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    How Does Merlot Taste? (Flavours & Food Pairings)

    Merlot Taste

    Merlot is one of the world's most planted grape varieties and there is rarely a wine list or wine selection made without the grape making an appearance. 

    But what does Merlot taste like?

    And what characteristics should you look for in a glass of Merlot wine?

    What Does Merlot Wine Taste Like?

    Merlot Wine Tasting Notes

    Not all Merlots are made the same, so not all Merlots will taste the same, either.

    But typically, Merlot tends to be associated with a smooth red wine with hints of:

    • Black cherry
    • Plum
    • Chocolate
    • Meaty notes
    • Tobacco

    So how can you taste Merlot?

    How To Taste Merlot? (3 Step Method)

    Methods To Taste MerlotThe first step to tasting Merlot well is learning how to break down the elements of sugar, acidity and tannins that appear in the glass.

    Step 1. Identify Sweetness 

    Most Merlot wines are classed as dry wines, meaning they have no residual sugar in the glass.

    This sense of dryness is often exacerbated by the presence of tannins when it comes to red wines such as Merlot. 

    Unless you have a dessert wine made with Merlot on your hands, it’s almost certain that you’ll be drinking a wine with no residual sugar left. 

    Step 2. Determine The Acidity 

    Next up it’s all about acidity levels.

    A great way to determine how acidic your merlot is is by paying attention to how much your mouth waters in response!

    A very acidic Merlot will have you literally drooling over the taste, and if your mouth isn’t so responsive then you’ve probably got a wine with lower acidity levels. 

    Step 3. Taste The Tannins

    Merlot is a red wine, which are all about the tannins! 

    Tannins are present in the skins of grapes, which work to give our red wines all of those beautiful ruby and purple colours in the glass. 

    Tannins have a drying sensation on your mouth that you’ll feel across your gums as well as your tongue.

    The dryer your mouth the higher the tannin levels, which is why some acidity to balance the tannins out is always welcome.

    So how is the taste of Merlot affected by these elements of sweetness, acid and tannin?

    What Affects The Taste of Merlot Wine?

    Plums, Jam, Coffee Beans

    Very simply, a Merlot’s taste is determined by how much of each of the above elements (sweetness  are present.

    A Merlot with noticeable levels of tannins may have more developed, earthy tertiary aromas of mushroom and forest floor, for example.

    And very acidic merlot may taste of juicy plums and ripe cherries.

    But what other characteristics are associated with Merlot? 

    What Are Merlot Characteristics

    Here are some of the characteristics associated with a typical glass of Merlot:

    • Body - Most Merlot wines are beloved for their medium to full body.
    • Tannins - Merlot wines will have medium to high levels of tannins giving them lots of structure and complexity. 
    • Sweetness - Chances are if you have a Merlot it will have no trace of residual sugar.
    • Dryness - Pretty much all Merlot wines are bone dry.
    • ABV - Merlots will vary in alcohol percentage, but the majority will sit somewhere between the 13-15% ABV mark.

    But do different types of Merlots have different characteristics? Or does all Merlot taste the same?

    3 Types of Merlot Tastes 

    Merlot Wine Bottles

    Here are some of the most common red wine styles you may come across and the tastes and characteristics associated with them:

    1. Bordeaux Merlot

    Most French Merlot is planted in Bordeaux and the result is a wine that tastes like smooth plums studded with smoky cloves.

    2. Italian Merlot

    Think everything from the simplest, fruitiest red wine to wines with a searing complexity to rival that of Bordeaux. 

    3. Californian Merlot

    Lots of sun means very ripe grapes and very bold and juicy wines oozing with black fruit such as blackcurrant, black cherries and smooth black plums. 

    Before You Go...

    Merlot Wine BarrelsWhy not grab a couple of different Merlots on your next trip to the wine aisle and compare some of the different styles for yourself?

    The best way to learn is through your taste buds after all!

    Read our other Merlot guides here:

    You can browse more posts on Wine Serving and Tasting here

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    philip thompson Author: Philip Thompson
    Philip is the General Manager at Expert Wine Storage, and is very knowledgable about all things relating to wine and wine storage, including wine fridges. He is regularly featured in media outlets sharing his knowledge on wine. Connect on Linkedin