If you put Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon on a spectrum of flavor profiles, you would find Merlot smack dab in the middle. This medium-bodied grape produces a wide variety of wine styles. From the fresh and fun to the big and bold, there is a style of Merlot to pair with every dish. Check out these food and wine pairings and get to know Merlot a little more.

The Lowdown on Merlot: Food and Wine Pairings

by Matthew Lorman

If you put Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon on a spectrum of flavor profiles, you would find Merlot smack dab in the middle. This medium-bodied grape produces a wide variety of wine styles. From the fresh and fun to the big and bold, there is a style of Merlot to pair with every dish. Check out these food and wine pairings and get to know Merlot a little more.  

Fresh, Fruity, and Fun

Merlot exhibits vibrant notes of black cherry, ripe raspberry, and juicy plum, making for a fruit-forward wine that is equally delicious as it is friendly on the wallet. Be on the lookout for wines from Washington State and California that are often made in this style. This is one of my favorite wines to pair with a simple Margherita pizza, bucatini alla amatriciana, or simple roasted chicken. If you just want something to sip on while you binge-watch your favorite show on the couch, this is the wine for you. It has a lot of flavor without high levels of acid and tannin, which makes it approachable any night of the week. 

Merlot All Grown Up

If fruity styles of Merlot are a fun spring break at Daytona Beach, this next example is a weekend at the cabin in the mountains. Merlot can be made into age-worthy wines, and take on different flavors such as chocolate, vanilla, dried herbs, and smoke. These versions often have slightly higher levels of tannin and more structure. Cozy up by the fireplace with a glass of a fuller-bodied style of Merlot and treat yourself to a nice meal. Pair with heartier dishes like roasted lamb, pulled pork sandwiches, or shakshouka.

Mix It Up A Bit

Merlot is a major component in red blends from all over the world. It is most famously known as being a part of Bordeaux Blends, along with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. In Italy, Super Tuscans make use of the grape to add depth and fruit notes to the mix, relying on other grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese to provide structure and additional tannin. These wines can be more complex than their fruity counterparts, calling for a more substantial meal. They pair great with grilled ribeye steaks, osso bucco, and crispy Peking duck.

If you’re hooked on Merlot, check out this article on Merlot and delicious Merlot alternatives to expand your wine repertoire. Tag us on Instagram (@DCanterwines) and be sure to share your favorites. Cheers!