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International Merlot Day: 15 award-winning wines to try

A truly international red grape variety, explore a selection of top Merlot wines from Decanter World Wine Awards.

One of the most well known international red grape varieties, ever fluctuating in popularity, Merlot is not to be underestimated.

It’s characterised by red fruits such as ripe plums, gentle spices, soft tannins and rounded, plush texture, expressing notes of mocha or chocolate with oak influence. The best examples have great ageing potential.

Merlot can produce noteworthy varietal wines and is a great blending partner. It’s a key variety in Bordeaux blends, working well with varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, but it’s soft, approachable character adds to blends with varieties far beyond the classics.

Finding its home in Bordeaux where it best grows on the Right Bank, Merlot has the capability of delivering wines with lovely expressions from around the world.

Scroll down to explore 15 top-scoring Merlots from DWWA 2023

Outside of France, it is famously grown in Italy, California and Chile where it can produce fruity, easy-drinking expressions, but when grown in higher altitudes or with attentive vine management, for example, more structured examples are to be found.

Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA) 2023 saw a number of top-scoring Merlot-based wines awarded, including a Best in Show  (97 points) from Pomerol, Bordeaux for Château Fayat 2020. The judges described the wine as both classic and contemporary with soft tannins and fruit concentration. Blended with just 10% Cabernet Franc, it’s an outstanding example of the quality wines Merlot can produce.

Another 97 points was awarded to Château Malescasse 2020 from Bordeaux’s Haut-Médoc, awarded a Platinum medal for its alluring sweet cassis aromas, poised tannins and lingering finish.

Beyond France, top quality expressions of Merlot were rated by the experts from Italy and New Zealand, to less discovered wine regions such as Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia – Spain and Switzerland too.

Matijašević Vinogradi, Tri Doline, Oplenac, Šumadija-Great Morava 2020 from Serbia, and produced with 100% Merlot, was described as ‘a stunning wine’ but the judges, with captivating aromas of oak and a long, lingering finish. From Slovenia, Zuljan, Merlot, Goriška Brda, Primorska 2018 received 95 points for its impeccably smooth taste, gentle tannins and well-balanced finish.

International Merlot Day is celebrated annually on 7th November. To celebrate, we highlight 15 top scoring Merlot and Merlot-dominant wines that are worth exploring. Search all winners from DWWA 2023 at awards.decanter.com

International Merlot Day: 15 award-winning wines to try


Prović, Pagan Reserva, Srednja i Južna Dalmacija, Coastal 2018

Gold, 95 points
Aromas of violets, jasmine and black and pink peppercorns. The palate is multilayered and structured; racy acidity make this something that would be great with grilled meats. Beautiful drinking! Alcohol 15%


Château Fayat, Pomerol, Bordeaux 2020

Best in Show, 97 points
Pomerol is such a sought-after appellation that it always seems a particular treat to judge its wines in our competition. Origin alone, of course, doesn’t guarantee success – but when our judges tasted this particular Pomerol, from one of the best balanced of recent Bordeaux vintages, it was obvious that the wine’s achievement met the hopes which cluster around the appellation name. It’s dark black-red in colour, with subdued but compelling scents of warm earth and dark black fruits (blackcurrant, blackberry and damson); a year in oak leaves the subtlest of traces on a wine of this quality. On the palate it is vital, athletic, clearly harvested without any over-ripeness; the tannins are soft and tender; but the wine’s inner concentration and force, together with an acidity which almost seems mineral or iron-like in some way, will give it plenty of cellar legs. A Pomerol which is both classic and contemporary. Alc 14.5%

Château Malescasse, Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux 2020

Platinum, 97 points
Alluring sweet cassis, plum and blackcurrant aromas with a mellow texture and poised tannins beautifully bonded to refined currant and cedar fruit core. The subtle use of oak sits elegantly on the lingering finish. A class act. Alc 13.5%

Château Fonplegade, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé, Bordeaux 2020

Gold, 95 points
A charming nose of concentrated ripe fruit, blackberries, damsons, black peppers, and red flowers. Dense, inky black fruit on the palate, with notes of juniper and dried herbs, layered with cloves, toast, vanilla, and dark chocolate, Ripe, and powerful wine, yet elegant with fine tannins and has great longevity. Alc 14.5%

Domaine La Louviere, L’ Empereur, Malepère, Languedoc-Roussillon 2020

Gold, 95 points
Satin-smooth and mouthfilling with a stunning melange of juicy dark berries and red fruit tart wrapped up in a finesse of judicious oak and lavish tannins. Alc 14%

Domaine Du Comte De Thun, La Maze, IGP Côtes du Tarn, Southwest France 2015

Gold, 95 points
Wonderfully inviting notes of tobacco, cedar spice and wet leaves with a gentle undercurrent of ripe strawberries. Deeply concentrated and stylish with an outstanding length. Alc 14.5%


Le Filigare, Pietro, Rosso Toscana, Tuscany 2019

Gold, 95 points
A blockbuster! Packed with dark fruit, smoky redcurrants and sweet spice melded nicely into a cosy warming core of tannins and a sprinkling of balsamic singing towards the finish. Alc 14.5%

New Zealand

Church Road, 1 Single Vineyard Merlot, Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay 2020

Gold, 95 points
A dynamic spectrum of ripe blue fruit and well managed oak with an incredible richness and power enveloping the assertive tannins. Lengthy and built to last. Alc 14.5%

Leftfield, Moon Shell Moth Rosé, Hawke’s Bay 2022

Gold, 95 points
Inviting and elegant, with discreet red-fruit aromas, followed by a crisp, textured and well-constructed palate of strawberries, cherries, yellow plum and a touch of spice. Its weight and balance make for a seriously drinkable rosé. Alc 13.5%


Matijašević Vinogradi, Tri Doline, Oplenac, Šumadija-Great Morava 2020

Gold, 95 points
Stunning wine with a captivating aroma of oak. On the palate, the oak is perfectly balanced, accompanied by dry tannins and flavours of ripe plum, cacao, and a subtle hint of green spice. Long finish. Bravo! Alc 15%


Klet Brda, De Baguer Merlot-Cabernet Franc, Goriška Brda, Primorska 2017

Gold, 95 points
This wine boasts a delightful, mature flavour profile with enticing hints of dark chocolate and mocha. Its smooth and well-rounded taste is complemented by a subtle balsamic note and finishes with a refreshing, lengthy aftertaste. Alc 14%

Zuljan, Merlot, Goriška Brda, Primorska 2018

Gold, 95 points
The pleasant aroma of herbs is accompanied by subtle earthy undertones. The taste is impeccably smooth and well-balanced, with gentle tannins and flavourful notes of blackcurrant and mint. Long, fruity finish. Alc 13.5%


Buil & Giné, Carmí Salvatge, Priorat 2018

Gold, 95 points
Lovely ripeness of perfumed plum and wild raspberry. Rounded palate with smooth yet full tannins, slick oak matching and a very long and delicious length of flavour. Beautiful! Alc 15.5%


Chiodi Ascona, Ultima Goccia, Ticino 2020

Gold, 95 points
Stunning black cherry and plum fruit over cedar wood and tobacco with hints of geranium; smooth and velvety with a scintillating fragrant acidity and plush velvet tannins. Alc 13.5%

Valsangiacomo Vini, Valsangiacomo, Ticino 2017

Gold, 95 points
Lush dark plum and sweet cherry with a hints of liquorice and cinnamon; luscious and supple with zingy balsamic tannins and a delicate coffee bean finish. Alc 14.5%

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