Merlot is a red wine that even predominantly white wine drinkers tend to enjoy. It’s middle of the road on just about everything. It’s medium bodied, has medium tannins and medium acidity. It goes great with meat, fish, cheese and grains. It even works well with veggies and casseroles. It might even boast some health benefits.

Is there anything merlot can’t do?

You might not want to serve it with extremely light dishes, such as raw seafood and light salads. Yet if it has cheese, was baked in a casserole or contains meat, you can bet that it’ll taste great with merlot.

What Is Merlot Wine?

Merlot is a medium-bodied wine that has dark-fruit flavors. The grapes are dark blue. It’s widely produced in France, Australia and California wine regions. It has notes of black cherry and plum. Most wine experts will also mention its telltale herbal flavors.

This wine is often compared with Cabernet, which is a drier and more tannic red wine. Merlot is great because you can pair it with a large variety of dishes — from a great steak to even macaroni and cheese. It’s also a great wine to bring to a picnic or barbecue since it pairs well with so many foods.

Merlot Flavor Profiles

The flavor of your merlot will greatly depend on where the grapes were grown. Most Merlots have notes of black cherry, plum, raspberry, cedar, tobacco, clove and vanilla. Since the wine is aged in oak barrels, you can also taste the oak as well.

Merlot is the perfect “beginner” red wine but is also a favorite among aficionados.

Cooking With Merlot

Merlot is also a great cooking wine. Any chef will tell you that you should never cook with wine you wouldn’t also drink. When a recipe calls for red wine, merlot is always a great option. If you don’t have any merlot on hand, you could always substitute it with pinot noir or Chianti in dishes. Or, opt for a merlot and Cabernet blend.

What Foods Go Best With Merlot?

Luckily, merlot goes with a lot of foods. Its medium-body flavor means that it won’t overpower “lighter” meats like chicken and pork. It can also stand up to heartier types of fish (especially when cooked in a casserole). It’s the perfect wine to serve with pasta — especially with red sauces and thick gravies.

Merlot’s medium acidity means that it isn’t so acidic that it will alter the taste of your food. Yet, its acidity can cut through rich foods and possibly even aid in digestion.

When you’re not sure which red wine to serve with a dish, merlot is a safe choice.

Best Meats to Pair With Merlot

Most meats taste great served with merlot. Yet some of the best meats to serve with this wine include:

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Pork
  • Duck
  • Bison

You might even consider cooking the meat with the wine you plan on serving at dinner. Should you choose to top any of these meats with a gravy or sauce, merlot will cut through the richness of those condiments and help balance the flavors of the meal.

Veggies That Complement Merlot

Most cooks will suggest you stick to white or sparkling wines when it comes to light dishes and veggies. Yet there are a few veggies that merlot will complement.


Merlot goes great with a Caprese salad. Top tomatoes and mozzarella cheese with fresh basil and olive oil. Add a dash of balsamic vinegar to bring out the acidity of the tomatoes and richness of the cheese.


Mushrooms are hearty veggies that have a similar texture to some light meats. This means that they can stand up to medium-bodied red wines, like merlot. You can cook mushrooms in a sauce, include them in a salad or serve them sliced alongside meat and potatoes.

Hearty salads

While many light salads can’t stand up to merlot, hearty ones pair well with this wine. Merlot goes well with antipasto salads, Caesar salad and chopped salad. Again, if there’s an oil or creamy dressing topping your salad, you can bet that merlot will taste delicious with it.

Recipes and Dishes That Stand Up to Merlot

Some of the foods that taste best with merlot include rich side dishes, like macaroni and cheese, Brussels sprouts with bacon and mashed potatoes (this is why bringing merlot to a cookout is always a great idea).

Try serving it with casseroles including, shepherd’s pie and tuna noodle. Don’t be shy about serving it with pasta, rice and risotto dishes too.

Ultimately, merlot is a wine that goes with many dishes. Don’t see your favorite merlot food pairing on this list? That’s OK, too. The best indicator if a food can be paired with merlot is whether or not it tastes good to you. Love to eat white pizza with merlot? Go ahead and break the “rules.” Just make sure to give guests the choice of red and white at dinner should you ever feel doubtful of your choices.