Best Merlot Wine

Merlot became a brand name wine in the 1980s because of its smooth, rich, easy-drinking flavors and texture. It has less acidity and astringency (that furry mouth feeling from tannins) than many other grapes and a medium-body that appeals to many palates. It's since been somewhat vilified, like Chardonnay, for being boring: the soft jazz of the wine world. (Remember Miles' scorn for Merlot in the movie Sideways?) However, it is also the leading grape in some of the world's most famous wines such as Château Petrus, Château Cheval Blanc and Château Palmer.

Merlot is the third most widely planted grape in France (after Carignan and Grenache) and first in the Bordeaux region, especially in St. Emilion and Pomerol, where it usually leads in the blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet France, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Other regions notable for Merlot include southern France (Languedoc), north east Italy (Veneto), eastern Europe, California, Washington State, Chile, Argentina and New Zealand. In Chile, many vines long thought to be Merlot were later identified as Carmenère, a Bordeaux variety.

The two grapes are similar, though, in aroma profile, but Carmenère tends to have more structure. Merlot ripens about a week earlier than both Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc and therefore is generally richer, riper and rounder as a grape in the blend. It also is a safer bet for vintners because they can harvest Merlot earlier before fall rains or early frosts. Merlot likes dry, rocky soils but is thin-skinned and can be prone to rot or early spring frosts since it also flowers early. It must be pruned regularly as it's a vigorous vine that if over-cropped, produces wines that taste watery, weedy or grassy.

My reviews of these Merlot red wines are updated weekly. These Merlot red wines offer great taste at a good price. You'll find a definition of Merlot wine at the bottom of this page as well as food pairings for Merlot in my wine matcher. This is just a small set of my reviews, but you can get all of them when you join my wine community.

Napa Valley Vineyards Merlot 2002
California, Usa
Medium-bodied and balanced with notes of chocolate, plums and black cherries. A soft jazz kind of wine and an incredible price for a Napa merlot. 750 ml  Price: $17.95 Score: 88/100

This Napa Valley Vineyards Merlot was reviewed May 22, 2007 by Natalie MacLean

LCBO: 29983  Check Stock

Oyster Bay Merlot 2008
Hawke's Bay, New Zealand
Vintages Wine Panel: Well focused and beautifully textured, this is drinking well now and will do so on to 2014. You'll discover rich black plum aromas and flavors along with mixed spice box and herbal notes. It's particularly well balanced with everything melding together on the silky smooth finish. Hawkes Bay is New Zealand's ├╝ber Merlot region. My note: Rich and plummy with notes of dark chocolate and black cherries. Gorgeously smooth texture. Medium- to full-bodied. Closed with a screwcap. Merlot food pairings: lamb shank, peppercorn steak. Alcohol: 13%  Sweetness: Dry  750 ml  Price: $17.95 Score: 88/100

This Merlot was reviewed May 7, 2009 by Natalie MacLean

LCBO: 692343  1226 in stock
BC: 111310  2085 in stock

Mapoggo Cabernet Franc Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2008
Paarl, South Africa
Savoury and absolutely delicious! Smooth, earthy and full-bodied with fleshy, ripe blackberries, black olives and smoke on the finish. Yum! Alcohol: 14.5%  Sweetness: Dry  750 ml  Drink: 2010‐2014  Price: $15.00 Score: 89/100

This Cabernet Franc Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot was reviewed July 23, 2010 by Natalie MacLean


Santa Carolina Reserva Merlot 2009
Lovely richness and depth, and a price that is a steal. Full-bodied and smooth. Crack one (or three) open at your next pizza night or get together with friends who understand you. Merlot food pairings: bbq spareribs, grilled steak, prime rib. Alcohol: 13.5%  Sweetness: Dry  750 ml  Price: $11.95 Score: 87/100

This Merlot was reviewed March 28, 2011 by Natalie MacLean

LCBO: 324590  Check Stock

Villa Maria Private Bin Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Hawkes Bay, North Island, New Zealand
Another lovely red from a producer of zesty sauvignon blanc. Deep layers of ripe plums with a toasty overlay. Alcohol: 13%  Sweetness: Extra Dry  750 ml  Price: $17.95 Score: 89/100

This Villa Maria Private Bin Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon was reviewed May 24, 2008 by Natalie MacLean

LCBO: 60038  Check Stock

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Merlot tends to be more herbaceous in aroma than Cabernet Sauvignon. Other signature notes include plums, currants, black cherries, blackberries, vanilla, coconuts, violets, roses, cloves, bay leaves, green peppercorns, mushrooms, coffee, mocha, cedar, cigar box, bell pepper and green olive. Its color ranges from medium dark red to deep blue.

Merlot, with its juicy dark fruit flavors, pairs well with many meat dishes such as beef, cheese, poultry, borsch (beet soup), quesadillas, Tandoori-flavored dishes, game, lamb, pasta, pork, veal, lentil dishes and dark chocolate.