Merlot is one of the world’s best known red wine grapes. Alongside Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot is a key component in the Bordeaux blend, particularly in regions like Saint Emilion and Pomerol where it is the dominant grape in some of the world’s finest wines. Red Merlot wines are also very popular throughout the world in Spain, the USA, New Zealand and Australia.
That’s fine, then. Merlot makes red wine, and that’s that – or is it? You may have heard the term “white Merlot” before, and it may have been a little confusing. Worry not, we feel your pain and we are here to clear things up for you.
What exactly is white Merlot?
White Merlot is an unofficial term used to describe rosé wines that are made from the red Merlot grape. There is no distinct grape called “white Merlot”, other than mutant strains. You can think of white Merlot somewhere along the lines of white Zinfandel – a rosé wine produced from the red Zinfandel grape that gained its popularity largely thanks to strong marketing and distribution from large California wine brands. The name “white Merlot” refers to the wine style and not the grape.
How is white Merlot made?
Red wines get their colour from extended contact with the grape skins during winemaking. A red Merlot from Bordeaux or Australia may have several weeks of skin contact and a dark colour to show for it. The tannin in the grape skins also contributes more structure to the wine and gives it a more distinctive sensation of one’s mouth being dry when drinking. With white Merlot, skin contact is considerably shorter after the grapes are crushed and so the colour and tannic structure are both a lot lighter: Instead of dark red, white Merlot will be a light pink or salmon colour, and will be considerably lighter in the mouth and easier to drink.
White Merlot wines to try
Rosé is often thought of as a summer drink, and white Merlot surely fits that bill. We have compiled a list of light and fresh Spanish white Merlot wines for you to enjoy, whether that’s on a hot summer’s day or a wistful winter evening longing for the summer Sun!
- Bouquet de Barcelona is a blend of Merlot with the white grape Chardonnay. From the Penedès region, the wine has a moderately low alcohol percentage at 11.5%, making it an option (in moderation of course) for long summer lunches of fresh soups, salads and rice dishes.
- Heretat Sabartés Rosat 2014 is another relatively light wine, in terms of both colour extraction and alcohol content (also 11.5%). The blend has Merlot and Spanish favourite Tempranillo, another red wine grape. With a respectable 88 points from Guía Peñín, this will give you a solid introduction to everyday white Merlot at a very reasonable price.
- Cristiari Rosé 2014 has the Merlot alongside its other key Bordeaux blend grape, Cabernet Sauvignon. The resulting wine is of a deeper and darker colour, which is attributable to longer skin contact during maceration. This has a complexity that many people may find surprising for a rosé, with aromas and flavours ranging from red fruit and candied fruit to floral and herbaceous character. Light and well-balanced on the palate, this one will stay with you nonetheless thanks to a nice lingering finish.