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  Merlot

Is a very old variety, one of the most widely planted across the world.

Mother and father: based on genetic analyses, Merlot would be the result of cross-breeding Cabernet Franc and Magdeleine Noire des Charentes.
Its fertility and easy ripening ability are from Magdeleine Noire des Charentes and its colour, tannin and flavour potential are from Cabernet Franc.

The name Merlot is thought to be a diminutive of merle, the French name for the blackbird, probably a reference to the colour of the grape.

There is no officially recognized synonym in France, nor in the other countries of the European Union; however, it has been known under many synonyms across the world, including Bégney, Bidal, Bidalhe, Bigney, Bigney rouge, Bini, Bini Ruzh, Bioney, Bordeleza belcha, Crabutet, Crabutet noir,
Crabutet noir merlau, Hebigney, Higney, Higney rouge, Langon, Lecchumskij, Médoc noir, Merlau, Merlaut, Merlaut noir, Merle, Merle Petite, Merleau, Merlô, Merlot noir, Merlot black,
Merlot blauer, Merlot crni, Merlot nero, Merlott, Merlou, Odzalesi, Odzhaleshi, Odzhaleshi Legkhumskii, Petit Merle, Picard, Pikard, Plan medre, Planet Medok, Plant du Médoc, Plant Médoc,
Saint-Macaire, Same de la Canan, Same dou Flaube, Sème de la Canau, Sème Dou Flube, Semilhon rouge, Semilhoum rouge, Semilhoun rouge, Sémillon rouge, Sud des Graves, Vidal, Vini Ticinesi, Vitrai and Vitraille.

Country of origin: France
In France, it is listed in the 'Catalogue of vine varieties' on the A list and classified.
It is also listed in the catalogues of other Member States of the European Union: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Spain.

France is home to nearly two thirds of the world's total plantings of Merlot. In Italy it is the country's fifth most planted grape.
It is also grown in Algeria, California, Australia, Argentina, Canada, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland, Montenegro, Mexico and parts of the United States, and in Israel, Turkey, Malta and Cyprus.
It grows in many regions that also grow Cabernet Sauvignon but tends to be cultivated in the cooler parts of those areas. In areas that are too warm, Merlot will ripen too early.

Number of clones: there are twelve certified clones, with a conservation collection of more than 300 clones planted in Bordeaux since 1966.

Clone: 181
Origin: Gironde INRA, certified in 1973
Fertility: medium to high
Yield: low to medium
Bunch-weight: low
Vigour: low, more drooping bearing
Berry-size: small to medium
Sugar level: medium to high
Colour potential: medium
Acidity: medium
Tannins: medium to high
Oenological qualities: wines appreciated in tastings, clone appreciated for its agronomic characteristics and the quality of the wines obtained.

Clone: 182
Origin: Gironde INRA, certified in 1973
Fertility: medium
Yield: medium
Bunch-weight: medium
Vigour:
Berry-size: medium
Sugar level: medium to high
Colour potential: high
Acidity: medium
Tannins: low to medium
Oenological qualities: supple and balanced wines, clone appreciated for its agronomic characteristics and the quality of the wines obtained.

Clone: 184
Origin: Gironde INRA, certified in 1973
Fertility: medium
Yield: medium to high
Bunch-weight: medium to high
Vigour:
Berry-size:
Sugar level: low to medium
Colour potential:
Acidity: medium
Tannins: medium
Oenological qualities: representative wines of the variety.

Clone: 314
Origin: Gironde INRA, certified in 1973
Fertility: medium
Yield: medium
Bunch-weight: medium
Vigour: low
Berry-size:
Sugar level: medium
Colour potential:
Acidity: medium
Tannins:
Oenological qualities: balanced wines.

Clone: 342
Origin: Gironde INRA, certified in 1975
Fertility: medium
Yield: medium
Bunch-weight: medium
Vigour:
Berry-size:
Sugar level: medium
Colour potential:
Acidity: medium
Tannins:
Oenological qualities: representative wines of the variety.

Clone: 343
Origin: Gironde INRA, certified in 1975
Fertility: low to medium
Yield: low to medium
Bunch-weight: medium
Vigour:
Berry-size: medium
Sugar level: high
Colour potential: medium to high
Acidity: medium
Tannins: medium
Oenological qualities: structured wines, clone appreciated for its agronomic characteristics and its aptitude to produce wines suitable for ageing.

Clone: 345
Origin: Gironde INRA, certified in 1975
Fertility:
Yield:
Bunch-weight:
Vigour:
Berry-size:
Sugar level:
Colour potential:
Acidity:
Tannins:
Oenological qualities: this clone is not much grown.

Clone: 346
Origin: Gironde INRA, certified in 1975
Fertility: medium
Yield: medium
Bunch-weight: low to medium
Vigour: high
Berry-size: medium
Sugar level: medium to high
Colour potential:
Acidity: medium
Tannins: medium
Oenological qualities: wines appreciated in tastings, clone appreciated for its agronomic characteristics and the quality of the wines obtained.

Clone: 347
Origin: Gironde INRA, certified in 1975
Fertility: medium
Yield: medium
Bunch-weight: medium
Vigour:
Berry-size: medium
Sugar level: medium
Colour potential: medium
Acidity: medium
Tannins: medium
Oenological qualities: wines appreciated in tastings, clone appreciated for its agronomic characteristics and the quality of the wines obtained.

Clone: 348
Origin: Gironde INRA, certified in 1975
Fertility: medium
Yield: medium
Bunch-weight: medium to high
Vigour:
Berry-size:
Sugar level: medium
Colour potential: medium
Acidity: medium
Tannins: medium
Oenological qualities: wines appreciated in tastings, clone appreciated for its agronomic characteristics and the quality of the wines obtained.

Clone: 349
Origin: Gironde INRA, certified in 1975
Fertility: high
Yield: high, productive clone
Bunch-weight: high
Vigour:
Berry-size:
Sugar level: medium
Colour potential:
Acidity:
Tannins:
Oenological qualities: representative wines of the variety.

Clone: 519
Origin: Gironde ENTAV, certified in 1976
Fertility: high
Yield: high
Bunch-weight: medium
Vigour:
Berry-size:
Sugar level: medium
Colour potential:
Acidity:
Tannins:
Oenological qualities:

Wine Character:
While Merlot wine is made across the world, there tends to be two main styles:- The 'International style' favoured by many New World wine regions, emphasising late harvesting to gain physiological ripeness and produce inky, purple coloured wines that are full in body with high alcohol and lush velvety tannins, with intense plum and blackberry fruit.
While this international style is practiced by many Bordeaux wine producers, the traditional 'Bordeaux style' of Merlot involves harvesting earlier to maintain acidity and produce more medium-bodied wines with moderate alcohol levels that have fresh, red fruit flavours and potentially leafy, vegetal notes.

Merlot is a low tannin, round textured, fruit-forward wine. It is almost invariably fermented dry and, while single-varietal Merlots became extremely popular in the 1980’s, it notably plays a key role in blends.
In Bordeaux, where it is the Right Bank’s dominant grape, Merlot is joined by Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot in the production of some of the world’s most famous wines.
Italy produces Merlot-blend wines, with the same varieties go into Tuscany’s renowned Bolgheri DOC or Toscana IGT 'Super Tuscans' for which producers such as Ornellaia and Antinori have gained great acclaim.

     

Time of bud-burst: quite early, 2 days after Chasselas

Strength of growth: moderate to strong. Semi-erect to horizontal bearing requires good trellising
Growth of side-shoots: tends to produce a lot of off shoots and suckers

Flowering time:
Flowering strength:

Leaf:
        - shoots: the tip of the young shoot have a high density of prostate hairs
        - size:
        - shape: wedge-shaped dark green adult leaves, with five or seven lobes; medium teeth with straight or convex sides
        - colour: green young leaves, with green internodes; no anthocyanin colouration of veins
        - surface undulation: a goffered, very blistered leaf blade, and on the lower side of the leaves, a low to medium density of prostate hairs
        - petiolar sinus: open U-shaped, with sometimes naked petiole veins

Grape bunch:
        - size: small to medium, winged
        - density: quite loose
Berries:
        - size: medium
        - shape: round
        - skin colour: less blue/black than Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, with a thinner skin and fewer tannins

Time of veraison:

Time of harvest: mid-season (in France), 2 and a half weeks after Chasselas, up to two weeks earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon
It can quickly over-ripen once it hits its optimum ripeness level, sometimes in a matter of a few days.
There are two schools of thought on the right time to harvest Merlot:-
- early picking to best maintain the wine's acidity and finesse as well as its potential for aging,
- later picking with the extra fruit body that comes with a little over-ripeness.

Grape yield:
Must-weight: a higher sugar content and lower malic acid than Cabernet Sauvignon
Must-acidity:

Wood ripening:
Winter hardiness: rather sensitive to winter and spring frosts
Wood colour:

Resistance against:
        - Oidium: not very susceptible to powdery mildew and flavescence dorée, not very affected by wood diseases
        - Peronospora: sensitive to downy mildew (on flowers and bunches)
        - Botrytis: rather sensitive to grey rot
        - Roter Brenner:
        - Phomopsis:
        - Stem-atrophy:
        - Chlorosis:

Preferred soil: well suited to clay and limestone; it thrives in cool soil, particularly ferrous clay. Prefers a slope rather than flat land.
Suitable rootstocks:

Normal stem height:
Normal row spacing:
Vine spacing in the row:

Winter Pruning: has a major effect on the quality of the wine that is produced, some believe it is best to prune the vine to 'short canes' with only a few buds.
Reducing the yield of Merlot grapes is important to improve quality. Older vines contribute greater character to the wine.

Advantages:

Disadvantages:

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