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All the medal-winning wines from The Global Merlot Masters 2023

While it may be used a lot in blending, to create a truly great wine from this grape takes great skill. Patrick Schmitt MW explains what it takes to create excellent expressions from Merlot.

Compared with other Global Wine Masters tastings by grape variety, Merlot was a relatively small competition.

While this did not limit our appreciation of the strengths and weaknesses of wines made from this variety, it did say something about Merlot. The grape is widely planted and marketed, but it is also regularly derided, which has seen its role in fine wines reduced to a supporting one in so-called ‘Bordeaux blends’, rather than heralded as a single-varietal bottling.

Indeed, finding a pure Merlot is increasingly hard, not just, one suspects, because its reputation has been damaged by ubiquity – and by 2004 Hollywood movie Sideways – but also because the grape, famous among vignerons for ripening early, is suffering from warming climates, especially in places where it has historically performed best: Bordeaux, Tuscany and California. As a result, whereas once making a varietal Merlot was fashionable, today it’s more trendy to create a special wine from later-ripening Bordeaux grapes, such as Cabernet Franc, and even Carmenère. But there’s something else about Merlot that limits its extent as a varietal wine.

Although it is possible to craft outstanding wines from this grape, it’s hard to do so. A bit like Pinot Noir – which is much more famous for its pernickety nature – Merlot only seems to perform to its full potential in certain places and under expert management.

So, while Merlot may be planted widely, and associated with inexpensive wines, it’s actually a demanding grape that requires careful handling and specific terroirs. In other words, it’s really a difficult variety that’s expensive to grow. It likes cool, damp, clay soils in warm climate areas, a combination found most notably in Pomerol, the source of the world’s most collectible Merlot – Pétrus. Sadly, this wine didn’t feature in our competition, but other great Merlots did, proving that there are a range of places where this grape can reach greatness.

Such wines weren’t cheap, with all our top-scoring samples retailing for over £20, aside from Kenwood Discoveries Merlot, a brilliant-value find using fruit from Mendocino and Sonoma in California. Merlot is also a grape that responds well to barrel-ageing, with the soft, vanillin-flavours found in oak complementing the variety’s red fruit and firm tannins. Indeed, the best Merlots of the competition were wonderfully indulgent reds, with ripe red and dark fruits, from blackberry to cherry, along with notes of toast and chocolate, and a texture that was both juicy and rich, but chewy and refreshing too.

As for the sources of brilliance, in each case, these were special sites, with particular characteristics, and fully established vines, but the origins were surprisingly varied. Among these was Napa, as one might expect, but also New South Wales, Moldova, and Mendoza, along with Washington, Somontano in Spain, and Turkey’s Strandja Mountains. In those few cases where the wines failed to live up to expectations, it was primarily due to a combination of opposing characters: green fruit and warming alcohol. This was no doubt due to the grape’s sugars rising fast, and before the berry’s phenolics had ripened – a risk with early ripening Merlot in a hot climate.

Unoaked 100% Merlot

Winery Name of Wine Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
Darwin Vineyards Volandas Central Valley Chile 2021 Silver
Viña Concha y Toro Frontera Merlot Central Valley Chile 2022 Silver
Viña Concha y Toro Reservado Concha y Toro Merlot Central Valley Chile 2022 Bronze
Justamon La Famille Lacasse VDF France 2021 Bronze
Mountain Ridge Penitino Western Cape South Africa 2022 Bronze
Cramele Recas Paparuda Merlot Banat Romania 2021 Bronze

Oaked 100% Merlot

Winery Name of Wine Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
De Bortoli Wines Family Selection Merlot Coonawarra/Riverina Australia 2022 Bronze
De Bortoli Wines Winemakers Selection Merlot Heathcote/King Valley Australia 2021 Bronze
Distell Zonnebloem Merlot Western Cape South Africa 2020 Bronze
Darwin Vineyards Lomas Carrera Central Valley Chile 2021 Bronze
Wakefield/Taylors Wines Wakefield Estate Merlot Clare Valley/Limestone Coast Australia 2021 Silver
Cavit Bottega Vinai Merlot Trentino-Alto Adige Italy 2019 Silver
Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Merlot Central Valley Chile 2021 Silver
Distell Fleur du Cap Unfiltered Merlot Western Cape South Africa 2020 Silver
Distell Durbanville Hills Collectors Reserve
The Lighthouse Merlot
Western Cape South Africa 2021 Bronze
ACW Trisquel Series Merlot Curicó Valley Chile 2019 Silver
Share A Splash Wine Co Cannonball Merlot California USA 2020 Silver
Abadal Abadal Cinc Catalonia Spain 2019 Silver
Enate Merlot Aragon Spain 2017 Gold
Bodegas Bianchi Bianchi Particular San Rafael Argentina 2020 Gold
Napa Cellars Merlot Napa Valley USA 2019 Silver
Chateau Ste. Michelle Canoe Ridge Estate Merlot Washington United States 2018 Gold
Chamlija Asticus Mons Merlot Strandja Mountains Turkey 2019 Silver
Et Cetera Merlot Stefan Voda Moldova 2014 Silver
Bodega Puerta del Abra Insólito Merlot Balcarce Argentina 2018 Silver


Oaked Blend

Winery Name of Wine Country Region Vintage Medal
Kenwood Vineyards Discoveries Merlot California USA 2019 Gold
Distell Nederburg Winemasters Merlot Western Cape South Africa 2021 Silver
Viña Luis Felipe Edwards LFE Reserva Colchagua Valley Chile 2021 Bronze
Concha y Toro Winery Casillero del Diablo Reserva Especial Merlot Maule Valley Chile 2021 Silver
Viña Luis Felipe Edwards LFE Gran Reserva Colchagua Valley Chile 2021 Bronze
Kenwood Vineyards Jack London Vineyard Red Blend Sonoma Mountain USA 2018 Master
Kenwood Vineyards Rugged Elements Estate Merlot Sonoma Valley USA 2019 Silver
Trefethen Family Vineyards Merlot Napa Valley USA 2019 Gold
Viñedos Puertas Puertas Icon Wine Curicó Valley Chile 2017 Gold
Hoosegg Mountain Dragon Merlot Orange Australia 2018 Master

About the competition

With high-quality judges and a unique sampling process, The Global Merlot Masters provides a chance for your wines to star. The 2023 competition was judged on 2 February at 28-50 Chelsea, London, employing experienced judges.

The top wines were awarded Gold, Silver, or Bronze medals according to their result, and those expressions that stood out as being outstanding received the ultimate accolade – the title of Merlot Master. This report features the medal winners only. Please visit the Global Masters website for more information, or, to enter future competitions – giving you the chance to feature online and in print – please call: +44 (0) 20 7803 2420 or email Sophie Raichura at:

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