Italian merlots are some of the best Merlot-based wines in Europe. Multiple winemakers make these beautiful wines. Merlot grapes are some of the primary grapes grown in Italy. Merlot is easily among the most popular red grapes grown in the country. Keep reading to find out what Italian Merlots taste like.
Italian Merlot: What Do They Taste Like?
When you take your first sip of Italian merlots, you’ll notice a few fruit flavors immediately, like black cherry flavors, plum, and black raspberry notes. In addition to these flavors, you will also notice some non-fruit secondary flavors such as herbal notes and dark chocolate. As mentioned in my post Is Merlot sweet or dry, most Merlot wines are made in a dry style.
In addition to the flavor profile, there are distinct rich aromas to enjoy from a glass of Italian Merlot wine. The Merlot grape variety generally has ripe fruit aromas like black cherry notes. These popular grapes are also known for their supple tannins, which can be further developed through oak barrel aging. Unlike white wines, the fruit body usually does not include flavors of tart apples.
Italian Merlot: Top Picks Under $50
Many great Italian merlot wines are available, whether you like wines from southern Italy, central Italy, or another wine region. The following recommendations have a sales price under $50 at the time of writing. By the way, these producers often grow several wine varietals so if you like their Merlot wine, give their other wines a try. You might discover even more excellent wine such as some of the bottles highlighted in this guide to the best Merlot wine.
In addition to price, the following list is based on a few factors. The list considers customer ratings and the perspective of wine experts like James Suckling and Jonathan Maltus. In addition, I considered resources like Wine Spectator and Wine-Searcher. You’ll find wines with black cherry fruit, juicy fruit, earthy notes, and other typical Merlot qualities like medium body. Those who prefer wine with light bodies should probably try white wines instead.
1 Famiglia Cotarella Falesco ‘Montiano’ Lazio IGT (Original Price: $50, 14.5% Alcohol By Volume)
Produced in central Italy, this single-vineyard Merlot is a great choice. Rather than chewy tannins, this wine offers fine tannins. The flavor profile includes fruit flavors like blackberry and spice notes like nutmeg.
2 Sansonina ‘Sansonina’ Rosso Veronese IGT (Original Price: $46, 14% Alcohol By Volume)
Made in northeastern Italy, this Italian Merlot has earned multiple wine awards over the past twenty years. The wine has a silky texture, spice, leather, cherry, and blackberry fruit. If you like this bottle, Sansonina also produces a Cabernet Sauvignon
3 Villa Russiz Graf de La Tour Merlot Collio (Original Price: $20, 14.5% Alcohol By Volume)
Produced in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, this Merlot wine is notable for its velvety tannins and black fruits. In addition, the red wine has earned positive reviews from Wine Enthusiast. This wine also has hints of pencil shavings which helps to balance the wine effectively.
4 Podere Monastero Campanaio Toscana IGT (Sale Price: $40, 13.5% Alcohol By Volume)
Grown in Tuscany, this Bordeaux-style wine is a blend of two international varieties: 50% Merlot and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine offers interesting sensations like white pepper, tobacco, and licorice in the glass. The wine has been positively reviewed multiple times by Wine Enthusiast.
5 Barone Ricasoli Castello di Brolio ‘Casalferro’ Toscana IGT (Original Price: $43, 14.5% Alcohol By Volume)
Produced in Tuscany, this winery has a great history. The winemaker has been making wine for nearly 1000 years! Located in the Chianti Classico region, Barone Ricasoli produces merlots and Sangiovese wines. The 100% Merlot is handpicked and fermented in stainless steel tanks.
Italian Merlot Wine Pairing Tips
Deciding what to eat with a bottle of Italian Merlot is easy.
Tip 1: Ask The Wine Consultant
If you are browsing in a wine shop, ask the wine consultant for suggestions. I’m a major proponent of seeking out expertise in wine shops as they often know their wine selection very well. Based on what you’re having for dinner, the wine consultant might suggest something different, like a Washington Merlot or a bottle from the Napa Valley.
Tip 2: Think Local – Italian Cuisine With Italian Wines
My ideal approach to wine education is to consider culture and history when possible. If there is a long tradition of food-wine pairing, then it is worth considering that option. Seek out Italian dishes with garlic, mushrooms, and lamb.
Tip 3: Go Beyond Red Meat
Traditional wisdom states that red wines like Merlot go best with red meats. Often, that is a good bet! Italian Merlots certainly pair well with beef. However, Merlot is light enough to pair well with chicken and pork.
Italian Wines vs. French Wines: Which Is Best?
Italian wine grapes and French grapes both offer fantastic wine production. In addition, French and Italian winemakers are on the popular tourist route for visitors to Europe. To help you navigate these wine options, it’s helpful to keep a few factors in mind.
France is home to a variety of wine regions. You can find cooler climate regions like the champagne wine region in the north. In the central part of the county, there is a continental climate. In the south of France, you will find a maritime climate.
In comparison, Italian wine makers mostly grow grapes in warmer Mediterranean climates. That means there is less risk of cold frost and bad weather ruining the wine grape plantings. On average, Italian wine producers have a warmer climate than the Austrian wine region directly north of the peninsula. That said, one cool climate of note in Italian wine is the Trentino–Alto Adige region. To fully appreciate the nuances of a cool climate, try a northern Italian red wine with a wine from the Walla Walla Valley. You might be surprised at how much they have in common.
Price vs. Value
Many of us have a limited amount of money to spend on wines. You might start your wine journey with basic table wine. After a while, you’ll start to seek out a wine with specific qualities like bold tannins, burly tannins, or deep color. Even as your taste develops, keeping one eye on value is brilliant.
While great value wines can be found in both countries, Italy has the advantage here. On the other hand, if you are a wine collector content to spend over $1000 per bottle, the wonders of French wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy await you.
Italian Merlot In Summary
Italian Merlot is among the best in the world. Compare these Italian wines to Merlots made in American wine regions like Washington State (e.g., Walla Walla), California’s Alexander Valley, or the Chilean wine industry (e.g. the Maule Valley) to further appreciate the wine’s qualities. Only through comparison can you fully appreciate the classic aromas, ripe blackberry, and bright ruby color of Merlots.
In summary, Italian Merlots are available in two main types. There are 100% Merlot wines and Merlot-based blends. Since most Italian wine regions are warm, you can expect Italian Merlots to be sweeter than Merlots from cooler regions like the Columbia Valley. The higher initial ripeness level in many Italian wines means that other factors like balanced acid levels become even more critical.