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All the medallists from the Global Merlot Masters 2024

Often hard to get right and sometimes difficult to love, Merlot can be a challenge for winemakers. But the best wines really do shine, says Patricia Stefanowicz MW.

Despite being widely planted and sold as a varietal wine from regions as diverse as damp Bordeaux and dry Chile, Merlot does not have a particularly great reputation, and often seems relegated to being a blending partner for the more characterful Cabernet Sauvignon and its relatives, Cabernet Franc and Carmenere.

So, it was with more than a little trepidation that the judges embarked on our 2024 Global Merlot Masters.

Early-budding and early-ripening, Merlot might seem like a grape grower ’s dream. But Merlot is a difficult grape to get right. With big berries, thin skins and juicy fruit, Merlot is attractive to the blackbird after which it is named, merlau.

So, Merlot is often subject to these avian predators at veraison and during ripening. If the tiny birds do not eat the berries, they damage them and leave sites for disease. And, subsequently, even if the grapes seem healthy, with all that lovely sweet juice potential alcohol levels can be shockingly high. So the conundrum for many producers is when to pick, and how to handle the grapes.

As expected, the Merlot Masters was a relatively small competition, with fewer wines than many of our other Global Masters. But there were certainly some glittering stars among the wines judged. At under £15, there are some perfectly drinkable varietal wines, but the judges found that carefully-used oak or a blending partner, often Cabernet Sauvignon, adds dimension. Oaked wines at £15–£20 show more depth of flavour, and Wakefield/Taylors’ Estate Merlot from Clare Valley, Australia, stood out – with a few supporting acts from Turkey, Chile, South Africa and Bordeaux.

The excitement began to build at the £15–£20 price point. Here wines hit the sweet spot, with Gold medals awarded to many regions: Spain, Turkey, South Africa, Chile, Argentina and New Zealand, as well as a wonderful surprise, the Netherlands (using EU grapes). South Africa, and specifically the Western Cape area of Stellenbosch, stood out, displaying juicy fruit, well-judged use of oak and alcohol levels around 14%.

Above £20, shining stars emerged. Excellent examples from Domaine Fangsi in the eastern Helan Mountain region of China and from family-owned Kendall-Jackson in Sonoma County, California, show just how well careful selection of grapes and gentle use of oak ageing can produce delectable wines at almost affordable prices.

The fireworks – if Merlot can ever be said to produce them – began at £30. It is impossible to fault any of these wines. Golds from Napa Valley (Trefethen, Barlow), Turkey (Chamlija with its Asticus Mons), Arínzano from Spain, and now on the map Château La Fleur de Boüard from the right bank of Bordeaux, set an amazing standard. Napa Valley came top of the day, winning Master medals for the discreet, flavourful Freemark Abbey Napa Valley Merlot and the intense but elegant Mt Brave from Mount Veeder. The inimitable Philip Shaw was awarded a Gold medal for his Hoosegg Mountain Dragon from New South Wales.

What the judges praised most was the vibrant acidity, gentle tannic grip and the balance of fruit, oak and alcohol in all of these award-winning wines. No longer flabby and over-oaked, Merlot requires us to take the grape and its wines seriously.

Unoaked 100% Merlot

Winery Name of wine Region Country Vint Medal
Under £10
Kavaklidere Saraplan Ancyra Aegean Turkey 2022 Silver
De Bortoli Wines Family Selection Coonawarra Australia 2022 Bronze
Cramele Recas Paparuda Banat/Recas Romania 2023 Bronze
Cramele Recas Babele Banat/Recas Romania 2023 Bronze
Res Fortes Wines Merlot Madness Vin de France France 2022 Bronze
Arba Wine Meiram Arba Almaty Kazakhstan 2016 Bronze


Oaked 100% Merlot

Winery Name of wine Region Country Vint Medal
Under £10
Kavaklidere Saraplan Egeo Merlot Aegean Turkey 2021 Silver
Maison Sichel Bordeaux Merlot Bordeaux France 2022 Silver
De Bortoli Wines Winemaker Selection Merlot King Valley/Coonawarra Australia 2022 Bronze
Wakefield Taylors Wines Estate Merlot Clare Valley Australia 2022 Gold
Kuzubag Kuzubag Merlot Cal, Denizli Turkey 2021 Silver
Cavit Bottega Vinai Trentino Italy 2020 Silver
Abadal Cinc Catalonia Spain 2019 Gold
Yedi Bilgeler Bias Priene Merlot Izmir Turkey 2021 Gold
Durbanville Hills Collectors Reserve The Lighthouse Western Cape South Africa 2021 Gold
Fleur du Cap Unfiltered Western Cape South Africa 2020 Gold
Chateau Amsterdam The Man With The Hat Merlot European wine (grapes from Saint-Emilion) Netherlands 2022 Silver
Don Cristobal Cristobal 1492 Barrel Selection Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza Argentina 2020 Silver
Church Road McDonald Series Merlot Hawke’s Bay New Zealand2021 Silver
Ca’Bolani Merlot Friuli-Venezia-Giulia Italy 2021 Bronze
Domaine Fangsi Kaiyun Single Vineyard Merlot Ningxia China 2019 Gold
Arba Wine Meiram Arba Almaty Kazakhstan 2015 Silver
Enate Merlot-Merlot Somontano Spain 2020 Silver
Vignamaggio Merlot di Santa Maria Tuscany Italy 2016 Master
Arínzano Merlot Agricultura Biológica Navarra Spain 2019 Gold
Petra Quercegobbe Tuscany Italy 2021 Gold
Barlow Vineyards Merlot Napa Valley USA 2021 Gold
Church Road 1 Merlot Hawke’s Bay New Zealand 2021 Silver
Azienda Agricola Cecchetto Giorgio Sante Rosso IGT Marca Trevigiana Veneto Italy 2021 Silver
Hoosegg by Philip Shaw Mountain Dragon New South Wales Australia 2019 Gold
Chamlija Asticus Mons Strandja Mountains Turkey 2020 Gold
Black Stallion Estate Winery Limited Release Merlot Napa Valley USA 2020 Master
Mt Brave Merlot Napa Valley USA 2019 Master


Oaked Merlot Blend

Winery Name of wine Region Country Vint Medal
Under £10
Alpaca Merlot Central Valley Chile 2023 Silver
Viña Santa Helena Varietal Merlot Central Valley Chile 2023 Silver
Viña San Pedro Gato Negro Merlot Maule Valley Chile 2023 Silver
Viña Luis Felipe Edwards LFE Gran Reserva Colchagua Valley Chile 2021 Bronze
Château Gillet Bordeaux Entre-deux-Mers France 2022 Bronze
Nederburg The Winemasters Merlot Western Cape South Africa 2021 Silver
Kenwood Vineyards “Discoveries” Merlot California USA 2022 Bronze
Château La Diligente Puisseguin-Saint-Emilion Bordeaux France 2022 Bronze
Kendall-Jackson Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Merlot Sonoma County USA 2021 Gold
Vignobles Famille André Lurton Château de Barbe Blanche Lussac-Saint-Emilion France 2019 Silver
Château Lafleur du Roy Lafleur Du Roy Pomerol Pomerol France 2019 Silver
Trefethen Family Vineyards Estate Merlot California USA 2021 Gold
Château La Fleur de Boüard La Fleur de Boüard Bordeaux France 2020 Gold
Freemark Abbey Merlot Napa Valley USA 2019 Master

About the competition

With high-quality judges and a unique sampling process, The Global Merlot Masters provides a chance for your wines to shine. The 2024 competition was judged on Tuesday, 6 February at Da Henrietta in Covent Garden, 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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