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Top 10: The best Merlots in the world

Merlot is a cult variety. One immediately thinks of Petrus, one of the most famous and most expensive wines in the world. The grape variety comes from the southwest of France. Recent DNA research revealed that it was a cross of Cabernet Franc and a lesser-known variety called Magdeleine Noire des Charentes. The starting point of the worldwide triumph of the Merlot was the right bank in Bordeaux, where the variety has been known since the end of the 18th century. Its name is said to go back to the striking dark, blue-black color of its grapes, which is similar to that of the plumage of the blackbird, which is called "merle" in French and which is said to have a preference for the ripe, thin-skinned berries of the merlot.

Merlot is the most popular grape variety in France today, and it ranks fifth worldwide. When it comes to new plantings, the Merlot is only just behind Cabernet Sauvignon. The best representatives today come from Bordeaux, where Merlot owns around 62 percent of the vineyards, Tuscany and California, but also the Swiss Ticino, and increasingly Argentina, Chile and Australia are also playing in the concert of the best. The reason for their popularity is obvious: red wines from Merlot are well structured and powerful, have a soft, silky texture, good acid structure and rich aroma, which makes them excellent food companions of a wide range. The spectrum ranges from pork to cheese to chocolate, Merlot is rightly considered to be universally applicable at the table. Typical for the bouquet of a top merlot are fine-spicy nuances of nougat, candied violets, liquorice and black truffle, fruity hints of black cherries, blackberries, blueberries and plums. On the palate it is full-bodied to opulent, has ripe tannins and - so read not too late - also has astonishing acidity and liveliness. All of these properties make Merlot perhaps the most popular cuvée partner of all; it is only very rarely brought to the bottle as a single variety. The Merlot is a friendly and multi-faceted red wine whose charm and, in the best of cases, magic is difficult to evade.

1. 2010 Petrus Pomerol (Bordeaux, France)

A sandstone figure of St. Peter once gave this world-class winery its name. Today this wine from the Moueix family is one of the most sought-after and at the same time most expensive wines in the world. The gravelly sand-loam soil on a bed of iron-rich earth with particularly good drainage creates excellent conditions here. The terroir is ideal for Merlot, from which 100 percent of the wine is made for most vintages. Another criterion are the vines, some of which are up to 70 years old. And a third point is the extreme yield limitation. On an area of ​​only 11.5 hectares, a maximum of 4,000 cases of the exclusive top-quality wine are produced per year, there is no second wine from Petrus, nor is there a castle - that is why in recent times people have been content with the name Petrus on the label without the intent »Château«, which is otherwise used in Bordeaux.

Price: approx. € 2000–3500, -
Top vintages: 2015, 2010, 2009, 2000, 1990, 1989, 1975, 1971, 1967, 1964, 1961, 1950, 1947, 1929, 1921
Source of supply: Subscription, auction, specialist trade

2. 2010 Masseto (Bolgheri, Tuscany, Italy)

Masseto is cult, one of the most famous Merlot in the world. The grapes grow on the seven hectare vineyard of the same name in Bolgheri on the Tuscan coast. The soil of this vineyard is characterized by a high clay content and is unique in the whole area. At the beginning of the 1980s, the well-known Russian-American oenologist André Tchelistcheff drew attention to the extraordinary quality of the vineyard and advised planting Merlot. The first year was born in 1986, at that time without giving a name. From the 1987 vintage, the wine was then called Masseto. Last year, Masseto was spun off from the original Ornellaia winery and now operates as its own winery, still owned by the Frescobaldi family. Masseto is the only Italian wine sold through the Bordeaux wine trading center.

Price: approx. € 550–750, -
Top vintages: 2013, 2012, 2010, 2008, 2004, 2001, 1999
Source of supply: Morandell, Wörgl; Alpina, Buchloe; Bindella, Zurich; Mövenpick, Zurich.

3. 2008 Messorio - Le Macchiole (Bolgheri, Tuscany, Italy)

The second big Merlot from Bolgheri. Inspired by the great role model Masseto, Eugenio Campolmi and his then advisor Luca d’Attoma planted a densely planted Merlot vineyard at the end of the 1980s. The first harvest took place in 1994, and the Messorio found a sworn fan base from the start. In direct comparison to Masseto, Messorio is perhaps a tad less opulent and polished, but instead puts the fruit more in the foreground. The yield is extremely low at 800 grams per stick. After fermentation, the wine matures in barriques for 20 months. Since the death of Eugenio Campolmi, his wife Cinzia Merli has been running the winery very successfully and has made Le Macchiole one of the top wineries in Italy.

Price: approx. € 180
Top vintages: 2013, 2012, 2010, 2008, 2004, 2001, 1999
Source of supply: Pfurtscheller, Neustift; Superiore, Dresden; Vinum, Munich; Caratello, St. Gallen

4. 2012 Blankiet Estate Vineyard Merlot (Yountville, Napa Valley, USA)

When Katherine and Claude Blankiet started their winery project in Napa Valley in 1996, their declared goal was to make world-class wines.Today, the pretty, Tuscan-looking winery at the foot of the Mayacamas Mountains has long been a Mecca for Merlot aficionados from all over the world. Their now famous Paradise Hill vineyard lives up to its name. Here soil material of volcanic origin combines with alluvial gravel to create exactly the mixture on which great red wines can be made. With consultant David Abreu and star oenologist Helen Turley, this elite winery has long since made the leap among the best. The winery has been producing its Merlot since 2001, which is named after Pomerol and St. Émilion in Bordeaux. In addition to its elegance and present minerality shaped by the terroir, a few drops of Cabernet Franc give this great wine a spicy facet.

Price: approx. € 160–200, -
Top vintages: 2013, 2012, 2010, 2009, 2007, 2005
Source of supply:www.bacchus-vinothek.de (2010), € 159.00; www.denzweine.ch (2012) CHF 195.00

5. 2005 Château Péby Faugères (St. Émilion, Bordeaux, France)

The Swiss entrepreneur Silvio Denz showed a lucky hand when he acquired the 7.45 hectare small jewel in Saint-Émilion in 2005. On this exceptionally good terroir, with the support of Merlot guru Michel Rolland, an outstanding wine is created that has quietly worked its way to the top of Bordeaux ’. Not only for Robert Parker, Château Péby Faugères is one of the 24 best Bordeaux wines and a "legend of the future". Since the 2009 vintage, this concentrated and multi-layered wine has been filled in a specially produced bottle that is decorated with a relief designed by the world-famous glass artist René Lalique in 1928, which shows the »Blackbird (La Merle) on the grape«. The qualitative efforts at Péby Faugères were rewarded in 2012 with the elevation to the "Grand Cru Classé", the step to the Premier Grand Cru is only a matter of time.

Price: approx. € 95–120, -
Top vintages: 2015, 2012, 2010, 2009, 2005, 2000, 1998
Source of supply: Subscription, specialist trade, www.c-und-d.de, www.moevenpick-wein.de, www.ungerweine.de, www.denzweine.ch

6. 2013 Redigaffi - Tua Rita (Suvereto, Tuscany, Italy)

The Tua Rita winery is located in Suvereto, around 30 kilometers south of Bolgheri. In the late 1980s, Rita Tua and Virgilio Bisti moved to Suvereto and wanted to set up their retirement home here. They started a small vineyard as a retirement activity and planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The first wine was bottled in 1992, the Cabernet Cuvée Giusto di Notri. Pure Merlot Redigaffi followed two years later. Both wines attracted the utmost attention in the Italian wine press from the start. Robert Parker awarded the Redigaffi 1997 with 100 points - as the first wine from Italy. Other great vintages followed. Today the winery is managed by Stefano Frascolla, the son-in-law of the two founders. Tua Rita has grown to 30 acres from the original two hectares.

Price: approx. € 190, -
Top vintages: 2013, 2012, 2008, 2001, 1999, 1997
Source of supply: Wagner, Laakirchen; Noitz, Palt; Consigliovini, Düsseldorf; Zanolari, Chur; Wineworld, Stäfa

7. 2009 Galatrona - Petrolo (Tuscany, Italy)

The Petrolo winery is located in the upper Arno Valley, halfway between Florence and Siena, just outside the boundaries of the Chianti Classico. The estate, which also produces delicious olive oil, has been owned by the Roman Bazzocchi-Sanjust family for four generations. At the beginning of the 1990s, Luca Sanjust, advised by the well-known oenologist Carlo Ferrini, had ten hectares planted with Merlot on a property with a particularly high proportion of clay. In 1994 the first bottle of Galatrona appeared, named after a medieval tower near the vineyard. Galatrona impresses with its full, dark berry fruit and fine-meshed tannins. Classified as IGT Toscana for many years, Galatrona has had the DOC Valdarno di Sopra designation of origin since the 2013 vintage. Production volume depending on the vintage 15,000–20,000 bottles.

Price: approx. € 90
Top vintages: 2013, 2012, 2011, 2009, 2007, 2003, 2000, 1999
Source of supply: Specialized trade

8. 2007 Pahlmeyer Merlot (Napa Valley, California, USA)

The American wine guru put it in a nutshell in a statement last year: "There are some really profound Merlots made in California, but Pahlmeyer has consistently contributed some of the best." The acclaimed winemaker and wine enthusiast Jayson Pahlmeyer followed the example of Château Petrus in Pomerol for his Merlot and bottled one hundred percent pure varietal. Today two young women run the winery, as president of the business Cleo Pahlmeyer, the daughter of the founder, and Bibiana González Rave as winemaker, who received her training in Bordeaux and has been responsible for Pahlmeyer wines since 2012. Today she expands the Merlot to 85 percent for 20 months in new French barriques and spices the composition with a few drops of Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. The shelf life of Pahlmeyer Merlot is rightly praised.

Price: € 90–130,–
Top vintages: 2014, 2103, 2010, 2007, 2002, 2001, 1996, 1994
Source of supply: Subscription, auction, specialist trade (www.arvi.ch)

9. 2011 L ’Apparita - Castello di Ama (Tuscany, Italy)

The elegant, polished variant of Merlot from Tuscany. Grows at 490 meters above sea level in the heart of Chianti Classico. Castello di Ama was one of the main engines behind the renaissance of Tuscan wine in the 1980s. At the beginning of the 1980s, the then young oenologist Marco Pallanti planted a vineyard with Merlot. The first vintage was bottled in 1985. L’Apparita was the first single-variety Merlot in Italy. With the following vintages - 1987, 1988 and then 1990 - the wine aroused the greatest interest among experts and wine connoisseurs. It went so far that Castello di Ama was only known for its Merlot and the Chianti Classico took a back seat. That went too far for Lorenza Sebasti and Marco Pallanti, and for a time the Apparita was deliberately pushed into the background. Today it shines again - on par with the excellent Chianti Classico.

Price: approx. € 180
Top vintages: 2011, 2010, 2007, 2004, 2001, 1999, 1998, 1992
Source of supply: Wein & Co, Vienna; Lobenberg, Bremen; Segnitz, Weyhe; Martel, St. Gallen

10. 2013 Kapcsándy Merlot Roberta’s Reserve (Yountville, Napa Valley, USA)

Actually, it should have been just a cozy retirement home that Lou and Bobbie Kapcsándy bought in the Napa Valley in early 2000. Cabernet grapes once grew here for Beringer’s Private Reserve, before phylloxera destroyed the vineyard. The very wine-loving new owner family decided to plant the complex again, and in 2005 the winery was inaugurated. Born in Hungary, Kapcsándy fled to Austria in 1956 and later made a career in the USA. The small, fine winery relies on prominent consultants who turn the great grapes into wine. The first commercial vintage in 2004 was vinified by Helen Turley, the next two years by her talented assistant Rob Lawson, then came Denis Malbec from Château Latour, and Tony Arcudi has been responsible since his tragic car accident in 2016.

Price: approx. € 500-800, -
Top vintages: 2015, 2014, 2013
Source of supply: Subscription, auction, specialist trade (www.vinpark.eu)