Merlot is by far the most widely planted grape of the entire Bordeaux region and third, behind Carignan and Grenache as the most planted black variety in France.

The best quality Merlot grows in rocky, arid ground, but is fairly adaptable and grows better than the Cabernets in clay-based soils, even in damp, cool climates. The berry of Merlot is relatively thin-skinned and somewhat prone to rot.
Merlot is moderately vigorous in vine growth, but must sometimes be reined in from setting too large of a crop by judicious pruning, often followed weeks later by cluster thinning. Merlot on fertile soil may produce eight tons per acre, but best fruit quality is gained if the crop is kept at six tons per acre or less.

While its flavor profile is similar to Cabernet sauvignon, Merlot tends to be less distinctive and slightly more herbaceous overall in both aroma and taste. Ripeness seems critical; both under ripe and overripe grapes lean away from fruit and towards herbaceousness. Merlot has slightly lower natural acidity than Cabernet and generally less astringency.
Earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon to mature in bottle, Merlot is held in higher esteem by wine drinkers than by wine collectors. Syrah is richer and darker, Pinot Noir lighter and more velvety, but Merlot has become the darling red wine.