Updated July 19th 2023
What food goes well with Merlot? Where to begin... Merlot is one of the most popular grape varieties and it pairs well with many foods. In this Merlot wine paring guide, you will learn more about this grape and how to create perfect food pairings with it.
Merlot is a great food wine. It can be paired with a wide range of dishes, from charcuterie and cheese to pork and veal. Merlot gives fruity and easy to drink wines, which makes it one of the most popular grape varieties in the world. Keep reading to find our top food pairings to Merlot.
Merlot is one of the most popular grape varieties and it is planted in almost every wine producing country. In fact, Merlot is the second most planted grape variety in the world after Cabernet Sauvignon. It comes originally from Bordeaux in southwestern France. Nowadays, Merlot is the most planted wine grape in Bordeaux as well as in the rest of France. It is used in the famous red Bordeaux blend. Compared to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot is softer and less robust, but both have fruity flavours and a dry profile.
Merlot is usually made in a dry style with pleasant fruit flavours of cherries and plum. Compared to many other red wines, Merlot wines tend to have softer tannins and a more velvety structure. When grown in cold climate regions such as France or Chile, it gives a tannic, earthy, and fruity wine. Cool climate Merlot are usually medium bodied with flavours of red fruit, tobacco, flowers, mint, mushroom and earth.
When grown in warm climate areas, such as USA or Australia, it gives a spicy and fruity wine with chocolate flavours. Merlot from warm climate regions tend to be more fruit forward and have a deeper, more purple color. Wherever Merlot is grown, you can expect the characteristic fruity flavours and velvety texture.
Merlot is an excellent food wine due to its soft tannins, medium high acidity, and enjoyable fruit flavours. Merlot wine is almost always dry, but its strong fruit flavours can give an illusion of sweetness. Its position in the middle of the red wine spectrum makes it possible to pair it with both white and dark meat. Merlot gives medium bodied red wines which taste great with cheese, snacks, and different dishes.
When pairing Merlot with food, it is important to take into consideration the following characteristics of the grape:
Merlot is best served at 14-17°C (57-63°F), which is a little bit cooler than room temperature. If you want to know about the best serving temperature for wine you can read about it here.
What is the best food pairing with Merlot? Most people would say lean meats such as chicken and other poultry. The light meat from poultry goes well with the fruity flavours and soft texture of the wine. Chicken, turkey and duck are all good choices for your bottle of Merlot.
Tips! Try grilled chicken with a glass of Merlot and you might be surprised how good they taste together.
Pork, veal and lean cuts of beef are just a few examples of meats that pair well with this fruity grape variety. The easy-drinking, fruity character makes Merlot a pleasant wine with red meats. For heavier meat dishes, choose a Merlot from the warm climate region as they tend to be more full-bodied.
Merlot is also a great paring with BBQ food. The fruitiness and spiciness in the wine goes well with the smokey flavours from the grill as well as typical BBQ sauces.
What cheese goes best with Merlot? Merlot and even some Merlot-blends pair well with hard cheeses like Cheddar, Manchego, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Grana Padano and Pecorino. These cheeses have salty and savoury flavours that pair wonderfully with medium- and full-bodied red wines. Merlot’s position in the middle of the red wine spectrum makes it possible to pair it with different types of cheese, including semi-soft cheeses like Gruyère, Comté, Emmenthaland Gouda.
If you want to know more about different types of cheeses and their perfect wine pairings, you can read about it in our wine and cheese guide.
Merlot is not the typical wine to have with salty and fatty snacks, due to its quite low acidity. It is, however, a great wine for many different types of finger foods and hearty appetizers. Appetizers that go well with Merlot usually include olives, cheese, meat or mushrooms. Merlot will also be good together with different types of charcuterie. If you want to learn more about how to pick the best wine for your snacks, you can read about it in our wine and snacks guide.
Is Merlot good with fish? In most cases no, but there are some exceptions. Merlot is a dry medium bodied wine with soft, but rich flavours. The wine will most likely overpower the delicate flavours of most fish or seafood dish. If you want to learn more about pairing red wine with fish, you can read our guide Best wine with salmon.
Tips! If you really want fish together with your Merlot, try a grilled fatty fish, such as salmon or cod fish.
Merlot is actually an excellent paring with many vegetarian dishes. Especially the cool climate Merlots with earthy flavours pair well with dishes containing roasted vegetables or mushrooms. It also matches with tomatoes and tomato-sauce dishes. To learn more about the best wine for vegetarian dishes, we recommend our wine guide for vegetarian food.
Merlot can be a good pairing with some pasta dishes. It is fruitier and softer than Cabernet Sauvignon which makes it a better choice for pastas with vegetables, bacon or mushrooms. The lighter style Merlot from France, Chile or Italy will be the best pairing with these type of pasta dishes.
Unfortunately, most Merlot wines are not a good match with desserts. A Merlot wine is usually too dry and rich to pair with sweet desserts. However, the Merlot from warm climate areas such as USA, Argentina, South Africa and Australia can be paired with rich, but not too sweet chocolate desserts. Chocolate mousse, chocolate cake and truffles can pair well with the chocolate flavours in the wine. If you want to have a red wine with your sweet dessert, we suggest you read our guide about Wine and Dessert Pairings.
Enjoy your wine and food!