This grape has a French origin, and possesses a dark-bluish colour and very thick skin. It is the most accepted foreign red grape in Spain because its tannins are less dry than Cabernet Sauvignon and it gives a sweeter, fruitier flavour. Although it is earlier than Cabernet it performs well in warm zones. It is grown mainly in Somontano and Cataluña, and somewhat less in Alicante and Murcia.
Merlot is for the Bordeaux vineyards on the right bank what Cabernet Sauvignon is for the Médoc on the left bank. It is the key to the great red wines of Saint-Émilion and Pomerol. Its fundamental role in the production of certain famous wines, such as Pétrus, has encouraged Californian viticulturists to try it in the hope of creating their own great wines.
At a more modest level, Merlot is cultivated extensively in the South of France where it appears more and more frequently on the labels of French wines, and in the North of Italy. Many small Bordeaux denominations contain more Merlot than Cabernet. It is also present in the Médoc, because it ripens earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon. However, this exposes it to spring frosts. On the other hand, it also suffers alterations in colour and other inconveniences, to the extent that in some years Merlot vines produce almost nothing.
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