Merlot vines cover about 60 percent of the red wine-growing areas of France’s legendary Bordeaux region. Global warming may change that soon.
Merlot is among the earliest-ripening grapes in Bordeaux, and if temperatures continue to rise as expected, it may no longer be viable for their blends. Overripe merlot is intensely fruity and high in potential alcohol, quite the opposite of the restrained, elegant style the Bordelais have spent a few centuries perfecting.
Currently, only cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, petit verdot, malbec, and carmenere join merlot as the six red grapes permitted in Bordeaux. However, anticipating the need for a later-ripening variety to replace merlot in the next century, the Bordeaux wine board has petitioned the AOC (France’s wine-governing body) to allow growers to experiment with planting other varieties. Portuguese grapes, including touriga nacional, show promise, as they have long withstood the scorching heat on their native coast.