This classic Old-World wine, now grown around the world, is one you need to get to know. When it comes to serving merlot, there are a few essentials to keep in mind. Give this beautifully luscious wine the attention it deserves and learn all the serving tips and tricks.
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 at their best, including food pairing, temperature and even glass shape.
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, merlot pairs well with a variety of foods including charcuterie, burgers, roasted winter vegetables, and cassoulet. Merlot has an earthy character that pairs well with foods like mushrooms, truffles, pancetta and bacon. It is also excellent when enjoyed with grilled 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 overpowering, which may cause you to become more aware of the tannins than the flavors of the fruit in the wine.
It is a common belief that you should serve red wines at room temperature; however, different red wines require different serving temperatures. Being a medium-to-full bodied, dry wine, merlot is best served slightly cooler than room temperature, at around 60-65°F (15-18°C). This temperature allows you to experience the full flavor profile of the wine without flavors becoming muddled.
If you are storing your merlot around 60°F (15°C), then pop the cork before you are ready to serve the wine and allow the bottle to sit, opened, for about 30 minutes to allow the wine to warm up a smidge. If you are storing your Merlot at room temperature, it is likely you will want to cool the merlot before serving. To do this, you can throw the bottle into a bath of ice water- just long enough to slightly cool the wine, about 10 minutes.
An aged merlot will likely need to be decanted before sipping in order for it to open up the aromas and flavors and to allow tannins to soften. You don't need a fancy decanter here, though if you've got one, use it! You can open the bottle and let it sit for 20 minutes to an hour to let it breathe a bit. Preemptively splashing it into your glass and letting it hang out for a while also works.
If you want to get technical, upgrade your mason jar to a Bordeaux glass. This large, rounded bowl design captures the aromas, accentuating the flavors of the wine as you drink. If you prefer a stemless wineglass, they also come in this ideal bowl shape. While some argue against the stemless wine glass, because you raise the temperature of the wine while holding it, this is less of a concern with red wines than with white wines. 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
Drinking merlot is easy. And with a little knowledge of the finer things like food pairings, temperature and glass styles, you can enjoy your glass even more.