Merlot wines are among the most popular red wines. Follow the key etiquette rules sure to store, serve, pair, and drink Merlot wines the right way.

merlot grapes

What Merlot etiquette is

Merlot etiquette is the set of rules to properly serve and drink Merlot wines. Such rules help avoid behaviors that can disrespect hosts or guests, or make you look unpolite.

If you are hosting, follow Merlot etiquette to appropriately serve it to your guests.

If you are a guest, respect Merlot etiquette rules to properly drink and enjoy it.

What you should know about Merlot

Merlot is a variety of grapes with dark skin. It is used to make red wine. Merlot can be the sole grape used in the production of a specific wine, or it can be blended with other grapes.

Several countries grow Merlot grapes. Most notably the Bordeaux region in France and Tuscany in Italy. Other producers include Spain, the Pacific coast of the USA, Argentina, and Chile.  

The characteristics of wines produced with Merlot grapes vary significantly, based on multiple factors such as the region and the production method. In general, Merlot wines tend to be dry, medium-to-full-bodied. Their color ranges from dark red to brownish red.

how to serve and drink Merlot

Etiquette rules for serving and drinking Merlot

1) How to store Merlot

Store Merlot in a cool place. Keep the bottle away from direct light and far from any source of heat.

Place the bottle in a horizontal position, to keep the cork moist. Dry corks might let the oxygen in and spoil the wine.

Do not store Merlot in the fridge or in the freezer.

2) How to prepare Merlot

Most Merlot wines benefit from decanting. The contact with the oxygen makes the texture and flavors of the wine more gentle to the palate.

Before serving, pour the full bottle of wine into a decanter. Then, let the wine breathe. The amount of time needed for decanting depends on the wine and on personal tastes. Try between 10 and 20 minutes for light-bodied Merlot wines, and between 20 and 30 minutes for full-bodied ones.

You do not need to refrigerate Merlot wines before serving.

Avoid chilling glasses in the fridge. The condensation waters down the wine and dilutes its taste.

3) How to serve & present Merlot

Merlot wines usually taste better between 15°C and 20°C (59°F and 68°F). Cooler temperatures risk preventing Merlot wines from releasing their aromas. Thus, do not put the bottle in the fridge. Similarly, do not keep the bottle in an ice bucket.

Present Merlot in its bottle or in the decanter. On formal occasions, it is best to present the wine in its bottle, even if you let it decant first. After decanting, pour Merlot back into its bottle using a small kitchen funnel.

Hold the bottle by its body, never by its neck or cork. Serve Merlot in red wine glasses, which are larger and wider compared to white wine glasses. Fill the glass between ⅓ and ½.

4) When to serve & drink Merlot

Merlot wines are relatively dry wines, thus appropriate for an aperitivo or pre-dinner drinks.

You can serve Merlot on formal occasions, such as a formal dinner party.

However, Merlot can fit perfectly most informal occasions too. Serve light-bodied Merlot at a barbecue, picnic, brunch, light lunch, or drinking party. Rich and full-bodied Merlot can match an important red meat course during a meal.

5) Food & aromas to pair Merlot with

The ideal food pairings depend on the variety of Merlot and, in general, on its texture.

As a rule of thumb, pair lighter-bodied Merlot wines with more delicate foods. Fuller-bodied Merlot pairs well with stronger flavors.

Pair Merlot with seasoned cheese such as Parmigiano, goat cheese, grilled red meat, steak, tuna, grilled salmon, mushroom, and pasta. Avoid pairing Merlot with fish or seafood.

6) Etiquette for drinking Merlot

Drink Merlot in red wine glasses. Hold the glass by its stem to avoid warming the wine with your hand.

Drink it in small sips. A glass of Merlot should last between 10 and 20 minutes. Full-bodied Merlot can be a meditation wine.

Never drink shots of Merlot.

Never add ice to Merlot. First, ice waters down the wine and its bouquet. Furthermore, ice is usually added to low-quality or cheap beverages. Thus, adding ice to Merlot can be seen as an offense to the quality of the wine, and therefore to your host.

Merlot etiquette mistakes

Merlot etiquette: the worst mistakes

The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors. 

A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. More about the Rude Index and its methodology here.  

Avoid the worst Merlot etiquette mistakes. 

  • 10/10. Getting drunk.
  • 7/10. Drinking shots of Merlot.
  • 7/10. Pairing Merlot with the wrong food or aromas.
  • 6/10. Not holding the glass by the stem. 
  • 5/10. Adding ice to Merlot.

Additional information for properly serving Merlot

How many calories per serving?

Counting calories is important to stay healthy and to correctly plan a menu.

On average, Merlot wines contain about 80 calories per 100 ml (3.5 oz). A glass of Merlot is typically 150 ml (5 oz) and has 122 calories.

How to buy the best Merlot

A crucial factor in Merlot etiquette is to serve the best product possible to your guests.


Merlot wines are available all year round.

Choose the best

To choose your ideal Merlot, start from the occasion. For example, a light-bodied and dry Merlot can be a great wine as an aperitif. While a bolder Merlot may be a better fit for an important red meat course.

Then, the safest choice is to buy Merlot from an established wine region. Such as Bordeaux in France, Tuscany in Italy, Spain, the Pacific coast of the USA, Argentina, and Chile.  

Alternatives to Merlot

You can substitute Merlot with medium-bodied red wines that have a comparable acidic and aroma profile. Try Grenache or Tempranillo.


  • Characterization Of Merlot Dry Red Wine Composition According To The Year Of Production: