Merlot is one of the 5 permissible varieties in Red Bordeaux, making what is called the Bordeaux blend.

They vary considerably in their flavours, tannin profiles, and, most significantly the order in which they ripen. As a generalisation, the Left Bank, including the Medoc and Pessac-Léognan / Graves tend to use Cabernet as their backbone. The right bank, including, Pomerol and Saint-Émilion, Merlot as there backbone.

As with all varieties, the below commentary is a generalisation. Merlot will express differently around the world, in individual vineyards, and, depending on the vignerons’ and winemakers’ handling.


The backbone of the cooler right bank wine, the earlier ripening Merlot, has softer, more supple tannins, less overt fruit characters than Cabernet Sauvignon, showing more restraint. Again, it benefits from extended post-fermentation maceration.

The big names like Pétrus and Trotanoy make stunning wines.

Move to warm climates in Australia, Italy (most famously Tuscany), and, America and it is a different beast altogether.

Tasting of a couple of dozen Merlots from around the world a few decades ago revealed an incredible diversity of style from supple and silky to bold inky and structured.

Interviewing Luca di Napoli from Castello dei Rampolla we explored how much it easier it was for him to ripen the Bordeaux varieties in Tuscany, and, just how different the tannins and flavours were.

The biggest name in Merlot in Italy is, undoubtedly, Masseto!

In Australia, large plantings of Merlot were actually incorrectly identified Cabernet Franc!


Masseto Reviews

100 points James Suckling

This is so solid and powerful with incredible vertical dense that goes down and down on the palate. Compacted and thick with caressing and polished tannins that are powerful yet refined. Super concentration yet agile and energetic. This is a wine that needs time to come together and resolve all of its amazing components. Reminds me of the legendary 2001. Try after 2023. (6/2019)

100 points Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate

Masseto has pulled off back-to-back home runs. This is the first time that an Italian wine has earned 100 points in successive vintages. The 2016 Masseto is a thunderstorm of emotions, but it manages to keep them under perfect control. Like the 2015 Masseto before it, this vintage is a seamless wine of the highest pedigree. It represents an encore performance, continuing the string of successes that is bringing Italy to the forefront of the wine world. The first thing you’ll notice is the thickness and concentration of the fruit that makes an immediate impact on all the senses, in terms of appearance, aroma and mouthfeel. There is no overstating the sheer power and richness of this iconic vintage of Italy’s groundbreaking Merlot. Despite that considerable mass, this Masseto remains delicate and graceful. You gain better perspective as the wine opens in the glass and reveals deeper layers that were not immediately apparent on first nose: dark fruit, spice, sweet tobacco and black cherry. There is great tightness and laser focus to the fruit. I tasted the 2016 and 2015 vintages together for comparison when I scored this wine, and then I tasted this 2016 edition alone about a month later to confirm my impressions. These vintages are identical twins, two perfect wines. ML (4/2019)

97 points Wine Spectator

A flashy style, featuring concentrated yet fluid flavors of blackberry, plum, violet, cedar and iron, wrapped in toasty, vanilla-scented oak. The acidity is vibrant and refined, but dense tannins provide support as this cruises to a long finish. Best from 2022 through 2045. BS (9/2019)

94-97 points Vinous (Barrel Sample)

The 2016 Masseto is finishing its aging in barrel. Dark, sumptuous and super-expressive, the 2016 has so much to offer. Expressive aromatics, silky tannins and layered of dark, resonant fruit are some of the signatures. All the elements simply fall into place in a Masseto endowed with terrific balance and class. AG (3/2019)

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