Finding the best Merlot for beginners is easy when you know the Merlot fundamentals. Before covering the specific beginner wines, let’s set the stage for Merlot wine.
What Does Merlot Wine Taste Like?
Merlot, a beloved red wine varietal, appeals to many wine enthusiasts and casual wine drinkers alike. This grape, prominent in Bordeaux blends, offers a diverse flavor profile that caters to various palates. A typical bottle of Merlot wine boasts medium tannin levels, making it less astringent and more approachable than some other red wines.
Merlot’s flavor spectrum encompasses fruity notes, often featuring plums, cherries, and berries, which delight the senses with their juicy sweetness. These fruit-forward characteristics make it a favorite among those seeking a softer and more mellow wine. However, Merlot also offers complexity through subtle earthy notes, including hints of tobacco, leather, and forest floor.
French Merlot wines, particularly those from Bordeaux, are renowned for their exceptional quality and craftsmanship, showcasing the artistry of winemaking techniques. The alcohol content typically ranges from 13% to 15%, striking a harmonious balance that enhances the wine’s overall appeal. Whether sipped on its own or paired with various cuisines, Merlot remains a versatile and crowd-pleasing choice in the world of wine.
Best Merlot For Beginners: 5 Picks
When your wine journey takes you to Merlot, rejoice! Almost every wine shop has Merlot. Many will have Bordeaux Merlot (a personal favorite at Travel By Glass). Beyond Bordeaux Merlots, wine enthusiasts can also find excellent bottles from Napa Valley and other regions.
Grand Vin de Reignac – Cuvee Speciale (Bordeaux, France)
This Bordeaux Merlot is an excellent wine for beginners. The wine’s flavor profile includes pepper, cloves, cherry, licorice, and dark fruit notes. The wine has a powerful finish and excellent tannins. Château de REIGNAC was acquired by the current owners in 1990 and has earned high praise from reviewers for over 20 years.
Chateau Cantemerle (Bordeaux, France)
Produced in the Haut Medoc sub-region of Bordeaux, this is a great wine choice for beginners. It has earned 90+ point scores from two wine reviewers. Like many of the best Bordeaux wines, the wine is a blend of different grape varieties. This specific bottle has 20% Merlot content. If you’re willing to wait, Wine Library has this wine available for a great price.
Chateau D’arsac Cru Bourgeois Margaux (Bordeaux, France)
This organic Bordeaux blend brings together Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. With 13.5% alcohol content, this affordable wine has dark fruit notes. Expect to enjoy flavors of cherry and oak notes like vanilla and toast.
Laterus Merlot (Columbia Valley, USA)
Merlot from Washington State? Yes! This wine offers excellent plum flavors and spice notes. This is a remarkable Merlot to enjoy in the fall and winter seasons. It also earned a 91 score from Wine Enthusiast.
Duckhorn Napa Merlot
Duckhorn is a well-known Napa Valley producer that offers quality Merlot wines. The winery offers wines at several price points, with many bottles priced at over $50 per bottle. However, you can pick up a half bottle for under $30, which gives you a great way to sample
When possible, avoid cheap wines. If you can’t spend at least $20 or $30, skip wine this week. It is better to save up for a decent bottle.
The Top Wine Regions For Merlot
Merlot, a versatile red wine grape, thrives in various climates, yielding distinct flavor profiles in warm and cool regions. As a dry wine, Merlot wine lovers often distinguish French wine (i.e., usually a cool region) and warmer regions (e.g., Napa Merlot). France and California are famous for their excellent wines, so this wine education approach will prominently cover those areas.
Warm Climate Regions for Merlot
Many wine lovers would put Merlot on their list of easy-drinking wines. The warm condition means this style of wine tends to be fruit-forward, making it a good wine for beginners.
Napa Valley, California, USA
Napa Valley is renowned for its warmer climate, ideal for growing Merlot grapes. The region’s ample sunshine and consistent warmth allow Merlot vines to flourish, resulting in wines with ripe, luscious fruit flavors. Napa Valley Merlots often display fruity flavors like black cherry and plum. Napa put American Merlot on the map, so it is well worth your time as a wine beginner.
In the foothills of the Andes Mountains, Mendoza enjoys a warm, continental climate that suits Merlot production exceptionally well. This high-altitude region’s hot days and cool nights contribute to wines with concentrated fruit flavors and excellent acidity. Merlots from Mendoza often exhibit rich red fruit notes, such as red currant and raspberry, along with a pleasant herbaceous undertone.
Argentina wines are often considered a budget choice compared to the USA or France. Don’t let the lower prices put you off.
Cool Climate Regions for Merlot
Cooler regions are known for their earthier notes, which balances the significant alcohol level in these wines.
Bordeaux, a classic cool climate region, is the historical home of Merlot. The maritime influence from the Atlantic Ocean and the cooler temperatures contribute to wines with more restrained fruit flavors, higher acidity, and an elegant structure. In particular, look out for Bordeaux’s Saint-Émilion region.
Bordeaux Merlots often showcase red plum, cassis, and subtle earthy flavors. For me, a bottle of wine from Bordeaux, especially a Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon, will always hold a top position in the wine scene.
Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy
This northern Italian region experiences a cool, alpine climate, making it suitable for Merlot cultivation. The wide temperature variations between day and night promote the development of complex flavors and excellent acidity in the grapes. Merlots from Trentino-Alto Adige often display bright red fruit flavors like cherry and cranberry, refreshing acidity, and a mineral character.
These diverse climates offer Merlot enthusiasts a broad spectrum of wine experiences, from bold and fruity expressions in warm regions to more elegant and structured wines in cooler climates.
Best Merlot For Beginners: Continuing Your Wine Journey
Merlot is an international wine grape variety produced in many different wine regions. When you’re first getting started, I recommend starting with Bordeaux and California. Many wine enthusiasts focus on exploring those regions since they both make fantastic Merlot wines. Another option is to branch out and explore Merlot from various regions. For fun, try a Merlot from a different region each month, and you’ll discover the world of Merlot in a year.