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In Good Taste

Introduction to Merlot

Introduction to Merlot

Merlot - Once Almost Extinct

Merlot is often recommended as one of the best options for anyone trying red wines for the first time because of its soft, ripe, and elegant flavors. Made from a dark-blue colored grape of the same name, Merlot delivers rich, robust flavors that include cherries and chocolate. Whether you’re a beginner, a seasoned wine lover, or somewhere in between, how could you not love flavors like those? 

History of Merlot

The name “Merlot” is derived from the French word for blackbird, “merle.” Its history is surprisingly complicated as diseases and natural events almost wiped out new Merlot plantings in France in 1956. When vintners tried to replant later, the vines were destroyed by rot, leading the French government to ban planting Merlot vines. 

In 1975, the government lifted the ban, and Merlot planting resumed. Today it sells widely around the world and is the second most planted varietal after Cabernet Sauvignon.

History of Merlot Wines

The name "merlot" is derived from the French word for Blackbird, "merle"
In 1956, diseases and natural events almost wiped out new Merlot plantings in France
When vintners tried to replant later, the vines were destroyed by rot, leading the French government to ban planting Merlot vines
In 1975, the government lifted the and the plant Merlot vines, and Merlot planting resumed

Is Merlot a Varietal or a Blend?

In the late 1700s, a Bordeaux-based winemaker added Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon to his wine blend. Because Merlot brings a rich, fruity flavor and softens the Cabernet Sauvignon wine, it made for a delightful, new red wine blend. 

When this wine blend came to California in the mid-1800s, winemakers turned it into a 100% Merlot, and it became a varietal wine of its own. 

The Taste of Merlot

Merlot is loved for its easy adaptability and soft, velvety texture. With notes of plum, oak, graphite, black cherries, and cocoa, it’s also a dry, medium to full-bodied wine with moderate to high alcohol content, moderate acidity, and soft tannins, all of which combine to make it easy to drink. When the Merlot is aged in oak, you’ll also pick up hints of cedar, vanilla, and clove. 

Merlot Around the World

Merlot grapes that are grown in warm climates (Australia, Argentina, California) render its wine heavier on fruit but lighter on tannins. Some winemakers choose to age the wine for up to 24 months in oak barrels.

Merlot grapes grown in cooler climates (France, Italy, Chile) have a higher concentration of tannins, which can add to the wine’s complexity by giving it earthy flavors like tobacco and tar

Merlot Wine Growing Regions

Currently, most of the world’s Merlot is produced in the following regions:

  • France, Italy, and some countries in Eastern Europe
  • Canada, Mexico, and United States (Washington and California) in North America
  • Chile and Argentina in South America

What is White Merlot?

White Merlot is sometimes considered a bridge between dry white wines and sweeter Rosé wines. Unlike varietal Merlot, where grapes are macerated and kept with their skins for 2-3 weeks, White Merlot grapes’ maceration lasts only a few hours, after which the skins are removed. The result is a berry-flavored, pink-colored wine with low tannin levels.

Merlot vs. Pinot Noir 

Compared to Merlot, Pinot Noir has a lighter color but a more intense flavor with medium to high acidity. Due to that robust flavor profile, Pinot Noir is less likely to be blended with other wines. 

Merlot’s color is the darker of the two red wines, and it offers milder taste and aroma notes of blackberry, blueberry, and plum. Due to its soft texture and flavor, Merlot is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc. 

Merlot vs. Cabernet Sauvignon 

Unlike Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot’s chocolate and cherry flavors go with almost anything from cheeseburgers to steak. Winemakers also love Merlot because it doesn’t require a lot of aging to taste great.

Cabernet Sauvignon has a drier, more aggressive feel due to its high tannin content. With black cherry, green pepper, and vanilla notes, this wine can be harder to pair with a broad range of foods, but still remains an extremely popular wine in its own right. 

Related: Guide to Red Wine

Storing and Serving Merlot

Merlot is best served slightly cool—but not as chilled as other red wines. With its ideal temperature at 60 degrees Fahrenheit, leaving it uncorked at room temperature for about 30 minutes will soften the tannins and allow the wine’s distinctive flavors to come forward. If you need to cool Merlot quickly, putting the bottle on ice for 10-20 minutes will work well. 

It’s also best sipped from a Bordeaux or red wine glass, as the bigger glass allows for space between the taster's nose and the wine for the full wine tasting experience.

Related: Which Wines to Chill Before Drinking

How to Serve or Drink Merlot Wine

How to Drink Merlot

To properly sip your Merlot, follow the See. Swirl. Smell. Sip. Savor. method. 

See. If at a restaurant, check your Merlot’s label to make sure it’s the vintage you ordered. Next, note the clarity and color of your wine. Even though the red colors can vary from wine to wine, clarity is always important. Cloudy wine may be an indication something went wrong in the winemaking process or during storage. 

Swirl. Pour 1-2 ounces of wine into you glass, and give your glass a little swirl. (If you’re dining out, your server should do this for you.) Swirling the wine aerates it, which unleashes the wine’s natural aromas and flavors. 

Smell. This step may feel strange at first—especially if you’re new to wine—but raise the glass to you nose and take a nice, long whiff. What aromas do you notice in the Merlot? You should pick up fruity aromas, spices, and floral notes, but you should also make sure you don’t smell anything unpleasant like a moldy or vinegary scent. 

Sip. Take a small but adequate sip, 1-2 ounces should be plenty. Swish the sip around in your mouth so that the Merlot coats your taste buds. Let the wine linger for a moment before you swallow. This will give you a chance to experience the full spectrum of flavors. 

Savor. Think about the first sip. What flavor notes did you pick up? Was there anything that you found especially enjoyable? Now that you know what to look forward to, it’s time to enjoy the rest of your glass!

What To Pair with Merlot

Although Merlot can go with almost anything from casual to fine dining, light-colored meats such as chicken and lightly-spiced dark meats are popular options to pair with Merlot. 

You can also enjoy pairings like roast duck, lean cuts of beef, turkey, and Beef Bourguignon made with Merlot. That’s right; we highly encourage you to enjoy your Merlot with a little more Merlot. The more Merlot, the merrier!

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Rosé of Sangiovese


Sangiovese can be found in both the Chianti and Montalcino regions of Tuscany (it all sounds so romantic, right?) and is known for producing classic medium-bodied wines. Rosé wine is actually made from red grapes, and this is where the Rosé of Sangiovese comes to play. Crisp, fruit-forward, and easy-to-drink, it's everything you want in your bottle of Rosé and more.



Big, bold, and full of flavor—exactly what you’d expect an Italian wine to be! This classic Italian grape produces some of Italy’s most straightforward red wines and is often used as a blending grape. Not here, though. We let Montepulciano do the heavy lifting as a heavy red wine and shine on its own. If you enjoy the smell of leather bound books, nibbling on dried fruit, and complementary notes of bitter, dark chocolate and sweet plums, you will love this Italian wine. No need to pair it with any certain dish—Montepulciano tastes great with all the Italian classics.

Cabernet Sauvignon


If Pinot Noir is the light and juicy queen of reds, Cabernet Sauvignon is her bolder, heavier, meatier sister. Often referred to as just “cab,” it’s the wine of France’s Bordeaux and California’s Napa Valley. There’s nothing subtle about Cabernet Sauvignon—high in alcohol, full-bodied and robust, you can usually find this red served with a ribeye, New York Strip, or filet mignon (re: carnivores love cab). Classic cabs usually offer tasting notes of chocolate, coffee, and darker fruits like prunes and plums. The Unprecedented Cabernet Sauvignon is as classic as they come, and we highly recommend letting the bottle sit and mellow until your next red meat and potatoes dinner!

Pinot Grigio

La Pluma

If you’re looking for more zest in your life, a bottle of Pinot Grigio can provide that. We included a classic Pinot Grigio in the La Pluma collection because we’re all about light and easy here, which is exactly what this grape from Italy is. It has that dry sense of humor that seems so effortless with a punchy acidity to keep you on your toes, all while offering notes of lemon, limes, green apples, and honeysuckle. Long story short; when it’s been a heavy day and your soul is seeking light things only, you’ll be happy to have this bottle on hand.

Pinot Noir


We couldn’t create the In Good Taste Unprecedented collection without the Golden Retriever of wines: Pinot Noir. Pinot is likable, it’s easy, and its natural state of being is simply charming. It’s an incredibly easy red wine to love, which is why so many people do. The grape itself is from the Burgundy region of France, but has made its way to California, Oregon, Australia, Italy, Argentina, and Germany since. Our Pinot Noir has no surprise twists—it’s a classic light red with just the right amount of sweetness to keep you coming back for another glass (or two).

Coteaux Bourguignons


The Burgundy region of France is home to their best Pinot Noirs, but we took the grapes into our own hands to create something extra special with our Coteaux Bourguignons. It’s a blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay, which results in a French red that’s light in body but full in flavor. The ripest blueberries and freshest herbs can be easily detected in this French burgundy blend. May we suggest pairing it with some creamy brie and freshly baked bread? It’s a oui-ning combo.



A little sweet. A little tart. A little salty? You truly get it all with this white Italian wine. If you're into that biting acidity, Verdicchio will probably be high on your list of most-loved wines from our Andiamo collection. Citrus fruits like mandarin, lemon, and grapefruit are at the forefront, but what really sets this Italian wine apart is its distinct notes of almond. While our Verdicchio can start out tasting a bit tart, the more you sip, the smoother it becomes. In fact, we suggest approaching it as an aperitif (Italian for an alcoholic drink sipped before a meal to stimulate the appetite) to experience its full effect.


Côtes du Rhône White


This was one of our first French wines to join the Passport collection and one sip will explain why. Some background on the Rhône Valley in France: While this region is known for its dark, juicy reds, a very small amount of special white wines are made in the Rhône Valley. Our Côtes du Rhône is packed with French-perfected, floral flavor and Old-World charm. Its natural tang paired with the weighty Marsanne grape and aromatic Roussanne grape results in a crisp, savory sip that’ll transport you to a sunbathing chair by the Rhône itself.


Bordeaux Rouge


When you picture medieval folk sitting around a feast with goblets of wine, chances are they were drinking Bordeaux. This wine has been made in France since forever and is arguably the most classic French wine out there. Bordeaux is known for its full body, smoky notes, and rich, oaky taste. If you love cabs, chances are you will adore Bordeaux. For our Passport wines, we had to include this classic French red for you to sip and enjoy to your heart’s content. Best savored over a rich meal like lamb ragu, ratatouille, or BBQ.


Ventoux Rosé


You probably know that the Tour de France is held on Ventoux Mountain in France, but did you know that the same area is known for its high-altitude rosé? This is the kind of quintessential French rosé that you don’t need to spin your wheels over—it’s simply delicious, crisp, and perfect for warm weather. Despite its delicate, pale pink color, each sip is lush with flavor, from tropical passionfruit and zesty citrus to refreshing melon. This has the potential to be your new summer go-to, so we’d suggest stocking up.



Wild Child

Say “¡Hola!” to Spain’s main grape: Tempranillo. This red grape put Rioja wine on the map and is un vino tinto classico. It’s best compared to a classic cab, but with a bit more unique magic that’s hard to put your finger on, which is why it’s a part of our Wild Child line. This medium- to full-bodied wine with its relatively higher tannins usually offers complex notes of cherry, fig, cedar, tobacco, and dill. This is the type of red wine you want to buy and pour for a Latin-infused meal; think carne asada, tacos al carbon, or just perfectly cooked steak fajita meat.


La Pluma

We knew the only red in the La Pluma collection had to be exceptionally good and exceptionally light. That’s why including a Grenache was a no-brainer. If smooth, fruit-forward, light-bodied reds appeal to your tastebuds, this could be your new favorite. The grape itself is tricky; depending on the climate of where its grown, Grenache wines could be light, dense, or somewhere in the middle. La Pluma’s version has all the airiness and flavor notes we wanted in our Grenache, which is how we know you’ll love it. Get the most of this red by pairing it with roasted meats, spice-heavy vegetables, and Mexican-inspired dishes with lots of cumin.




This grape goes by different names in most European countries, but what remains the same is its fruity floral nature. Delicate in every way and extremely quaffable, this wine is as dainty as they come.



We really try not to play favorites at In Good Taste, but there is just something about an Italian Barbera that hits different in the best way. Barberas are the perfect wine for pizza night; they're low in alcohol, and medium-bodied but taste super light, and their berry and plum flavors pair incredibly well with savory tomato sauce and cheese! Another fun thing about Barberas? They actually taste great when chilled, which is not something we're in the habit of suggesting for our red wines. Our Italian Barbera lies somewhere between the body of a cab and a pinot and is the ideal choice for a "ladies who lunch" kind of afternoon.


Wild Child

We couldn't not have a weird white in the mix, right?! The Vermentino grape is native along the coast of Italy on the island of Sardinia (yeah, like the fish). Because of its origin, this grape offers a salty, crisp flavor that's incredibly easy to drink and enjoy. We say it's "weird" only because it's not widely known by name, but chances are you've probably had it before if you've ever ordered white wine in an Italian restaurant. If you love peaches and lemons and get a kick out of anything that reminds you of the sea, our Vermentino is the perfect Italian white to experience on a sunny day outside.



For the Chardonnay lovers who are looking to dig a bit deeper in the world of bold whites, a Viognier (pronounced vee-own-yay) could be your next big adventure. Viogniers tend to have more range; while they can be creamy with hints of vanilla like their Chardonnay counterpart, they also offer lighter, fruitier flavors like tangerine, mango, and honeysuckle. It’s still a more full-bodied white wine, but unlike Chardonnay, it’s softer on acidity and more perfumed. Spend an afternoon with a glass of Viognier amongst the flowers and it’ll all make sense.


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