines with roundness and softness on the palate yet with structure and length. However, many consumers enjoy the berry and plum flavours and approachable softness on the palate that Merlot offers, in contrast to the heavier styles of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. Due to these qualities Merlot is often used in blends with Cabernet Sauvignon to soften its firmer tannins.
Merlot grows best in cool to warm climates. Lower yielding vines tend to produce grapes with higher natural acidity and a greater intensity of riper fruit characters and more tannins.
Aromas (by nose) and flavours (by mouth)
Primary fruit characters include – herbaceous, leafy, fruity, aromatic, perfume, violets, sappy, spice, cherry, raspberry, plum, beetroot, fruitcake, blackcurrant, blackberry, mulberry and rhubarb.
Developed fruit characters include – earthy, meaty, truffles, chocolate, tobacco and coffee.
Characters derived from winemaking include:
Barrel fermentation / barrel storage – spice, coconut, smoky, chocolate, vanilla, pencil shavings, sawdust, toast, cedar, black olives, bacon, dusty, nuts, cashew, burnt and toffee.
The Influence of Winemaking
Merlot is made in a similar way to Cabernet Sauvignon, with some winemakers using rotary fermenters to gently extract the flavours and tannins. To maintain the expression of the fruit, oak is used carefully so as not to dominate the wine.
Wyndham Estate Bin 999 Merlot 2000 winemaker notes give an insight into the winemaking process of this flavoursome wine.
Individual vineyard parcels of grapes were fermented at 18 – 26C in static wide based fermenters or roto fermenters. Regular pump-overs of wine to the skins, in conjunction with the rack and return technique of the fermenting wine, liberated vibrant colour and tannins without aggressive extraction.
Upon pressing, clarified pressings wines were returned to the free run wines. The aim was to produce Merlot wines of distinctive fruit characteristics, softness, and balanced supple tannins.
Selected wines of the final blend were matured in French and American oak for 10 months prior to final blending.
Learn more about the varieties of grapes that make great wine