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The 20 Best Merlots for 2024

Merlot, one of Bordeaux’s most important red wine grapes, is finally making a comeback here in the U.S. after being trashed by Paul Giamatti’s wine snob, Miles, in “Sideways.” This fictional character’s remarks are credited with a notable drop in Merlot sales, but hey, it’s been almost 20 years since its release. It’s about time to put the hate aside and start celebrating what the variety has to offer.

With soft tannins, supple fruit, and notes of blueberry and plum, Merlot is known as an easy-drinking wine. It can play well with a variety of foods or also act as a companion during long vibe sessions with friends. This list showcases some of the best on the market and we’re excited to share them with you. You will find wines from the variety’s home in Bordeaux, but also elegant expressions from California as well as a nod to the style of Washington State.

Here are 20 of the best Merlots for 2024.

Best Merlots Under $25

Château Recougne Bordeaux Supérieur 2020

Right Bank, Bordeaux, France. Land of the powerful yet elegant reds dominated by Merlot. This bottle is 78 percent Merlot with a sprinkle of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, and offers great aging potential without a galactic price tag. The wine possesses a nice, soft quality with some deep red fruit aromas. The palate is on the rustic side and works well with the rich core of fruit and edgy tannins. It may need another year to soften a bit, but can also be decanted and consumed now. Hell, buy a case.

Average price: $19
Rating: 90

Wagner Vineyards Estate Winery Merlot 2020

Wagner has been making wine on the banks of Seneca Lake since 1979. Today it is one of the largest wineries in the Finger Lakes. It is also one of the most experienced with the unique cool, nay, cold-climate growing zone. This wine shows that Merlot is doing just fine growing beside the region’s ancient glacial lakes. The aromas are subtle with some plum and baker’s chocolate and a hint of cherries. It’s all about texture on the palate with punchy, bright fruit that’s lifted by the bracing acidity.

Average price: $20
Rating: 90

Best Merlots Under $50

Château Tour Bayard Montagne-Saint-Émilion 2020

Bordeaux’s esteemed Saint-Émilion region is known for its Merlot-dominated blends. Just north of the old city are four satellite regions with separate names attached to them. This one is from Montagne-St.-Émilion and is made with 80 percent Merlot. The nose is mineral-forward with some hints of brambly berries and earth. The palate is soft yet a little rustic with a slight tannic edge. This is a great weeknight bottle of Bordeaux.

Average price: $25
Rating: 90

Charles Krug Napa Valley Merlot 2022

Walk up any wine store’s Merlot section, and there’s a good chance you’ll see this bottle. It’s in almost all of the supermarket shops. And it’s a success. It’s not the most complex wine, but for the price you are getting proper, solid Merlot that will please a crowd. The nose is subtle, but balanced with some brambly blackberry and pepper notes. The palate is soft and even with a plush mouthfeel.

Average price: $30
Rating: 90

Markham Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot 2021

Markham has been making Merlot since 1980. Mad respect to the winemakers Bryan Del Bondio and now head winemaker Kimberlee Nicholls — a pioneering woman winemaker in Napa Valley — for sticking with this variety through its ups and downs, showing how supple and delicious it can be. It has an earthy nose with pops of blueberries and cherries and balanced oak aromas. The palate is soft, juicy, and even with a plush mouthfeel and good acidity to lift the fruit.

Average price: $30
Rating: 90

McIntyre Vineyards Kimberly Merlot 2019

We’ve been loving this Merlot from Monterey County, Calif., for a few vintages now and it just keeps getting better. It has soft, earthy blueberries and soil on the nose with flecks of pepper. The palate is plush and round with great acidity and fleshy fruit to match. A very inviting and soulful Merlot.

Average price: $34
Rating: 94

Château des Ormeaux Lalande-de-Pomerol 2020

Bordeaux’s Lalande-de-Pomerol region, inland from the Gironde estuary, is a special place. It offers wonderful, elegant wines with a welcome rustic edge. (And they are often less expensive than wines from more prestigious surrounding areas.) This bottle has a welcoming nose that’s expressive yet subtle with present notes of blueberries, October leaves, and a hint of cherries. The palate is delicate with a lithe tannic edge and good acidity balancing the fruit with a nice bitter touch on the finish.

Average price: $35
Rating: 93

Garre Winery Merlot 2019

East of San Francisco lies Alameda County, where the warm and windy Livermore Valley AVA sits. The Garre Family, initially from Genoa, Italy, came here in the mid-19th century to bring their winemaking skills, and this juicy Merlot definitely matches that warm, breezy vibe. It has bright and punchy fruit with ripe blueberries and a leathery undertone. The palate is soft and fleshy with a juicy mouthfeel and even balance between acidity and fruit. Plush and delicious.

Average price: $36
Rating: 90

Fenestra Winery Merlot 2020

Another Livermore AVA Merlot on the list and we couldn’t be happier. It appears that this variety loves the combination of warm, Central Valley heat and the cool, breezy marine air. Merlot lovers should take notice of Livermore Valley. Mocha-covered cherries with a tart pop of cranberry on the nose. The palate is soft and fleshy with a slight spike of heat from the high-ish alcohol, which adds a nice contrast to the juiciness.

Average price: $39
Rating: 91

Macari Vineyards Merlot 2021

Macari Vineyards has been a leader in advocating for more sustainable viticulture in the state of New York for years. This Merlot is unique and shows their love for the land. The nose has a distinct floral note bordering on rose petals and brambly berries layered beneath. The palate is a defining standard for Merlot on the North Fork of Long Island. Soft and grippy with wonderful concentrated fruit and supportive acidity. So damn good.

Average price: $40
Rating: 93

Kokomo Winery Pauline’s Vineyard Merlot 2021

We are seeing a theme here with very skilled winemakers producing excellent single-vineyard Merlot — and we’re here for it. This is the work of Erik Miller and his growing partner Randy Peters, both who you may find at their tasting room in Sonoma waxing on and off about history and wine science, and it’s so right. Peppery blueberry fruit with some soil and balsamic on the nose. The palate is big and deep. The alcohol is prominent but it doesn’t overwhelm the wine.

Average price: $44
Rating: 93

Château Boutisse Saint-Émilion Grand Cru 2020

Here’s a bottle from Bordeaux that you can buy a few of and watch it age over the next three or four years. Because it needs some time. But where it’s at now is showing a preview of the awesomeness to come in the next several months or years. Rich yet subtle nose with the slightest hint of roasted herbs along with quiet notes of cassis and brambles. The palate is quite tannic and still aging but coming along nicely.

Average price: $45
Rating: 93

Matanzas Creek Alexander Valley Merlot 2021

You’ve seen this label many times in the wine shops across the U.S. It’s a readily available wine on our market and that’s such a good thing. Mantanza’s Creek in Alexander Valley, Sonoma, has been making Merlot since the first “Ghostbusters” movie came out in 1984, so they know a bit about his grape. The nose is shy but shows some cherries and a hint of cassis. The palate is soft and supple.

Average price: $45
Rating: 90

Northstar Merlot 2021

You may know Washington State for its Cab or Riesling, but in the ‘90s it was all Merlot all day. Northstar was on the ground floor in 1994 working with this variety and it shows. It has dark, ripe fruit with blueberries and soil on the nose. There’s a rich palate and a tannic edge with deep fruit that is calmed by good natural acidity.

Average price: $45
Rating: 90

Best Merlots Under $100

Long Meadow Ranch Napa Valley Merlot 2019

Long Meadow Ranch makes several different Merlot expressions in Napa Valley — two of which are featured on this list — and these wines remind us why we fell in love with this variety in the U.S. This is the more approachable bottling, crafted from vineyards on its two Napa Valley estates. These wines set the standard for balanced and expressive Merlot. The nose has a slight hint of earth with a quiet leafy note that’s balanced by a brambly blueberry aroma with flecks of black pepper. The nose alone will make you swoon (cry?) but the palate takes it to the next level. It’s so balanced with a beautiful fruit concentration and lithe tannic frame. The mouthfeel is fleshy and inviting. Readers, this is the Merlot to get you back into Merlot.

Average price: $50
Rating: 94

Murrieta’s Well Merlot 2021

You may know the Wente family from their namesake wine label, but they also own Murrieta’s Well and have since 1940. This property began with vine cuttings from Château Margaux. The descendants of those vines still grow in their soil today. This Merlot has deep fruit on the nose with aromas of red and blue fruit in unison. On the palate, the fruit is bold but balanced by the abundant acidity.

Average price: $65
Rating: 90

Pride Mountain Vineyards Merlot 2021

The Pride Mountain land is pretty interesting in that it was acquired before California drew the Sonoma and Napa County lines. What that means is they make wine from fruit atop a mountain that straddles both counties.The nose is ripe and woodsy with some plum and cedar notes. The palate is soft with a slight tannic grip.

Average price: $69
Rating: 90

Château Lafleur-Gazin Pomerol 2020

This vineyard in Pomerol on the Right Bank of Bordeaux has been producing Merlot fruit since 1976. It shows just how expressive and elegant a wine from this variety can be — and is worth every penny. A splurge is in order here. It has a soft and earthy nose of soil, balsamic, and a hint of oak. The palate is elegant and aging well with a fleshy, supple mouthfeel that’s slightly contrasted by a welcome hint of bitterness on the finish. A wonderful expression of this wine’s sense of place.

Average price: $70
Rating: 94

Best Merlots Over $100

Duckhorn Vineyards Three Palms Vineyard Merlot 2021

Duckhorn is one of the most foundational wine brands of Napa Valley. It came on the scene in the late ’70s, before there was even an AVA system, and made a name for Merlot from the Three Palms Vineyard. It offers rich, savory fruit notes with aromas of blueberries and balsamic with flecks of pepper. The palate is soft yet powerful with extreme depth and great structure provided by grippy tannins.

Average price: $115
Rating: 94

Long Meadow Ranch E.J. Church Merlot 2021

Long Meadow Ranch is proving Miles from 2004’s “Sideways” wrong all day long. This Merlot is not only mind blowing now, but it’s still aging — and it’s only going to get better. The grapes come from a small plot nestled on a hillside just behind the winery, and are the first to be harvested from the Mountain Estate each year. The nose is soft and earthy with a lean and balanced note of blueberries and soil. It’s still aging with a tannic frame that will soon melt into the wine. The palate has good fruit that wants to emerge once the tannin subsides slightly. A great Merlot to watch age.

Average price: $135
Rating: 95


What kind of wine is Merlot?

Merlot is a red wine known for being soft, ripe, elegant, and easy to drink. It originated in the Bordeaux region of France and is the second most popular red grape in America after Cabernet Sauvignon.

Is Merlot a good wine for beginners?

Merlot is often recommended as one of the first varieties someone new to red wine should drink due to its approachability, plummy taste, and soft characteristics.

Is Merlot a strong wine?

Merlot wines typically contain around 13.5 percent ABV but can approach 14.5 percent and beyond, especially when grown in the warmer climates of Australia, California, or Chile.

VinePair’s tasting methodology

Throughout the year, VinePair conducts numerous tastings for our popular Buy This Booze column, and wine and spirits reviews. Our mission is to provide a clear, reliable source of information for drinkers, providing an overview applicable to day-to-day buying and drinking.

Tastings are not typically conducted blind. In alignment with our reviews mission, we believe in purposefully tasting all products as our readers typically would, with full knowledge of the producer, the region, and — importantly — the price.

For Buy This Booze roundups, we typically include a maximum of one expression per brand, though we do allow multiple products from the same production facility (i.e., released under different labels).

The article The 20 Best Merlots for 2024 appeared first on VinePair.

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