Merlot: A Very Drinkable Red

Monday, August 6th, 2018
merlot from heart of the desert pistachios and wine

Merlot, in French, means “the little blackbird”. In America, it is the second most popular red grape, just behind Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot is known for being soft, ripe and elegant. Most are easy drinking reds that pair well with foods and are pleasurable to enjoy on their own. Merlot is often recommended as an entry red for new wine drinkers because of the low tannin levels, it’s softness and smooth finish, which make it very easy to drink.

History of Merlot

The Merlot grape began its wine journey in the Bordeaux region of France in the 1700’s. It started being used with the Cabernet Sauvignon grape to create the highly coveted Bordeaux blend. The Merlot grape found its way to California in the mid-19th century. American winemakers elected to not blend the grape and bottle 100% Merlot wines. The grape grew easily and they discovered Americans really loved the softness of the fruit on its own and that they enjoyed the low tannin levels.

Merlot Flavors

Merlot offers flavors of chocolate, plums, licorice, black cherries, blueberries, black raspberries and blackberries as well as jam. It is more fruit-forward and tannins are less prevalent than other red wines.

Pairing Merlot

You can drink Merlot comfortably with a range of Italian dishes, especially tomato-based ones and it blends well with the tastes you get in foods such as roast chicken, mushrooms and Parmesan.

Many American Merlots are medium-bodied they tend to pair well with richly sauced dishes such as steak in a red wine sauce or with casseroles, where a more powerfully tannic wine would be overwhelming. It’s also a good wine to use when you’re cooking, making a rich base for red wine sauces.

Consider Merlot with the following dishes:

  • Spaghetti and Meatballs
  • Meatloaf
  • Burgers – especially Cheeseburgers
  • Spicy rice dishes such as Jambalaya
  • Roasted Turkey (a ripe Merlot makes a good Thanksgiving or Christmas wine)
  • Mild to medium (but not very strongly flavored) hard cheeses
  • Seared – even blackened – Salmon
  • Braised Short Ribs

It’s always a great time to enjoy a glass of Merlot. It pairs with so many foods and is easy to drink on its own. Make sure to always have a bottle to share! And celebrate International Merlot Day on November 7!


Heart of the Desert is a working pistachio ranch and vineyard with four retail establishments in New Mexico. They are best known for their farm fresh pistachios and Award-Winning New Mexico wines. Each store offers wine and pistachio tastings. They offer worldwide shipping and produce attractive gourmet baskets that make great corporate and family gifts. The main store, on the ranch in Alamogordo, offers farm tours that showcases how pistachios are grown and processed as well as a stunning Tuscany themed patio that overlooks the groves and is available for weddings, private parties or enjoying a relaxing glass of wine.