Written by: Tim Edison

Updated: April 17, 2023

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30 Best Merlot Wines [Essential Wine for Every Budget in 2023]

Merlot wine bottles

Merlot is one of the world's most famous wines because it's so approachable.

Its velvety mouthfeel, dark fruit notes, and smooth finish go down a treat with most foods, and you can happily sip it on its own.

Warm climate Merlots like those from California are fruit-forward and soft, while cool climate Merlots like those from the Bordeaux Right Bank are tannic and rich.

In any case, there's a perfect Merlot for every taste and budget. Join us below to discover the thirty best Merlots available in 2023.

Recommended Merlot Under $10

These are the cheapest Merlot wines that you won't instantly regret sipping! Honestly, you'll be surprised at what you can get for $10 these days.

30. Smoking Loon Merlot

smoking loon merlot

Smoking Loon Merlot is an easy-going, fruit-forward wine with hints of cedar and sandalwood.

It's produced in California using grapes from vineyards across the Napa Valley by Smoking Loon, owned by Don Sebastiani & Sons.

This wine has the aromas of dark red fruit, berries, and tart pomegranate. On the palate, cherry, raspberry, and hints of vanilla towards the finish provide great depth. Polished tannins and a smooth mouthfeel make it a perfect sipping wine.

This wine is perfect with lamb chops, beef stew, and lasagna, and try it with butternut squash and salty dishes to freshen your palate.

29. Pepperwood Grove Merlot

pepperwood grove merlot

This herbaceous wine has strong notes of dark cherry and dark plum and a peppery, oaky finish.

It's made in Chile by Pepperwood Grove, an award-winning winemaker known for its full-bodied red wines with an earthy tone.

Aromas of plum, black olive, sage, and vanilla give rise to flavors of red currant, dark plum, and subtle notes of vanilla and spice. A spritz tingle and a savory finish perfectly balanced the rich, robust fruity flavors.

This wine's rich, herbal notes make it perfect for lamb and veal, and it also works with pizza, calzone, meatballs, and stews.

28. Vino de Eyzaguirre Merlot 2019

vino de eyzaguirre merlot 2019

Vino de Eyzaguirre Merlot 2019 impresses with smooth blackcurrant on the palate with a finish of peppery jam. It's produced in Chile by Vino de Eyzaguirre, founded in 1768 with the first vines from French rootstock.

We love this wine's earthy, fruity tone. Blueberries and plums join aromas of graphite, dried earth, blackcurrant, and cherry on the palate. It's a deliciously smooth wine that deserves a place at the finest tables.

A well-balanced finish and a bold, structured palate make this wine perfect with game, barbecued meats, and Italian food.

27. La Playa Estate Merlot 2019

la playa estate merlot 2019

Deliciously fruity with a pleasing, soft palate, La Playa Estate Merlot 2019 is a perfect example of fine Chilean wine. It is produced with grapes from Colchagua Valley, where unique soil minerality yields lush, juicy grapes.

Aromas of moss, suede, cooked cranberries, and blackberries give it a unique bouquet, while flavors of cherries, stewed plums, and spices excite the palate. Smooth tannins and a medium body ensure it goes down a treat.

This is a fantastic sipping wine, but it's also a match for red meat and pizza. The earthy tones give it good depth with a long, savory finish.

26. Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2018

columbia crest grand estates merlot 2018

Our favorite Merlot for under $10 is Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot. This rich, aromatic wine is super-fruity, with dark chocolate and toffee lashings. It's produced in small batches in Columbia Valley, Washington.

An aromatic bouquet of black cherry, cranberry jam, dark chocolate, and earth delivers pleasing notes on the nose. On the palate, notes of black cherry, plum, sandalwood, and tobacco give way to a toasty, chocolatey finish.

We adore this wine with duck, veal, beef, and lamb, and it also works well with chocolate pudding, fruit compote, and salted caramel.

Recommended Merlot Under $20

The best Merlots under $20 are a really pleasant surprise! There's amazing value to be found in this price range.

25. Chateau La Bastienne Montagne-St.-Emilion 2016

chateau la bastienne montagne st. emilion 2016

A tantalizing step up from our favorite $10 wines, this intense, long Merlot has a concentrated palate of dark fruit and sturdy tannins.

It is produced in Bordeaux, France, by the world-famous Chateau La Bastienne winery.

Thick aromas of stewed blackberry and plums and ripe aromas of mulberry with a hint of vanilla give this incredible wine depth.

Red fruits, light savory spices, and a subtle earthiness on the palate lead to a smooth, robust finish.

This wine goes best with duck, game, and roasted beef with expressive black fruit and sweet spice flavors. It's a delicious sipping wine as well.

24. Ancient Peaks Paso Robles Merlot 2019

ancient peaks paso robles merlot 2019

This captivating Merlot has notes of plum, cherry, mocha, and toasted oak, with a fruity finish that keeps you coming back for more. It is produced in Paso Robles, California, by the Ancient Peaks and Margarita Vineyard.

What do we love? Aromas of mocha, cigar box, and seabed give rise to roasted coffee, plum, and cherry notes.

The hearty bouquet is complimented by a palate of pomegranate, crushed cherry, and toasted oak, with a bright finish.

Dense and oaky, this Merlot is perfect with rich meats and stews, but the bright finish also goes well with dark chocolate and fruity Gelato.

23. Bonterra Organically Grown Merlot 2019

bonterra organically grown merlot 2019

Layers of blueberry, dried herbs, and ripe Bing cherry bring this Merlot to life, while the addition of Petite Sirah brings bold tannins. It is produced in California by Bonterra Organic Vineyards using ecological farming methods.

Aromas of blueberry and plum explode, with hints of herbs and graphite. Cherry, blackberry, and mocha latte on the palate, with hints of boysenberry. Elegant tannins from 13% Petite Sirah add complexity. Long, smooth finish.

This wine goes well with blue cheese, savory tarts, duck, veal, and lamb. The fruity profile is also great at cutting through acidic salad dressings.

Related: We recommend the organic wines you NEED to try!

22. Oyster Bay Merlot 2018

oyster bay merlot 2018

Oyster Bay Merlot 2018 is produced with grapes from New Zealand's warmest vineyard region, giving it an intense, fruit-forward profile. Bright cherry and blackberry explode with a subtle minerality that adds incredible character.

Cherry, red plum, bubble gum, and subtle spice aromas give this wine a sweet, plumy bouquet. On the palate, smooth tannins and flavors of bright red currants, chocolate, and spice lead to vanilla and cherry on the finish.

Rich and round, with plump, fresh fruit, this wine is perfect with rare roast beef, lamb chops, coq au vin, and chicken risotto.

21. Santa Ema Reserve Merlot 2018

santa ema reserve merlot 2018

Santa Ema Reserve Merlot 2018 is our top Merlot for under $20. The grape harvest was later than normal due to a cold early year and hot late year in Maipo Valley, Chile, producing grapes that ripened over a shorter timeframe.

The result is an intense, herby red wine with rich cherry and red plum notes. Aromas of oak, minty spice, clove, and plums complement red cherry, plum, blackberry, dark chocolate, and sandalwood flavors. A delicious wine with a dry, mineral finish.

We love this wine with stinky cheeses like Roquefort and Stilton, mushroom risotto, roasted pork, veal, and duck breast in plum sauce.

Recommended Merlot Under $30

It's at this price point where things get really interesting. The best merlot wine under $30 can rival bottles that command much higher fees.

20. Gundlach Bundschu Merlot 2018

gundlach bundschu merlot 2018

After missing a vintage in 2017 because of the California wildfires, Gundlach Bundschu Winery is back with a bang. Gundlach Bundschu Merlot 2018 is a compelling red wine with Morello cherries, nutmeg, and thyme flavors.

A delicious bouquet of dark cherry, strawberry, dried tobacco, and French thyme creates a savory profile.

Brooding flavors of blackberry, dried red currant, and nutmeg shine on the palate, with hints of lavender and tangy raspberry on the finish.

This wine goes well with barbecued ribs, lentil dishes, leafy salads, and Italian cuisine, including pizza and lasagna.

19. Chateau Castera 2015

chateau castera 2015

Chateau Castera 2015 is a blended wine with 65% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Cabernet Franc, with a smokier profile than your average red. Medoc Wine produces it in Bordeaux, France, with juice from the first press.

A blend of grapes gives this red pronounced blackcurrant and oak profile, with aromas of blackberry and juniper and a hint of vanilla.

A medium-bodied palate with red fruit, a touch of acidity, and an oaky finish make it smooth and approachable.

We love this wine with Italian sausage, meatloaf, grilled chops, roast chicken, roast duck, chargrilled steak, and other robust meats.

Related: Don't miss our guide to irresistible sweet white wines!

18. Oberon Merlot 2019

oberon merlot 2019

Oberon Merlot 2019 is a blend of Merlot, Zinfandel, and Syrah, perfectly balanced to create a dark, velvety mouthfeel. It's produced in Napa Valley, California, with grapes from vineyards in Dry Creek Valley and Middletown.

Dense black fruit aromas lead to blueberry, chocolate, and plum flavors. The smooth, velvety mouthfeel is mildly acidic, with a full body. Hints of oak, vanilla, and black fruit give this wine fantastic depth for under $30.

This wine is best with pasta, risotto, calzone, and other Italian foods, but it also works with spicy tapas dishes like Chorizo.

17. Rutherford Hill Merlot 2019

rutherford hill merlot 2019

Lavish cherry fruit notes make this wine so easy to drink. It's a blend of 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged in French oak barrels for 20 months. The soil in the hills is rich in minerals, giving the grapes bright, floral notes.

A subtle minerality with hints of black tea leaves makes this wine a treat for the senses, with aromas of blackberry, cassis, and currants.

On the palate, red cherry, blueberry, chocolate, and spiced boysenberry flavors are joined by rich tannins.

The spicy profile of this wine makes it perfect with grilled venison, veal, ribeye beef, and any smoked dishes, including sausages and cheese.

16. Mollydooker 'The Scooter Merlot' 2018

mollydooker the scooter merlot 2018

Our favorite Merlot for under $30 has a bright cherry and violet nose with a subtle hint of fresh plum.

Plush and vibrant, it has soft tannins and a rounded mouthfeel – just what you'd expect from the excellent Mollydooker winery!

The grapes are produced in South Australia, enjoying a hot climate to develop incredible flavor. A nose full of bright cherry, violet, and fresh fruits leads to a plush palate with rich plum, oak, cherry soda, and vanilla custard notes.

Ripe but balanced, this wine is perfect with liver and onions, roast duck, grilled chicken, and veal, and it also works with mushroom risotto.

Recommended Merlot Under $50

We're getting into the more exclusive wines now. For most people, the best merlots under 50 are for special occasions only.

Most of these wines have a few years on them and it shows with the price tag.

15. Farella Estate Merlot 2016

farella estate merlot 2016

This beautifully balanced Merlot has enticing savory, earth, and spice notes with a medium-full body.

It's produced by family-owned vineyard Farella Estate in Napa Valley, California, and aged in neutral French oak barrels.

A bouquet of wild blackberry, cassis, and earth with a hint of sea salt leads to a palate of berry, chocolate, and spice. The finish is smooth with generous fruit and tannins giving it a lively edge. Robust, but not overbearing.

We love this wine with roasted beef, lamb chops, and pork dishes, and it also works well with fruit compote and cheesecake.

14. Merryvale Merlot 2017

merryvale merlot 2017

Merryvale Merlot 2017 is everything a Merlot should be – fruity, bold, and floral with classic varietal notes of blackberries and wildflowers. Merryvale Vineyards is based in the Napa Valley, specializing in small-batch red wines.

This exciting wine opens with aromas of black and red currant, anise, and strawberries. Blackberry, sage, oak, and smoke on the palate. Balanced acidity and soft tannins make it a pleasant sipping wine you can enjoy anytime.

Try this wine with a classic sirloin, braised beef, grilled lamb, Mediterranean vegetables, and portobello mushrooms.

Related: These red wine cocktail recipes aren't to be missed!

13. Rombauer Merlot 2018

rombauer merlot 2018

With cherry and ripe plum flavors, hints of mint, and plush tannins, this Merlot is a perfect pairing with stews. It's produced by Rombauer Vineyards in Napa Valley, California, with grapes from one of the longest harvests on record.

Sophisticated black cherry, stewed plum, dark chocolate, and mint aromas give this wine a rich bouquet.

It's bursting with red and black currant, fig, date, plum, and chocolate flavors, with bright acidity and a medium finish.

Rack of lamb, spareribs, roast duck, seafood gumbo, and risotto pair well with this wine, and it's delicious as a sipping wine too.

12. Silverado Mt. George Merlot 2018

silverado mt. george merlot 2018

Produced with grapes from the colder region of east Napa, California, Silverado Mt. George Merlot 2018 has rich tannins and a mineral profile. It's a bold and chalky wine with flavors of mulberry, blackberry, and graphite.

Opening the bottle, aromas of blackberries, chalk, pencil shavings, and a snipping of oak fill the air.

A palate of cherry and plum. The wine is aged 16 months in French oak barrels, giving it hints of smoke, dried bay leaf, sweet clove, and tobacco.

This wine is perfect with pork chops, lamb chops, sirloin, and mushroom dishes, and the bold character brings the best out in garlic dishes.

11. Chateau Marsau 2018

chateau marsau 2018

Our favorite Merlot for under $50 is a cracker. Chateau Marsau 2018 is produced in Cotes de Francs, Bordeaux, France, by Chateau Marsau. Merlot is unique to this region, growing in grey clay soils that promote a long harvest.

Aromas of red cherry, blackberry, clove, and olive oil follow to a full body, with a palate of pure red fruit. Fine tannins and toasted coffee on the mid-palate give this wine depth, with a floral finish with hints of tobacco.

Beautifully balanced with fresh acidity, this wine is delightful with veal, venison, salted beef, portobello mushrooms, and truffles.

Related: We recommend the best Chardonnays for less than $20.

Recommended Merlot Under $100

We're getting into nosebleed territory here! These expensive Merlots have amazing reputations and are considered to be some of the best Merlot wines around. Just be careful carrying that bottle home!

10. Pedestal Merlot 2017

pedestal merlot 2017

This exquisite Merlot has a soft profile with rich, fruity flavors. It is a blend of 82% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 3% Petit Verdot, with the Petit Verdot adding fresh tannins and an earthiness not found in pure Merlot.

Aromas of nutmeg, leafy herbs, cherry, and blackberry are joined by flavors of blackberry jam, spice, oak, spiced plum, chocolate, and cigar box. The dark, moody palate is a pleasure, and the long finish has hints of fresh fruit.

We adore this wine with duck breast, game, lamb chops, and hearty casseroles, and it's also robust enough for spicy food.

9. Petrolo Galatrona 2019

petrolo galatrona 2019

Petrolo Galatrona 2019 is an intense, full-bodied red wine made exclusively with Merlot grapes from the Galatrona-Feriale vineyard. It's a classic Merlot, with an explosion of rich fruit, violet, and black cherries.

A soft, smooth mouthfeel makes this a great sipping wine. Aromas of blackberry, blackcurrant, and lavender lead to flavors of black plum, red berries, strawberry, and a hint of herbs, with a bright, mineral finish.

We like this wine best on its own, but it pairs beautifully with hearty Italian dishes like ribollita, polenta, and lasagna.

8. PlumpJack Merlot 2018

plumpjack merlot 2018

This is an interesting Merlot blend with 4% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Malbec. Bright tannins and complex notes of black cherry and cut flowers give it excellent depth. It's made by PlumpJack Winery in the Oakville region of Napa Valley, California.

We enjoy this wine's bouquet of black cherry, cut flowers, plum, and tobacco, but it's the palate that wows the most, with decadent blackberry, stewed plums, hints of cigar box, and black pepper. A long, soft finish completes the show.

PlumpJack Merlot 2018 is great with oysters Rockefeller, ribeye steak, and filet mignon served with a generous splash of peppercorn sauce.

7. Barone Ricasoli Casalferro 2015

barone ricasoli casalferro 2015

Barone Ricasoli Casalferro 2015 is an intense Merlot with smoky, nutty flavors and a blue fruit finish.

It's one of the pepperiest wines on this list, yet it's also perfectly balanced with a plumy profile oozing with freshness.

Black nuts, allspice, licorice, stewed plum, and cherry on the nose lead to blackberry, cherry, plum, and a gently smoked palate. The mid-palate adds tobacco and raspberry, two contrasting tones that work together beautifully.

We recommend this wine with earthy and herby foods like truffles, Fiorentina steak, Napoletana pizza, and risotto.

6. Hourglass Blueline Vineyard Merlot 2019

hourglass blueline vineyard merlot 2019

Hourglass Blueline Vineyard Merlot isn't just great value – it's one of the finest Merlots we've ever tested! A bright palate, crushed stone minerality, and a supple mouthfeel make it a divine tipple fit for the fanciest tables.

Aromas of blackberry jam, nutmeg, smoke, bay leaf, and hints of truffles and earth give this wine a lush bouquet.

Concentrated red fruits and roasted nuts on the palate give way to a mid-palate of mocha and truffles. The finish has a hint of licorice.

An elegant mouthfeel and a medium-to-full body make this wine perfect for beef, veal, duck, dark chocolate, and fruit compote.

Best Merlot Wine Overall (+$100)

If price is no object, these are considered some of the greatest Merlot wines produced over the last 10 years. This is Merlot at its best! Just remember to let us know how it tasted!

5. Mt. Brave Merlot 2018

mt. brave merlot 2018

This lush, vibrant wine is aged for 22 months in oak barrels, developing a richly layered, savory profile laced with dark fruits and tobacco.

It's an exemplary wine, with chewy tannins and an aromatic nose dominated by berries and clove.

A nose of blue and red fruits, baking spice, and clove perfectly complements a palate of cherries, stewed plums, allspice, and bay leaf. Hints of tobacco and graphite with layers of berries create a powerful, refined finish.

Mt. Brave Merlot 2018 is lovely sipping wine. Try pairing it with roasted meats, dark chocolate, chocolate mousse, and toffee popcorn.

4. Tua Rita Redigaffi Toscana 2019

tua rita redigaffi toscana 2019

Priced at around $300, Tua Rita Redigaffi Toscana 2019 has the body, flavor, nose, and depth of wines that cost three times more. It stands out with rich layers of black truffles, licorice, dark cherry, and black pepper.

Regarded as one of Italy's greatest Merlots, this wine has polished aromas of violets, blackberries, and truffles, with a hint of sage. On the palate, silky tannins, ripe red fruit, blue stewed fruit, and granite, with a peppery finish.

This wine pairs perfectly with filet mignon, Pesto alla Genovese, Risotto alla Milanese, Tartufo nero, and Tiramisù.

3. Kapcsandy Family Winery State Lane Vineyard Roberta's Reserve 2015

kapcsandy family winery state lane vineyard roberta's reserve 2015

Without any doubt, this is one of the best Merlots from Napa Valley, California. Exquisite tannins, a velvety mouthfeel, and bold, fruity flavors with hints of chocolate and oak make it a stellar choice for special occasions and fine dining.

Open the bottle, and an explosion of dark plum, blueberry, mocha, anise, and cut flowers fills the air.

Fresh blue and red fruit, stewed plums on the mid-palate, and a long, layered finish with leafy herbs create a complex, lush Merlot.

Endnotes of salt, hazelnut, embers, and incense finish this incredible wine. Try it with rare steak, venison, oysters, and dark chocolate.

Related: Can chocolate wine ever really taste good? Find out in our guide.

2. Masseto 2018

masseto 2018

Masseto 2018 is the ultimate expression of luxury. It was produced with the first grapes from Masseto's new winery. Unique growing conditions in 2018 meant the grapes grew more than usual, with sugars and acidity rising slowly.

Delicate pressing and aging for 24-months in French oak barrels have produced a vintage deserving of the finest accolades. Aromas of allspice, leather, tar, and chocolate are joined by flavors of plum, oak, tobacco, and granite.

This wine is so fine and expensive (around $1,900 per bottle) that it's best enjoyed on its own or with the finest dark chocolate.

1. Le Macchiole Messorio 2017

le macchiole messorio 2017

If you've made it this far, congratulations! Le Macchiole Messorio 2017 is our top Merlot pick. At around $270 per bottle, the grapes ferment in concrete and stainless-steel tanks before being aged for 18-months in new oak barrels.

This is as pure and as complex as Tuscany Merlot's get, with aromas of plum, currants, tar, tobacco, leather, and black olives. Rich red fruit, blackberry jam, ripe tannins, and crisp acidity on the palate. Beautiful clarity with a long, decadent finish.

Try this wine with grilled flat iron steak, Mediterranean lamb, roasted pork loin, veal chop with portobello mushrooms, and pan-seared duck breast.


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About the Author Tim Edison

Tim started Wine Turtle way back in 2015.
These days he contributes to Wine Turtle (and other renowned wine publications) while continuing his wine education.
Tim's wine of the month is the Coates & Seely Reserve Brut NV (from Hampshire, England).

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