WSET3 Palate Notes

Body - Medium,
Acid - Low,
Tannin - High,
Alcohol - Medium.

Tastes Like: Plum, Cherry, Cocoa

Merlot is one of the world’s most popular red wine grape varieties, known for its smooth texture, approachable character, and versatility in blending. Originating in Bordeaux, France, Merlot has spread globally, producing wines that range from soft and fruity to rich and complex.

What you can expect to taste and smell?

Merlot wines typically offer aromas of ripe plums, cherries, and blackberries, often accompanied by notes of cocoa, vanilla, and herbs. On the palate, they are medium-bodied with smooth tannins, moderate acidity, and a plush mouthfeel. Merlot’s profile can vary based on terroir and winemaking techniques, from fruit-forward styles to more structured and age-worthy examples.

Cool vs. Warm Climate

In cool climates, such as Bordeaux and parts of California, Merlot tends to exhibit more herbal and earthy notes alongside its fruit profile. These wines are often lighter in body with higher acidity.

In contrast, warm climates like Napa Valley and Australia produce riper, fruitier Merlots with softer tannins and a fuller body.

Appellations / Producers of Note

Key regions for Merlot include:

  • Bordeaux, France: Especially in the Right Bank areas of Pomerol and Saint-Émilion.
  • Tuscany, Italy: Known for producing Merlot-based Super Tuscan blends.
  • California, USA: Particularly in Napa Valley and Sonoma County.
  • Chile: Especially in the Maipo Valley and Colchagua Valley.

Notable producers:

  • Château Pétrus (France)
  • Duckhorn Vineyards (USA)
  • Concha y Toro (Chile)
  • Antinori (Italy)


Merlot wines can age gracefully depending on the style and region. While most are best enjoyed young to preserve their fruity freshness, premium examples from Bordeaux and other prestigious regions can develop complex flavors of tobacco, cedar, and leather over 10-20 years or more.

First Published: Monday, Jun 10, 2024 Last updated: Jun 10, 2024

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Damien Saunders
WSET3 award - Has been on a journey to learn more about wine, viticulture since I started travelling. Every country has something to drink.
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