Forget the Sideways effect: Merlot is still one of the world’s most popular red wines. A versatile crowd-pleaser, its spiritual home is in Bordeaux where it’s used in some of France’s most prestigious bottles of wine.
Merlot used to be very popular in Italy. But, chasing higher quality, wineries reduced their plantings from over 50 thousand hectares in the 1970’s to 28 thousand in 2010 (MiPAAF).
In Toscana, Merlot is used to support the native Sangiovese to create some of the best Super Tuscan wines. In Alto Adige, this grape is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc to create Bordeaux-style blends (“Alto Adige Merlot-Cabernet”).
Although most Italian Merlot is used in blends, some winemakers are starting to produce single-varietal bottles of exceptional quality.
What does Italian Merlot wine taste like?
Merlot has medium levels of alcohol and velvety tannins. Expect fruit-forward flavours of black cherry, plum, raspberry complemented by dried herbs and notes of chocolate. It’s often aged in oak, so you can expect spicy flavours like clove and vanilla too.