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The most widely planted grape in Bordeaux and a grape that has been on a relentless expansion drive throughout the world in the last decade. Merlot is adaptable to most soils and is relatively simple to cultivate. It is a vigorous naturally high yielding grape that requires savage pruning - over-cropped Merlot-based wines are dilute and bland. It is also vital to pick at optimum ripeness as Merlot can quickly lose its varietal characteristics if harvested overripe.
In St.Emilion and Pomerol it withstands the moist clay rich soils far better than Cabernet grapes, and at it best produces opulently rich, plummy clarets with succulent fruitcake-like nuances. Le Pin, Pétrus and Clinet are examples of hedonistically rich Merlot wines at their very best. It also plays a key supporting role in filling out the middle palate of the Cabernet-dominated wines of the Médoc and Graves.
Côtes de Bourg is a bucolic Bordeaux wine appellation on the Right Bank, where the Dordogne and Garonne meet, lying between the Côtes de Blaye and Fronsac . The location of the port and the hills behind made it an important strategic location in Plantagenet times, and the vineyards are actually longer-established than those of the Médoc. Currently there are around 3,500 hectares in production, the source of hearty, rustic reds – with a limited amount of white wine.The varied soils are very productive, with the ensuing dangers of high yields and green, unripe flavours in the wines following early harvesting. Where these issues are addressed, good wines can be made, often representing good value for money. Merlot is the predominant grape, although Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and even Malbec can be important, according to soil type.