Answering Is Merlot sweet or dry is a common question asked by beginner wine lovers. Or you might ask a different version of the question: is merlot sweet?
In general, almost all popular wines – including Merlot wine – are made in a dry style with low levels of natural sugar. However, beginner wine drinkers sometimes get confused when a dry wine has ripe fruit flavors like notes of cherry or black fruits.
To solve this misunderstanding, you could ask your resident wine expert for help. 🙂 Or you can keep reading to the next section where you will find a wine sweetness chart. With this chart, you can easily tell the differences in sweetness levels between common styles of wine.
Dry Wines vs Sweet Wines: What’s The Difference?
Before answering Is Merlot sweet or dry, it is helpful to understand a fundamental principle covering a wide range of wines. Dry wines have low residual sugar, while sweet wines have a lot more residual sugar. Sugar content is naturally found in all wine grapes. However, that sugar content is converted into alcohol content through winemaking techniques.
The following wine sweetness chart will cover a wide range of wines:
- Bone Dry: Less than 0.5% residual sugar (less than 1 gram per liter of sugar). Some people may describe this type of wine as having a bitter taste especially if there are significant amounts of tannins in the wine.
- Dry: Less than 1% residual sugar (1-10 grams of residual sugar per liter of sugar)
- Off-dry: 10-35 grams of residual sugar per liter of sugar.
- Sweet: Over 20% residual sugar (i.e., dessert wines like vintage Port would be in this category). Sweet wines have a 35-120 grams per liter of residual sugar content.
Most wine varietals produced today are made in a dry style. Therefore, if you order a bottle of Merlot wine at a restaurant, it will probably be a dry wine. If you want to get technical in a wine shop, you can always ask about the residual sugar content before buying the bottle of wine. You will get a more specific answer if you ask about residual sugar vs a general question like is Merlot sweet?
Where Does Merlot Stand In A Wine Sweetness Chart?
Merlot is considered to have a medium level of sweetness. Other red wine grapes in the same category include Grenache, Malbec, Shiraz, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Sauvignon. For the average wine drinker, that is all you need to know to be able to enjoy a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon or white Merlot. To become a true wine enthusiast, it is helpful to understand the alluring flavors of Merlot that go beyond its actual sugar level.
What Does Merlot Wine Taste Like?
Since Merlot wine is produced in cooler climates and warmer climates, there is no simple answer. That said, there are specific fruity notes in Merlot wine that you are likely to encounter.
Merlot wine has dark fruit flavors like raspberry, black cherry, and blackberry. In addition to these fruity flavors, there are other flavors. When the wine is aged in oak, you may also taste vanilla, clove, and cedar flavors in the wine. Wine Traveler points out that Merlot wine tends to have “fewer and softer tannins” than many other red wines. On a practical level, that means that Merlot will have less of the bitter flavor some people associate with red wine.
Common Questions People Ask About Merlot Wine
As you learn more about the Merlot wine grape, a few more questions may come to mind. Use these tips to avoid bad wines by learning more about the characteristics of wine.
What food pairs best with Merlot?
Buying a bottle of wine at an accessible price is an exciting way to make a meal more enjoyable. For American wine drinkers, Merlot is commonly enjoyed with the following food pairings.
- Meet Food Pairings. Merlot goes well with grilled and roast beef dishes.
- Vegetarian Options. Merlot wine goes well with garlic and mushrooms.
- Fruit Pairings. Merlot can be a candidate for dessert wines with the right food pairing. For example, consider ordering a dish of red fruit as a dessert and have a glass of Merlot along with it. For example, you could have candied cherries with your wine.
- Cheese Food Pairings. A selection of cheeses works well as a pairing, including blue cheese, cheddar cheese, and Gorgonzola.
- Fatty Dishes. As a full-bodied wine, Merlot can keep up with Merlot
- Spicy Foods. Merlot can work with some spicy foods like bold Indian curry dishes. However, if you have a lightly spiced foods, your taste buds are more likely to enjoy a lighter white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc.
Learning the details of food pairings and wines is fun to develop your wine hobby. For more creative tips on food pairings, read 10 Reasons Why “Big Macs & Burgundy” Is The Best Food Wine Pairing Book In The World.
Is Merlot used in wine blends?
Yes, wine blends featuring Merlot are very common, especially in France. If you have picked up a bottle of red wine from Bordeaux, the bottle probably included a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and other grapes. These wine blends are sometimes called Cabernet Sauvignon Merlots. To find out more about the composition of the wine blends, look at the product description online. The fact that Merlot is frequently blended with other grapes makes it more difficult to give a single answer to is Merlot sweet?
Many of the best red blend wine made today include Merlot wine as one of the key grape varieties. For example, Bordeaux-style blends usually feature three main grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.
How should I serve Merlot?
The ideal temperature range to serve Merlot is between 60-65 Fahrenheit (15-18 Celsius). Given that room temperature in the US is usually defined as 70-72 Fahrenheit (20 Celsius), it makes sense to chill Merlot wine for a few minutes before serving it.
What is White Merlot?
The term White Merlot might sound a bit confusing. This style of wine is also known as blush wine. It is still made using Merlot. During the winemaking process, the grape skins are removed after a short period of time. The end result is not white wine. Instead, the category of blush wine is better described as pink wines.
What should I look for on wine labels?
When shopping for Merlot, wine labels provide helpful hints such as listing the wine region. Since sweeter wine is a bit less common, the wine label may state ‘sweet wine’ or ‘dessert wine.’ However, you are unlikely to see ‘dry wine’ on the wine label.
That said, it is essential to keep in mind that wine labels vary considerably in usefulness. There are relatively low standards for required information on wine labels, unlike most food. You will probably see alcohol by volume information on a bottle of wine. However, it is challenging to identify poor-quality wines solely through the wine labels. Generally, wine labels with particular details such as naming an appellation or village tend to be higher than general descriptions. When you see wine labels that provide a country of origin, you probably look at table wines.
Tip: Do you want to keep wine labels for your collection? Use this guide on how to remove wine labels to safely remove the labels.
Want To Host A Wine Tasting At Home?
Hosting a wine tasting at home this weekend? Use this short guide to plan your event and make it fun for your friends and family.