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Merlot

An easy-going red variety with generous fruit and a supple texture

An easy-going red variety with generous fruit and a supple texture, Merlot’s subtle tannins make it perfect for early drinking and allow it to pair with a wide range of foods. While popular culture has in recent years lent Merlot undeserved poor reputation, one simply needs to look to Bordeaux to understand its status as a noble variety. On the region’s Right Bank, it dominates in blends with Cabernet Franc, and on the Left Bank, it plays a supporting role to (and helps soften) Cabernet Sauvignon—in both cases resulting in some of the longest-lived and highest-quality wines in the world. They are often emulated elsewhere in Bordeaux-style blends, particularly in California’s Napa Valley, where Merlot also frequently shines on its own.

In the Glass

Merlot is known for its soft, silky texture and approachable flavors of ripe plum, red and black cherry, and raspberry. In a cool climate, you may find earthier notes alongside dried herbs, tobacco, and tar, while Merlot from warmer regions is generally more straightforward and fruit-focused. Oak aging may add a hint of vanilla or sweet baking spice.

Perfect Pairings

Lamb with Merlot is an ideal match—the sweetness of the meat picks up on the sweet fruit flavors of the wine to create a harmonious balance. Merlot’s gentle tannins allow for a hint of spice and its medium weight and bright acidity permit the possibilities of simple pizza or pasta with red sauce—overall, an extremely versatile food wine.

Sommelier Secret

If you saw the 2004 film Sideways, you probably recall the derision with which Miles frequently speaks of Merlot. What you may not have realized was that the prized wine of his collection—a 1961 Château Cheval Blanc which he ends up drinking out of a paper cup in a fast food restaurant—is made from a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. No one could have predicted that well over a decade later, Merlot would still be suffering from a PR crisis as a result, but here we are. The variety was extremely easy to sell in the 1990s and some producers indeed had gotten lazy with quality. But the fact remains that Merlot has always been capable of producing some of the world's finest wines, and now it is time to observe and enjoy its comeback.

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  • Rutherford Ranch Merlot 2014
    Merlot from Napa Valley, California
    • WE 91
    Currently Unavailable $17.99
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  • Merryvale Merlot 2014
    Merlot from Napa Valley, California
    • RP 91
    • WE 90
    Currently Unavailable $42.99
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  • Le Macchiole Messorio 2011
    Merlot from Tuscany, Italy
    • V 96
    • JS 95
    • RP 94
    • WS 94
    • WE 93
    Currently Unavailable $249.99
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  • Woodward Canyon Columbia Valley Merlot 2013
    Merlot from Columbia Valley, Washington
    • WE 93
    • V 91
    • RP 90
    • WS 90
    Currently Unavailable $43.99
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  • Murphy-Goode California Merlot 2013
    Merlot from California
    • WE 90
    • TP 89
    Currently Unavailable $12.99
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  • Bonterra Organically Grown Merlot 2014
    Merlot from Mendocino, California
    • WE 89
    Currently Unavailable $13.99
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  • Northstar Columbia Valley Merlot 2012
    Merlot from Columbia Valley, Washington
    • RP 91
    • WE 91
    Currently Unavailable $35.99
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  • Folie a Deux Merlot 2013
    Merlot from Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California
    • WE 90
    Currently Unavailable $17.99
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  • St. Supery Rutherford Merlot 2012
    Merlot from Rutherford, Napa Valley, California
    • WW 92
    • WE 90
    • WS 90
    Currently Unavailable $44.99
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  • Frog's Leap Merlot (1.5 Liter Magnum) 2013
    Merlot from Rutherford, Napa Valley, California
    • WW 92
    • V 92
    • WE 90
    Currently Unavailable $69.99
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  • L'Ecole 41 Columbia Valley Merlot 2013
    Merlot from Columbia Valley, Washington
    • WE 91
    • RP 90
    Currently Unavailable $23.99
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  • Grgich Hills Merlot 2012
    Merlot from Napa Valley, California
    • WE 90
    Currently Unavailable $39.99
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  • J. Lohr Los Osos Merlot 2014
    Merlot from Paso Robles, Central Coast, California
    • WE 90
    Currently Unavailable $13.99
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  • Hogue Genesis Merlot 2013
    Merlot from Columbia Valley, Washington
    • WE 90
    Currently Unavailable $16.99
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  • Duckhorn Three Palms Merlot 2013
    Merlot from Calistoga, Napa Valley, California
    • WW 98
    • CG 93
    • WE 92
    • WS 92
    Currently Unavailable $89.99
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  • Cotes de Ciel Ciel du Cheval Vineayrd Merlot 2012
    Merlot from Red Mountain, Yakima Valley, Columbia Valley, Washington
    • WE 92
    Currently Unavailable $36.99
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  • Twomey Cellars by Silver Oak Merlot 2012
    Merlot from Napa Valley, California
    • WE 92
    • WW 90
    Currently Unavailable $56.99
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  • Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve Merlot 2013
    Merlot from Sonoma County, California
    • WE 91
    Currently Unavailable $26.99
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  • Raymond Reserve Selection Merlot 2013
    Merlot from Napa Valley, California
    • WE 90
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  • Leonetti Merlot 2001
    Merlot from Columbia Valley, Washington
    • WE 92
    • WS 92
    • RP 90
    • V 90
    Currently Unavailable $85.00
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  • Pepper Bridge Winery Merlot 2012
    Merlot from Walla Walla Valley, Columbia Valley, Washington
    • W&S 91
    • RP 91
    • WE 90
    • V 90
    Currently Unavailable $50.99
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    50 99
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  • Leonetti Merlot (loose foil capsule) 2000
    Merlot from Columbia Valley, Washington
    • WS 92
    • WE 91
    Currently Unavailable $59.99
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  • Duckhorn Napa Valley Merlot (1.5 Liter Magnum) 2013
    Merlot from Napa Valley, California
    • WW 92
    • WS 90
    • WE 90
    Currently Unavailable $99.99
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