Domaine François Merlin

Domaine François Merlin
Domaine François Merlin
Domaine François Merlin

PRODUCER: Domaine François Merlin

REGION: Northern Rhône

WINEMAKER: François & laurent merlin

François Merlin, once mentored by the renowned René Rostaing, has made a mark as one of the standout producers in the northern Rhône. Starting from a farming background and building from zero, Merlin and his son, Laurent, prioritise freshness and purity, highlighting the distinct character of the northern Rhône terroir.

I cannot tell you just how tempting it is to describe François Merlin as a magician in the cellar. But this would be lazy. Not to mention inaccurate. There’s no trickery here – just decades of determination, raw talent and hard graft. As Merlin approaches retirement, his domaine can now be considered among the top tier of northern Rhône producers.

- Matt Walls, Decanter

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Domaine François Merlin

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WINERY HISTORY

Merlin's transition from tending to goats in Condrieu to cultivating premium vineyards reads like a wine lover's dream. Lured by the beauty of the outdoors, he found himself under the wing of the acclaimed winemaker, René Rostaing. This mentorship ignited a passion within François, and by 1987, he confidently planted his roots, purchasing his own slice of Condrieu. The fruits of his labour were soon evident: by 1990, wine enthusiasts could taste the Merlin touch in bottles showcasing his name. Not one to rest on his laurels, François steadily expanded his portfolio. Over the years, his vineyard reach grew significantly, both through ownership and strategic renting. By 2005, he secured a coveted position in the esteemed Côte-Rôtie region. The once underappreciated east-facing plots in Condrieu, influenced by global warming, have since gained prominence. Plots like Chanson and Jeanraude, the latter bordering the legendary Château-Grillet, are testament to his wine's rising acclaim. It's a rare delight to encounter a first-generation vigneron in the Northern Rhone, particularly one as talented as Merlin. With an unwavering commitment to crafting precise wines from low-yield vines, Merlin, along with his sons, embodies dedication. They intimately know every inch of their terroir, choosing to farm only what the trio can personally nurture by hand.

IN THE VINEYARD

Back in 1987, Merlin's wine journey began with a modest purchase: a plot of Condrieu vines. By 1990, these vines bore wine with his very own label. As his passion deepened, so did his reach. By 2000, he was setting roots in St-Joseph, and come 2005, he secured a spot in the prestigious Côte-Rôtie.

  • Condrieu: Here, Merlin expanded his domain over time. Initially, he had to make do with east-facing plots, but as the climate warmed, these turned out to be a boon. Locations like Chanson, Côte Chatillon, and Jeanraude stand out, with the latter even bordering the famed Château-Grillet.

  • St-Joseph: Besides the iconic St-Joseph Les Grands Ducs, Merlin's holdings here flourish in a sunny blend of granite and schist in St-Pierre-de-Boeuf.

  • Côte-Rôtie: By 2005, almost two decades in, Merlin clinched a spot in the sought-after Côte-Rôtie, highlighting the region's fierce competition for land.

IN THE WINERY

François, though self-taught, crafts wines with the precision of a master. His methods prioritise the decadent fruit flavours, with subtle nuances from carefully selected aged barrels. Despite climate challenges, his wines retain depth and minerality. While François steers the business, his son Laurent, on board since 2013, brings a fresh touch to the winemaking and viticulture. Together, their combined efforts result in wines that echo both tradition and innovation, capturing the essence of the northern Rhône.

IN THE PRESS

"I cannot tell you just how tempting it is to describe François Merlin as a magician in the cellar. But this would be lazy. Not to mention inaccurate. There’s no trickery here – just decades of determination, raw talent and hard graft." - Matt Walls, Decanter 

Walls’ hidden gems: Domaine François Merlin & 12 wines tasted

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Decanter Best Specialist Retailer USA 2022,  Decanter and IWC Specialist Merchant of the Year 2019 for our USA range.

Awards
Decanter Retailer Awards | Best USA Specialist
International Wine Challenge 2019 | Specialist Merchant of the Year USA

Roberson has 'bust out dancing' from the pandemic, its USA range outstanding in California but also beyond, and its achingly cool events featuring Californian tacos, live graffiti and 'the sweet beat of retro vinyl'.

Decanter Retailer Awards 2022