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California Merlot

Merlot is one of the world’s most popular red wines, thanks to its soft, approachable and luscious character. The wine is typically dry, medium- to full-bodied and has moderate acidity. Depending on where it is grown, Merlot’s flavors may include notes of herbs, black fruits and baking spices. Of California table wines sold in U.S. food stores, Merlot is the third-leading red wine after Cabernet Sauvignon and red blends. California Merlot consumption held a 6.4 percent share of shipments in U.S. food stores in 2018.

Merlot is one of the principal winegrape varieties of the Bordeaux region in France, and was brought to California in the mid-19th century. Historically, vintners have used Merlot as a blending grape to soften a wine, usually combined with Cabernet Sauvignon. Because Merlot tannins are typically more moderate than those of Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine tends to mature earlier. The majority of California’s Merlot vines are planted in Lodi/San Joaquin County, followed by Napa, Sonoma and Monterey counties.

Top California Counties for Merlot Acreage, 2018
County Total Acres
San Joaquin 7,273
Napa 4,579
Sonoma 4,547
Monterey 4,423
San Luis Obispo 3,788
Sacramento 3,261
Madera 2,777
Merced 1,861
Mendocino 1,357
Yolo 633
Other 4,088
State Total 38,587
Source: California Agricultural Statistics Service
California Merlot Grape Crush Tonnage
Year Tons Crushed
2018 258,942
2017 255,247
2016 268,969
2015 252,889
2014 282,300
2013 346,149
2012 334,916
2011 286,340
2010 310,716
2009 326,356
2008 225,770
2007 304,078
2006 333,501
2005 423,776
2004 292,256
2003 261,085
2002 306,930
2001 273,397
2000 305,151
1999 239,567
1998 201,491
1997 201,707
1996 104,041
1995 73,666
1994 54,200
1993 40,996
1992 37,037
1991 26,493
1990 15,205
Source: California Agricultural Statistics Service