Merlot: The Velvet Glove of the Wine World


Merlot (pronounced “Mehr-loh”), often seen as the friendly neighbour of the wine world, is like that person everyone wants at their dinner party – easygoing, charming, and can get along with just about anyone. This grape has a knack for making friends from Bordeaux to California, proving that being nice doesn’t mean being dull. Let’s dive into the world of Merlot – the grape that wears a velvet glove on a firm handshake.

Primary Flavours

Sipping on this wine is like indulging in a fruit-laden feast. Its palette is brimming with ripe plums, juicy black cherries, and a touch of red berries, often accented with hints of vanilla, chocolate, and a subtle, earthy undertone. In cooler climates, it might even whisper notes of herbs and tobacco. Merlot doesn’t just speak to your taste buds; it serenades them.

Taste Profile

Aspect Rating out of 5 Characteristic
Sweetness 🍷🍷 Dry with a playful touch of fruit, like a berry's wink
Body 🍷🍷🍷🍷 As robust as an armchair in a library, medium to full
Tannins 🍷🍷🍷 Gentle as a feather's touch, subtly there
Acidity 🍷🍷🍷 As refreshing as a light breeze on a spring day
Alcohol by Volume 🍷🍷🍷 Comfortable at 13-14%, like a cozy evening chat

Growing Regions

Merlot is a globetrotting grape, feeling at home in the vineyards of Bordeaux, where it plays a starring role, to the sun-drenched valleys of California and beyond. This adaptable variety thrives in a variety of climates, each region imparting its unique twist.

From the structured elegance of the Old World to the ripe, fruit-forward expressions of the New World, Merlot has a way of reflecting its terroir while maintaining its inherent charm.


It’s begins in the fertile vineyards of Bordeaux, France, where it has long been a key player in some of the world’s most prestigious wines. Its history intertwines with the region’s winemaking traditions, often blending seamlessly with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Over time, it spread its vines across the globe, becoming a beloved mainstay in the wine world, known for its approachability and versatility.

Ideal Serving Temperatures

The perfect temperature to serve is around 16 -18°C (61-64°F). This is the sweet spot where its lush fruit flavours, subtle tannins, and smooth texture can really shine. Serving it too cold can mute its rich flavours, while too warm, and you might lose the elegance to the alcohol. It’s about finding that perfect balance – like getting the lighting just right for a romantic dinner.


Choosing the right glass for this wine is like picking the perfect outfit for a night out – it should complement and enhance. A medium-sized wine glass with a slightly wider bowl is ideal. This shape allows the wine to breathe, liberating its bouquet of fruit and subtle spice. The glass should also direct the wine to the centre of the palate, ensuring that each sip delivers a harmonious blend of flavours and textures – a true masterclass in vinous couture. Check out these wine glasses!

Considerations for Decanting

Decanting it can be akin to letting a good song play out – it’s not always necessary, but it can enhance the experience. Younger, more tannic Merlots benefit from decanting, as it softens the tannins and opens up the flavours. But for older, more delicate bottles, excessive aeration might diminish their subtle nuances. Like a seasoned DJ, knowing when to let the wine breathe and when to serve it straight from the bottle is key to the perfect tasting experience.

Insights into Ageing

It is versatile when it comes to ageing. Young Merlots are vibrant and fruit-forward, easy-going and ready to enjoy. As it matures, it develops more complex characteristics – think notes of leather, tobacco, and earthy undertones. This transformation adds layers of complexity, turning a simple melody into a symphonic masterpiece. The wine’s ageing trajectory often depends on its origin and winemaking style, making each bottle a unique journey through time.

Complementary Food Pairings

Pairing this wine with food is about matching its charismatic personality. Its medium body and plush texture make it a versatile companion for a wide array of dishes. Classic pairings include roasted meats, hearty stews, and grilled vegetables. It also works wonders with pasta dishes, especially those with a rich tomato-based sauce.

For vegetarians, a mushroom risotto or a lentil burger can be exceptional matches, playing off the wine’s fruity and earthy notes. This wine is the guest that gets along with everyone at the dinner party, enhancing and being enhanced by a variety of culinary creations.

Renowned Wine Labels

Country Wine Label Varietal Name & Style
France Château PétrusIconic, Luxurious Pomerol
USA Duckhorn VineyardsRich, Californian Elegance
Italy OrnellaiaSuper Tuscan Finesse
Chile Concha y ToroVibrant, Chilean Character
Australia Balnaves of CoonawarraAustralian Boldness, Balanced Complexity
These wineries showcase the versatility and wide appeal of Merlot, from the traditional, nuanced styles of France to the bold and innovative interpretations in the New World.


Merlot is the wine world’s velvet glove – soft on the outside but with a firm grip on quality and flavour. It’s a reminder that sometimes, the simple pleasures in life are the most rewarding. So next time you’re looking for a wine that’s like an old friend – reliable, comforting, and always a joy to be around – reach for a Merlot. It’s the glass of wine that says, “Relax, I’ve got this.”

What are some interesting facts about Merlot?

• Merlot is celebrated for its soft, velvety texture and ripe fruit flavours like plum, blackberry, and cherry.
• It’s one of the world’s most popular red wine grapes, originating from the Bordeaux region of France.
• Merlot is crucial in Bordeaux blends and is also prized as a single varietal wine.
• Known for being more approachable and softer than Cabernet Sauvignon, it’s a favourite among both new and experienced wine enthusiasts.

Is Merlot a red or white wine?

Merlot is a red wine grape, known for producing wines with a soft texture and rich, fruity flavours.

Where does the name Merlot originate from?

The name Merlot is believed to derive from the Old French word for ‘young blackbird’ (“merle”), likely referring to the grape’s beautiful dark-blue colour, akin to the plumage of blackbirds.

What is Merlot similar to?

Merlot is similar to other smooth, medium-bodied red wines like Cabernet Franc and Sangiovese. These wines typically share Merlot’s characteristics of ripe fruit flavours, softer tannins, and a plush, velvety mouthfeel.

Which country produces the most Merlot?

France, particularly the Bordeaux region, is the largest producer of Merlot. However, Merlot is also extensively planted in Italy, the United States (notably in California and Washington), and other wine-producing nations globally.

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