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Not many grape varieties have been made famous by a movie, although the effect ‘Sideways’ had on Merlot was hardly positive. Merlot is traditionally one of the great grapes of Bordeaux, dominant on the Right Bank, in the towns of St Émilion and Pomerol (Petrus is one of the world’s most famous and expensive wines), and a significant component of Left Bank wines. An early ripener, giving it an advantage as a blender, it is the most extensively planted red grape in France. Outside France, it has been highly successful in northern Italy and regions like Washington, California, Chile (after they worked out which vines were Merlot and which were Carmenere), New Zealand and Australia. Everywhere, its major role tends to be as a component but there are also many single varietal Merlots. Flavours are usually in the plummy, Christmas cake, plum pudding, dark berry spectrum. Structurally, it is softer and more generous than Cabernet Sauvignon.

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