What is Merlot?
Learn more about this soft red wine, read our expert tasting notes for Merlot and try our top dishes to pair with your drinks.
Thinking of trying out Merlot wine but not sure where to start? Read our expert guide on typical flavour profiles, tasting notes and fabulous foodie suggestions for pairing.
Then, check out our BBC Good Food Wine Club. In partnership with Laithwaite’s, we’re offering discounts on exclusively curated cases of wine, chosen by wine experts and the BBC Good Food team, for you to subscribe to or buy as a gift. These curated cases come with pairing notes, the stories behind each bottle and serving suggestions. Your plan is customisable, plus Laithwaite’s will regularly send you exclusive offers on BBC Good Food collaboration cases.
What is Merlot wine?
Merlot often gets bad press – wine lovers tend to think it’s soft, straightforward and a bit boring. But there’s more to this grape than easy-drinking wines. In Saint-Émilion and Pomerol in Bordeaux, it goes into some of the greatest wines in the world. It’s planted from Australia to California, and in the right hands makes superb wines.
Merlot originated in Bordeaux, but now makes tasty wine all over the southern part of France. It’s also spread all over the world, especially in California, South Africa, Chile, Australia, Argentina and Tuscany. Merlot is closely related to Cabernet Sauvignon and has similar flavours but ripens earlier. It’s popular in blends, especially with other varieties native to Bordeaux: Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Merlot from classic regions won’t be labelled as such, but most wines from the Right Bank of the Dordogne in Bordeaux such as Côtes de Castillon and Saint-Émilion will be Merlot. Most Merlots are designed to drink young, but the best wines from Bordeaux will last for years.
What does Merlot wine taste like?
Merlots usually have rich, plummy fruit with notes of chocolate, voluptuous texture, soft tannins and relatively high alcohol content. But, in cooler climates, wines tend to be leaner, firmer, more herbal and taste a lot like Cabernet Sauvignon. In blends, Merlot provides softness, smoothness and fruit. With age, Merlot takes on flavours of spice, tobacco and herbs.
What dishes go well with Merlot wine?
Generally, with their tannin and weight, Merlots shouldn’t be served too cold. About 18C is ideal. Serve with roast lamb or steak, or try with roasted root veg such as in our delicious roasted root veg traybake, Chinese-style dishes or fruit-based recipes including our fantastic grilled nectarine & burrata salad. Merlot-rich wines from Bordeaux go very well with mushroom risotto, especially if you add a splash of the wine when cooking.