At one point, Merlot wine was the most popular type of wine in the entire world. In fact, you could credit the wine with being a large part of the reason why so many people in the USA now drink wine. It was truly the first to make a big impact in the United States a few decades ago.
The wine’s popularity may have subsided a little in the years since this remarkable boom period. Even so, it’s still among the most popular types of wine in the world and it enjoys a reputation that most other types of wine would kill to have.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at some interesting facts about Merlot that you may or may not know.
Fact #1 – It’s France’s Most Popular Grape
There is no other grape in all of France that takes up quite so much space in terms of pure acreage as Merlot. The grape, which originates from the Bordeaux region, is grown widely throughout the country.
And there’s good reason for this as well. In addition to being used for its own wine, Merlot is a popular grape for combining with other grapes. In particular, you’re likely to find Merlot combined with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon to create some very interesting blends.
The high demand for the grape and its own versatility make it extremely popular and enduring.
Fact #2 – It’s the Second Most Popular Grape in the World
Being France’s most popular grape will naturally put Merlot in the running for the title of most popular grape in the world.
However, it’s just about pipped to the post by one other grape, Cabernet Sauvignon.
As mentioned above, this is one of the best grapes for combining with Merlot, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that it’s the most widely grown grape in the world. It’s unlikely that Merlot is going to overtake it anytime soon as Cabernet Sauvignon is an even more versatile grape. But there’s nothing wrong with coming in at second place.
Fact #3 – The Name Has an Interesting Translation
The name “Merlot” actually stands for “young blackbird”.
There are two reasons given for this. Most believe that the name comes from the grape’s appearance. The grape has a gorgeous blue-black colouring that can certainly put people in mind of the flying namesake.
However, others think that the name has a more literal meaning. Apparently, blackbirds have taken quite the liking to the Merlot grape and can often be found snacking away on it. That must be a bother for Merlot producers, who have to deal with demand both from customers and blackbirds.
We’re not sure which of the two explanations hold the most water. Instead, we’d like to think that both are suitable for the grape. We also can’t help but be amused at the thought of a blackbird of two getting tipsy because of Merlot. However, that probably won’t happen unless they develop a sudden appetite for the fermented version of the grape.
Fact #4 – It Ripens Quickly
One of the main reasons why Merlot gets combined with Cabernet Sauvignon so often is because it ripens much earlier than its chief competitor.
In fact, Merlot ripens so quickly that producers really have to be on their toes to make sure they don’t allow the grape to stay on the vine for longer than needed. A late harvest could lead to the grape losing the qualities that make it so desired in the first place.
One of these qualities is a slightly less tannic taste that Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s this relative lack of tannins that played such a large role in Merlot becoming as popular as it is. Moreover, it contrasts well with the very tannic Cabernet Sauvignon, which is yet another reason why so many producers combine the two.
Fact #5 – A Movie Caused a Drop in Sales
We’ve spoken about the movie Sideways at various times in our blog. It certainly stands as one of the best films about wine and the act of drinking in history.
But it’s also not a particular favourite of Merlot producers.
The popularity of the movie led to many people taking the word of its characters as gospel when it comes to wine. Shockingly, when Paul Giamatti’s character expressed his distaste for Merlot wine in the film, he unwittingly caused a drop in sales of the wine. Instead, Pinot Noir took over as the wine of choice for many red wine drinking Americans for a number of years.
Merlot has since recovered from this unexpected decline in its fortunes. However, it is really strange to consider just how much influence a movie can have on the wine industry.
Fact #6 – It’s the Grape Used in One of the World’s Most Coveted Wines
Wine collectors will instantly recognise Petrus as one of the most desired wines in the entire world. It commands huge prices whenever a bottle finds its way onto the market.
And the wine is made almost exclusively using Merlot.
Of course, there is a downside to this massive popularity. Petrus is one of the world’s most desired wines, which means it’s also one of the world’s most counterfeited wines. Collectors are advised to run as many checks as possible before buying a bottle. After all, it’s a pretty hefty investment considering the fact that you may have to pay up to $5,000 for a bottle.
Fact #7 – It’s South Africa’s Most Popular Wine
Many people don’t immediately think of South Africa when they think about wine-loving nations.
However, South Africa seems to have developed a fondness for red wine, with Merlot becoming the most popular wine in the country as a result.
In fact, the wine accounts for about 13% of all wines sold in South Africa, which is a remarkable figure.
The Final Word
While it may not be an Italian wine, Merlot is certainly worthy of respect. It’s one of the most widely-grown grape varieties in the world and has expanded far beyond Bordeaux and into other countries over the centuries.