Merlot buds early in the growing season (making it susceptible to spring frost), ripens early (protecting it from autumn rains), and requires more favorable soil and weather conditions to produce to its full potential. It is a thin-skinned grape (don’t go insulting its momma!) that is prone to rot and can be difficult to manage during an unfavorable growing season.
Merlot is somewhat of an “in-between” wine—generally not as bold as Cabernet Sauvignon, but typically not as soft and supple as a Pinot Noir. It can range from vegetal to super fruity or light to very tannic, depending on growing conditions and winemaking; “Old World” Merlot tends to be more earth-driven in its profile, whereas “New World” Merlot is generally more fruit-driven, even to the point of “grapey.” Some typical profiles include: fruity, vegetal (green beans, olives, etc.), vanilla, and oak.