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Best Merlot

The third-most planted wine grape in the world, Merlot is popular both as a stand-alone varietal and as a blending grape. This grape is endemic to Bordeaux, France, but has been grown throughout warmer European appellations for around 200 years. Now, Merlot has made its way all over the world and is popular in the Americas, Southern Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. A relatively subtle grape with less tannin than the closely related Cabernet Sauvignon, wine made solely from Merlot grapes tends to be fruity and smooth and usually won't hold up to many years of cellaring, reaching its peak after 5 to 15 years. Of course, there are some exceptional Merlots that continue to mature for many decades.

There are two main styles of Merlot, the Old World style that makes use of earlier harvests in order to emphasize soft fruit flavors. These wines are lower in alcohol than New World style Merlots. In the New World, Merlot grapes are often left on the vines a little longer, giving them a chance to develop a more concentrated flavor and an increased sugar content. The extra sugar in the grapes does not lead to a sweet wine, but is instead metabolized by the yeast in order to make a wine with a higher alcohol content preferred by many New World drinkers. These wines have jammier flavors with an emphasis on plum and blackberry, and more soft tannins that give them more body than their Old World counterparts.

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Petrolo Galatrona

Hailing from Tuscany, an appellation in Italy that's known for producing excellent Merlot, Petrolo Galatrona is our favorite Merlot. Though it's a little on the pricey side, it's worth the extra money and really is superb. It scores in the mid to high 90's with wine critics and is well-loved by wine enthusiasts. Though it's made by an Old World vintner, this wine shows off the big fruit flavors and silky smooth tannins praised by New World wine enthusiasts. The flavors include black cherry, blackberry, and chocolate, as well as a hint of acidic olive. It's finished with a malolactic fermentation that gives it a buttery mouthfeel. Galatrona is exquisite right now but won't reach its peak for at least a few more years. It'll be at its best between 2022 and 2033.

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Kenwood Jack London Vineyard Merlot

A well-known California winery with widespread distribution at both retail stores and restaurants, Kenwood Jack London Vineyard Merlot is a great choice when it comes to New World style Merlot. This wine is herbal and fruity, with flavors of dark fruit and tobacco. The wine is quite tannic, but the tannins are so silky smooth that they go down easy on the long finish. Blended with 2 percent Cabernet Sauvignon to give the wine extra body, this is a Merlot that will hold up to rich dinners, particularly when paired with meats that are cooked with herbs. Excellent right now, this wine will continue to mature over the next few years and will be even better in 2023.

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Chateau La Fleur de Gay Pomerol

Chateau La Fleur de Gay is an incredible Merlot made in Bordeaux, France, the region that first introduced the world to this incredible grape. There's no Cabernet Sauvignon or Petit Verdot blended into this wine to take away from the fresh, soft flavor of the Merlot, allowing this grape to truly shine. Characteristic of Old World Merlot, this wine has aromas of raspberry and blueberry, with just of hint of smokey truffle. Softer and lower in alcohol than New World Merlot, this wine pairs well with white meat that can be easily overwhelmed by bigger wines.

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Liberty School Merlot

An award winning wine from the Central Coast of California, Liberty School Merlot is one of the best Merlots around, and at under $20, it's also one of the best buys. This wine is softer than many California Merlots, with aromas of strawberry, cherry, and violet, and flavors of plum, and raspberry. This wine doesn't change much in character from first sip to the end of the long finish, giving it a great consistency that makes it incredibly drinkable. The tannins are also smooth and soft enough that they don't overpower the wine.

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Frei Brothers Dry Creek Valley Merlot

Made in the classic New World style, Frei Brothers Dry Creek Valley Merlot is one of our Best Picks. This wine is made from 88 percent Merlot, with 8 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 4 percent Petite Sirah for extra structure and body. Though the Merlot grapes are blended with a couple more powerful varietals, this wine is still classic Merlot and shows off the soft, supple character of this wine. You'll taste plum and jammy blackberry in this wine, as well as subtle notes of milk chocolate and medium-roasted coffee. The aroma is also complex and well-balanced, with just a hint of sweet red licorice. It can be kept in the cellar for a couple years, but this wine is ready to drink right away.

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Tin Roof Merlot

For an excellent Merlot that's a steal, Tin Roof Merlot is a great choice. This wine is blended from grapes grown in California's coastal wine regions, which offer cool climates that help bring out the soft fruit flavors of Merlot grapes. The aroma is on the bold side, with dried berry and a hint of clean mint. The flavor has lots of big berry flavors that are perfectly complemented by earthy undertones. The tannins are incredibly soft through still pronounced, and the finish long and satiny. Aged in oak, this wine has been given ample time for the flavors to develop in complexity and it's ready to drink right away.

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Francis Coppola Diamond Merlot

Coppola may be new to the world of winemaking by European standards, but this winery has made quite the name for itself over the past two decades. The Francis Coppola Diamond Merlot is an excellent one and one of our Best Picks. Sourced from vineyards in Napa, Sonoma, and Monterey Counties, Coppola is able to choose the best grapes grown each year to make each new edition of this well-crafted, affordable wine. Like most New World Merlots, this wine has flavors of plum and raspberry, aromas of berry, vanilla, and leather, and extra-soft tannins that give it plenty of structure without the dry bite that unrestrained tannins can cause.

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