Merlot is not only one of the most popular red wines in the world but also America’s second most preferred choice and a cult favorite after Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot is known for its sensual, soft texture and is made from red-skinned grapes. What’s terrific about these grapes is that they can adapt to various climatic conditions to produce food-friendly wines at different price points. Merlot can be plumy and velvety or rich and oaky, making it highly adored and providing something for everyone.
Merlot: Taste, Color, Alcohol Content, and More
What does Merlot taste like?
Merlot is addressed as a chameleon wine because it sings well in too many climates, adapting its location’s character and winemaking techniques. But, just like every good thing, it is not easy to grow great Merlot, leading to overplanting and a vast number of poor quality wines. Ideally, Merlot is a dry, medium- to full-bodied wine. It has moderate to high alcohol, moderate acidity, and soft but present tannins. Merlot tastes excellent in various flavors, ranging from herbs, graphite, and blackberries, to cocoa, black cherries, and plums often layered with hints of vanilla, clove, and cedar when aged in oak.
What is the color of Merlot?
Merlot is red as it’s made with red-skinned grapes. Youthful Merlot’s can be semi-opaque to opaque and deep ruby red. The color of Merlot is usually lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon but deeper than Pinot Noir. Merlot changes its color with age, losing the pigmentation and brightness and turning garnet.
“Want to know if you’ve been poured a Merlot? Just check the rim of your glass; if you see glints of brick orange tones, then yes, Merlot, it is!”
Alcohol Content of Merlot
The alcohol levels in this chameleon grape depend on where it’s grown because climate influences ripeness and thus the alcohol levels. Merlot from relatively cooler regions like France has 13–14% alcohol by volume, and warmer areas like Napa Valley and Australia have Merlot alcohol levels approaching 14.5%.
Difference between Warm climate and Cool Climate Merlot
Apart from the alcohol content, here are a few other differences between warm climate and cool climate Merlot:
|Warm Climate Merlot||Cool Climate Merlot|
|Merlot in warmer temperatures tends to be fruitier.||Merlot in a cooler climate is more structured with earthy flavors.|
|Deep ruby blue color.||Ruby Garnet color.|
|Medium to full-bodied wine.||Generally medium-bodied.|
Calorie and Carb count in a Merlot
Merlot is typically a dry wine. However, one must remember that the taste of ripe fruit flavors, such as black cherry is not the same as sweetness due to sugar. A dry wine means that once the grapes are pressed, the residual sugar from the grapes is converted into alcohol with the help of yeast. We get a dry wine when little to no residual sugar is left behind. However, sometimes a little amount is left in the wine to add hints of richness and sweetness.
Now that we know Merlot is a dry wine, it isn’t loaded with calories, but it is not calorie-free either. A 5oz serving of Merlot has 125 calories. Dry wine carbs range between 0 to 4 grams of carbs, and so is the case with Merlot.
How to relish a good Merlot?
Similar to all reds, Merlot has an ideal temperature and food pairings. We all, at some point, have heard, “Red wines must be consumed at room temperature.” Well, the room temperature differs for different houses and places. Hence, not one rule fits all, as a warm wine will leave the wine tasting extremely messy, and an icy wine will mess with the flavors and aromas of the wine. The ideal temperature for serving wine is 60–65°F, which is attainable with an easy 15 minutes refrigeration of wine. An unfinished bottle of Merlot can stay fresh for the next 2-4 days if corked properly and refrigerated.
Pro tip- “Have an unfinished bottle of Merlot lying in the fridge for four days? Just toss it in a pasta or use it to braise the meat.”
Best Merlot Food Pairings
Thanks to Merlot’s versatility, numerous great food options pair well with the wine.
- A fruity-easy to drink Merlot will pair beautifully well with white and dark meats, like chicken, pork, and turkey.
- Merlot is also perfect for weekend binges such as pasta, pizza, and burgers.
- Fuller-bodied Merlots work well with beef, lamb, and hearty bean meals.
- Classic, savory style Merlot, like Bordeaux, pairs well with roasted meats, mushrooms, and duck.
- An excellent velvety wine with black cherry and plum flavors syncs beautifully with mushroom risotto, grilled prawns, or even an indulgent chocolate torte.
The idea behind each food pairing is to level up the intensity of the wine with the food so they do not overpower one another.
Difference between Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon
- Merlot is fruity, and Cabernet Sauvignon has a bitter edge due to its high tannin levels.
- Merlot is considered a beginner-friendly drink as it is slightly sweeter and easy to devour. Cabernet Sauvignon is more full-bodied and rich.
- When used as a blend, merlot will sweeten a drier wine, while Cabernet dries a sweet wine.
- Merlot is less expensive than a Cabernet.
Despite these differences, both the dry red wines are used to make Bordeaux blends.
Difference between Merlot and Pinot Noir
Merlot and Pinot Noir are both very similar fruit-tasting red wines. But what makes them different is:
- Merlot’s taste profile comprises darker fruits, like black cherry and plum. While, Pinot Noir’s taste profile is more red fruit centric, like raspberries and red cherry.
- Merlot is frequently used as a blend, and Pinot Noir is rarely used as a blend.
- Merlot has more body and alcohol and is darker colored. In contrast, Pinot Noir has moderate alcohol content and color.
Here is the perfect wine if you are relatively new to the wine-drinking bandwagon! Owing to its fruity sweetness, Merlot is ideal on its own or blended with other wines.
Also, check the detailed difference between Malbec and Merlot.