Originating from Bordeaux, Merlot is a darkly blue-coloured, thin skinned wine grape that is used as both a blending grape and for varietal wines. The earliest recorded mention of Merlot was in the notes of a local Bordeaux official who in 1784 labelled wine made from the grape in the Libournais region as one of the area’s best. The name comes from the Occitan word “merlot”, which means “young blackbird”; the name was thought to have been given either because of the grape’s beautiful dark-blue colour, or the blackbirds’ fondness for grapes. By the 19th century it was being regularly planted in the Médoc on the “Left Bank” of the Gironde.
As of 2004, Merlot was estimated to be the third most grown variety globally, with an increasing trend. France is home to nearly two thirds of the world’s total plantings and is also grown in Italy, California, Australia, Argentina, Greece, New Zealand, and South Africa among other countries.