This early-ripening and, as a general rule, highly productive variety is suitable both for varietal wines and for blending with stronger, more tannic grapes. The best results are achieved in France, in the Bordeaux region, particularly in Saint-Ėmilion and Pomerol, where some long-lived wines of the highest quality are produced. It is also popular in Northern parts of Italy, Switzerland’s Ticino, southeastern Europe and nowadays also widespread in “New World”.
Research made at University of California, Davis shows that Merlot is an offspring of Cabernet Franc and is a sibling of Carménère and Cabernet Sauvignon. The earliest recorded mention of Merlot was in the notes of a local Bordeaux official who in 1784 labeled wine made from the grape in the Libournais region as one of the area's best. The name “Merlot” comes from the French word merle meaning “young blackbird”, coming about because of the grape’s dark color, or due to the blackbird’s fondness for grapes.
Merlot is fruity, velvety, and matures faster than Cabernet, but in pure varietal form has only lately attracted international attention. Merlot-based wines usually have medium body with hints of berry, plum, and currant.
Merlot is also, at least in Tuscany, more tolerant of climatic insults, especially September rains, than most other grapes (especially Sangiovese). One well-known Italian viticultural consultant speaking on Supertuscans mentioned that if he were told to plant just one grape in most parts of Tuscany, he would go with Merlot. The yields would be low, but the quality would be consistently high.
Due to differencies in composition of soils within one estate even on relatively small plots of land, the best Merlot varietal wines made on Tuscan coast are most of the times created from single vineyard grapes, and in this case some stunning results are achieved. Some great examples of 100% Merlot wines from Tuscan Coast are: Redigaffi by Tua Rita, Masseto by Ornelaia, Radaia by La Parrina