The best merlots from around the world

Wine news

Mon 2 Nov 2020

By Adam Partridge

Merlot's spiritual home is in France, specifically Bordeaux and it remains the most widely planted variety in the region. It produces soft, plummy red wines which are blended with the herbaceous and higher tannin Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes to produce some of the country's - and indeed world's - finest wines - notably, Château Pétrus and Le Pin.

As one of the key Bordeaux grapes, the international winemaking community holds Merlot in high regard so it's unsurprising that Merlot has been - and continues to be - planted across the globe. In Europe, Switzerland, Romania and Moldova grow a vast amount of Merlot which, in the latter two countries, is often hard to tell apart from their rich and dark Cabernet Sauvignons. 

A remarkably versatile grape, Merlot has enjoyed considerable success in the New World where it thrives in cooler regions such as Margaret River in Western Australia. While it is often still blended for the most part with Cabernet Sauvignon, producers in Chile, New Zealand and South Africa create fantastic 100% Merlot wines. IWSC judges loved Jordan's Black Magic Merlot 2017 for its 'ripe plum and baked strawberry notes' on the palate.

Scroll down to discover 19 of the best Merlots from around the world that scooped awards in a recent IWSC tasting.

1 Merlot 2016iwsc-top-merlot-1.png
Church Road
New Zealand

A complex, inky rich nose of ripe plum, cassis, leather and bitter chocolate paves the way for a palate loaded with dark fruit and suggestions of liquorice and woodsmoke. Superb. 13.5% ABV n/a in UK

Black Magic Merlot 2017iwsc-top-merlot-2.png
South Africa

Elegant cassis nose. The palate is layered and generous, showing ripe plum and baked strawberry notes supported with oak. Fresh and smooth on the finish. 14.3% ABV RRP £16 from Fairley's Wines

Château Cantelauze

Pronounced blackberry on the nose with layers of complex flavours: from incense to violets, and even tomato coming through on the palate. A remarkably balanced and highly concentrated wine. 14% ABV n/a in UK

Signature Merlot 2015iwsc-top-merlot-4.png
South Africa

Appealing, plush nose. Well-layered palate with dense, dark black fruits giving way to violet notes on the finish. Complex and concentrated with great typicity. 14.5% ABV n/a in UK

Merlot 2017iwsc-top-merlot-5.png
Novak Winery

Rich, dark fruits on the nose, with subtle spice on the palate. Acidity is balanced to add freshness. The finish has real charm and lovely, simple drinkability. Makes you want a second sip. 14% ABV RRP £8 from

Rare Bird Series Merlot 2017iwsc-top-merlot-6.png
Red Rooster Winery

A dark mocha nose with toasty oak and sweet spice. Strong varietal characteristics displaying crunchy stone fruits and floral notes. Dry and elegant with firm acidity and ripe tannic balance. 14.8% ABV n/a in UK

Small Lot Merlot 2016iwsc-top-merlot-7.png
C.C. Jentsch Cellars

Ripe and rounded displaying lifted blue fruits with savoury grilled meat richness. A light, easy-going style with an appealing balance of vibrantly fresh acidity and juicy dark fruit structure. 14.4% ABV n/a in UK

Merlot 2017iwsc-top-merlot-8.png
South Africa

The concentrated and intense nose shows pure, dark fruits and perfume. Focused and elegant on the palate with ripe fruit and plush tannins. 14.5% ABV RRP £12 at Drinks & Co

Frontera Merlot 2019iwsc-top-merlot-9.png
Concha y Toro

Chocolate, cherry, coffee and subtle herbaceous notes on the nose; supple and silky palate; soft well-integrated tannins with moreish stalkiness, leafy cassis and blueberries. Juicy, ripe and beautifully crafted. 12% ABV n/a in UK

Bicicleta Merlot 2019iwsc-top-merlot-10.png
Viña Cono Sur

Eminently drinkable, supple, juicy and inviting. Concentrated plum, dark fruits, black olives and sweet spices. Fine grained grippy green tannins, finishing with a gentle acidity. Very moreish and inviting. 13% ABV RRP £7.50 from Morrisons

Pionero Merlot 2019iwsc-top-merlot-11.png

A bouquet of orange peel and sweet spice, showcasing succulent dark cherry, cassis, and juicy plum. Poised and layered, with a real freshness, and a tease of vanilla. 13% ABV n/a in UK

Selection Madame 2018iwsc-top-merlot-12.png
Château Cantenac

A classic, classy wine with old-school character. Intense black plum and cherry on the nose, with oaky, sweet vanilla on the palate and just a touch of stony minerality. 14.1% ABV n/a in UK

Reserve Merlot 2017iwsc-top-merlot-13.png
Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery

Bursting with plums, cherries and blueberry freshness. Smooth and vibrant with stewed plums, apples and sweet spice. Balanced with ripe tannic firmness and refreshing on the finish. 14.9% ABV n/a in UK

Merlot 2018iwsc-top-merlot-14.png

Well-balanced sweet spice and fruit in this wine. Full, broad palate with structure. Well made, with the oak used very smartly. 14.2% ABV n/a in UK

Monro Merlot 2018iwsc-top-merlot-15.png
South Africa

Great purity here to the dark, fruited nose. The palate is fresh, juicy and vibrant showing baked plums and spice with well-integrated tannins and a pleasing mid-palate weight to the finish. 14.3% ABV n/a in UK

Wild Pig Merlot 2019iwsc-top-merlot-16.png
Gabriel Meffre

Dark plum fruit, blackberry and cassis aromas with complex notes of smoke and dark chocolate. Bright acidity refreshing the palate: an aromatic style with a marked finish. 13.5% ABV n/a in UK

RR Merlot 2017iwsc-top-merlot-17.png
Diesel Farm

Intensely ripe plums and cassis on the nose underpinned by spicy notes of clove and liquorice. Beautifully rich and structured with a chocolate menthol complexity on the finish. 14% ABV n/a in UK

Grand Reserve Merlot 2016iwsc-top-merlot-18.png
Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery

Cocoa-dusted sweet coconut fills the nose before crunchy red cherries and dark plums burst forth. Cool herbs and grippy tannins round off this sumptuous and sophisticated example. Delicious. 13.5% ABV n/a in UK

Merlot 2017iwsc-top-merlot-19.png
Black Sage Vineyard

Attractive ripe bramble fruit and jammy characteristics with hints of mint, sage and sweet spiced oak. Balanced and juicy with bright acidity, silky tannins and a lifted finish. 14% ABV n/a in UK

View more Merlot recommendations from IWSC:

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