How to Serve Merlot

Karen Frazier

Are you wondering how to serve Merlot? What is the optimal serving temperature? Are there foods that pair well with Merlot? Does it require special wine glasses? Read on to discover tips and tricks which will give you an understanding of how to increase your enjoyment of Merlot wine.

Tips on How to Serve Merlot

When discussing how to serve Merlot, a number of considerations come into play in order for you to experience the flavors of the Merlot at their shining best including food pairing, temperature and even glass shape.

Food Pairing

Merlot is a plummy red wine that typically has a soft character. While it does contain tannins like most red wines, people consider it a velvety, low-tannin red. As such, it pairs well with a variety of foods including some foods that people may not usually consider pairing with red wines such as seafood. Soft Merlots are excellent with pink seafood such as salmon and shrimp, as well as most shellfish. Merlot has an earthy character that pairs well with foods like mushrooms, truffles, pancetta and bacon. Merlot is also excellent when enjoyed with red meats, especially lamb and tender beef cuts.

Because the flavors of Merlot are often subtle, they can be overwhelmed by extremely strong foods, highly spicy foods and blue veined cheeses such as bleu cheese or Roquefort cheese. The flavors of these foods can be stronger than the flavor of the Merlot, which may cause you to become more aware of the Merlot's tannins than the flavors of the fruit.

Temperature

It is a common belief that you should serve red wines at room temperature. While this was true in the days before heating and air conditioning, today's room temperature can actually be slightly warm for serving all red wines, including Merlot. In order to enjoy the full flavor profile of the wine, it is important to serve all wines at their ideal temperature. In the case of red wines, the ideal serving temperature is between 63 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. The ideal storage temperature for red wines is at about 60 degrees.

If you are able to store your Merlot at 60 degrees, then pop the cork when you are ready to serve the wine and place the bottle on the counter for about 30 minutes to allow the wine to warm up to the ideal serving temperature. If, however, you store your Merlot at room temperature, it is likely you will want to cool the Merlot before serving. To do this, place the bottle in an ice water bath for about 10 minutes - just long enough to slightly cool the wine. Don't over chill, and don't serve Merlot at refrigerator temperatures. Overchilling the wine will cause the subtlety and character of the wine to disappear.

Before serving Merlot, the wine needs to "breathe" in order to open up any flavors and to allow tannins to soften. To allow the wine to breathe, open the bottle and let it sit for 20 minutes to an hour.

Glass Shape

You should select a wine glass with a large bowl design so that you can enjoy the full aromas of the Merlot. The rounded shape of the glass will accentuate the flavors and scents of the wine as you drink. If you are unable to find a glass specifically for Merlot, you can choose a glass which has been designed for Cabernet or Bordeaux.

In recent years, stemless wineglasses have become widely available. The argument against stemless wine glasses has always been that by holding the glass in your hand, you will warm up the wine to a temperature that moves it out of its ideal serving range. This is less of a concern with red wines than with white wines, which need to be chilled. There are a number of stemless glasses that work quite well with red wines like Merlot - including the Riedel O Bordeaux-style glasses.

Knowledge Adds to Enjoyment

Serving Merlot isn't difficult, but with a little knowledge of the finer details like food pairings, temperature and glass styles, you can enhance your experience to gain the full benefit of all of the subtle, delicious flavors of Merlot.

How to Serve Merlot