Synonym: Merlau, Vitraille, Picard, Bigney, Vitral, Medoc, Plant Medoc, Merlò, Crabutet Noir, Petit Merle.
Commonly mistaken for: Cabernet Franc, Malbech.
Origin: French variety, native of Gironde Northern Bordeaux region, where it has been cultivated since 1700 and blended with Cabernets to make important and famous wines, but the first detailed description only appeared in 1854 by Rendre. This variety was introduced to Italy around the 1880 in the Friuli region, now very widespread throughout Italy. Its name "Merlot" derives from the bird’s name: Merle (in French) or Merlo (in Italian) - which is the blackbird in English - because it seems to be particularly fond of the berries of this variety.
Agronomic and environmental aspects: High and consistent yield. This variety prefers rocky, fresh and hilly soils, but is adaptable and grows better than Cabernets in soils characterised by a good percentage of clay, even in damp and cool climates. It is suitable for different training systems. In most Italian areas the VSP training systems: Guyot (rod pruning, with 10-12 buds per cane) and Cordone speronato (cordon with spurs of 2-3 buds each) are used. Therefore it can be easily grown in “free” training systems with complete mechanization (minimal pruning).
Diseases, pests and disorders: It both buds and flowers early, so it can show “dropping off” and “hen and chicken”. It is susceptible to downy mildew, sour bunch rot, mealy bugs and scales; medium resistance to botrytis, while it shows a good resistance to powdery mildew.
Growing Tip: fully open, cottony, of white colour, with reddish edges.
Leaf: medium, pentagonal, 3-lobed and 5-lobed. Has an open U-shaped petiolar sinus with lobes strongly overlapped, also lateral superior sinuses have U-shape and are very deep, while inferior are cudgel shape. The profile is undulated, blistered.
Bunch: medium, of pyramidal form, winged (with one or two wings), loose density of berries, woody and rosy peduncle.
Berry: medium dimensions, round; medium thick skin, of blue-black colour, covered a lot of bloom.
- Rauscedo 12: Clone selected by Rauscedo; characterized by medium-large bunches with medium density of berries; a rustic and vigorous vine.
- D3V7-HT: Ex Davis clone D3V7; Chalmers Nurseries has improved the quality of this clone using the “Heat Therapy” technique to eliminate dangerous viruses, such as: GLRaV-1, GLRaV-3, GVA, GVB, GFkV and GLFV. This clone is characterized by medium-high vigour vines and consistent yield. The bunch has a small size, short, semi-compact, winged. The berries have medium size, of purplish black colour. Good resistance to botrytis.
- D3V14-HT: Ex Davis clone D3V14; Chalmers Nurseries has improved the quality of this clone using the “Heat Therapy” technique to eliminate dangerous viruses, such as: GLRaV-1, GLRaV-3, GVA, GVB, GFkV and GLFV. The vines are characterized by medium vigour; the yield is higher than the variety average. The bunch has a medium-small size with a medium density of berries, with a uniform blue-black colour. Medium resistance to botrytis.
(Clones: Rauscedo 12 and VCR 1 are still in experimentation stages)
The wine is quite fine and typical, has medium intense ruby-red colour, and becomes garnet-red after a short ageing; is fruity perfume, alcoholic, aromatic, with a peculiar herbaceous and vinous taste and quite low in acidity. The wine made from the grapes of this variety is usually blended with other varieties (especially with Cabernet Sauvignon) for important DOC in many Italian regions: Alto Adige, Casteller, Lison-Pramaggiore, Merlara,Colli Orientali del Friuli, Friuli Annia, Friuli Aquileia, Bosco Eliceo, Colli Bolognesi, Bolgheri, Colline Lucchesi, Sant’Antimo, Sovana, Colli Pesaresi, Colli del Trasimeno, Colli Perugini etc.