Merlot has given us the great wines of St-Émilion and Pomerol, but is popular elsewhere too and is the second most-planted variety worldwide (and the most planted red wine grape in France).
It obviously complements Cabernet Sauvignon, with wines which are less aromatic with less intense flavours and lighter tannins and acidity, but with more body and higher alcohol. The best Merlot wines are often aged in oak, gaining vanilla and coffee flavours.
Merlot is the dominant variety on the Right Bank in Bordeaux and the wines are generally softer in style with medium tannin levels, medium acidity and a plum and red berry character, developing cedar and tobacco notes as they age.
Grapes grown in hot climates show a blackberry, black plum and black cherry character, full body, high alcohol and medium tannins.
Merlot has long been grown in Italy (particularly in the north east) where it can be preferred to Cabernet Sauvignon as it ripens more easily and is a less dominant blending companion to the native Italian varieties. It also does particularly well in the damper soils of Chile's Central Valley.