France is home to nearly two thirds of the world's total plantings of Merlot.Beyond France it is also grown in Italy (where it is the country's 5th most planted grape), California, Romania, Australia, Argentina, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland, Croatia, Hungary, Montenegro, Slovenia, and other parts of the United States such as Washington and Long Island. It grows in many regions that also grow Cabernet Sauvignon but tends to be cultivated in the cooler portions of those areas. In areas that are too warm, Merlot will ripen too early.
Merlot is the most commonly grown grape variety in France. In 2004, total French plantations stood at 115,000 hectares (280,000 acres).It is most prominent in Southwest France in regions like Bordeaux, Bergerac and Cahors where it is often blended with Malbec. The largest recent increase in Merlot plantations has occurred in the south of France
Definition: The classic Merlot grape originated from the Bordeaux region of France. It produces a soft, medium-bodied red wine with juicy fruit flavors.
Flavor Profile: A range of fresh flavors such as plums, cherries, blueberries and blackberries mixed with blackpepper tones, typically dominate this smooth red wine.
The tannin levels are fairly low and the fruit flavors are typically very forward - making this a prime wine candidate for consumers just "getting into" red wines.
Merlot is often used to blend with other varietals, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. By blending Merlot with these wines, a symbiotic relationship can exist. The Cabs are so softened, mellowed a bit and the Merlot is better structured and defined.
Fairly versatile when it comes to food pairing options. Poultry, red meat, pork, pastas, salads - Merlot can handle them all well. Light bodied Merlots can go well with shellfish like prawns or scallops, especially if wrapped in a protein-rich food such as bacon or prosciutto. Merlot tends not to go well with strong and blue veined cheeses that can overwhelm the fruit flavors of the wine
White Merlot is made the same way as White Zinfandel. The grapes are crushed, and after very brief skin contact, the resulting pink juice is run off the must to then be fermented. Some producers of White Merlot include Sutter Home Winery, Forest Glen, and Beringer. It normally has a hint of raspberry. White Merlot was reputedly first marketed in the late 1990s, and should not be confused with wines made from the white mutant of the grape. In Switzerland, a type of White Merlot is made in the Ticino region but has been considered more a rosé.