A Beginner’s Guide to Merlot

by Chelsea Cummings

Merlot grapes

Merlot is the most common grape in the world after Cabernet Sauvignon, but how much do you know about this mild and elegant wine? Discover the story behind its name, origin, taste profile as well as pairing tips in our Beginner’s Guide.

What’s behind a name?

The name comes from the French merle meaning “blackbird” because these friendly creatures feed on Merlot grape juice. What’s more, the bird’s blue-black feathers are the same colour as the grapes. And so Merlot was born.


The grape originally comes from Bordeaux, France. However, while the grape’s origin is decidedly French, there are also a large number of outstanding Merlot wines produced in Italy, Spain and South America, particularly Chile and Argentina.

Characteristics of Merlot

Appearance: Merlots are mostly strong ruby red with a violet hue, making them a little lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon. However, the colour can vary slightly depending on the area. The darker the grape, the darker the wine, and vice versa.

Aroma: On the nose, its aroma is mild and it almost always smells of red fruits. The darker wines are the oldest and have an aroma of blackberries, blackcurrants, currants, violets, smoke, paprika and red fruits. Sometimes you can also smell a hint of cinnamon and cloves.

Flavour: A Merlot is mild in the mouth and a little acidic, as well as boasting a lot of finesse and elegance. This comes from the rich presence of tannins which can sometimes be very velvety and remind us of plums.

Food pairing with Merlot

Merlot is very versatile when paired with food. It is the perfect accompaniment for pulses, beans, nuts, and boiled or roasted vegetables. It also pairs well with game, especially duck and rabbit. Fish is another good choice, especially when served with sauce. Other great pairings include light dishes like salads, as well as hard cheeses. As you can see, Merlot is always a welcome party guest!

How to serve

Serve between 14 and 16 degrees celsius. And don’t forget to decant it before serving to unleash all of its gorgeous aromas!


As you can see, Merlot is a mild and elegant wine that pairs with just about anything. No wonder its one of the most popular wines in the world!

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