Merlot’s a classic red wine grape from Bordeaux, so you know that Merlot will pair well with your favorite meat dishes.
Meat dishes that pair with Merlot wine include savory beef dishes, like beef stew and meatloaf, and lighter dishes, like roasted chicken or chicken tacos. Heavier Merlot wines Merlot (e.g. Paso Robles) work well with heavier meals. Stick to lighter Merlots (e.g., Bordeaux) for lighter meat dishes.
What Does Merlot Taste Like?
Like all wines, the climate will influence the style of your Merlot wine. Generally speaking, there are 2 distinctive Merlot wine styles to watch out for:
- Cool Climate Merlot (e.g. Bordeaux, France): These Merlot wines will have more structured tannins and crunchy black fruit, and maybe even a slightly earthy flavor.
- Warm Climate Merlot (e.g., California, Eastern Washington, Southeast Australia): These will be jammier Merlot wines, with velvety black fruit, higher alcohol, and a smoother profile.
Helpful Tip: Here’s a 30-second tasting tip on how to taste tannins. This is a great skill to develop as you jump into red wines.
Merlot Pairing Guide for Meat
In general, Merlot wines come in two distinctive styles:
- Heavier, fuller-bodied, softer tannins
- Lighter, higher acid, grippier tannins
Heavier styles of Merlot will stand up to the layered richness of red meats, smoked flavors (think BBQ), and savory gravies.
Lighter styles of Merlot will complement more delicate flavors of white meat, herbal rubs, and mild spices.
Helpful Tip: Here’s everything you need to know about Merlot wine if you’re just starting out.
When you think about your Merlot and meat pairings, start with either the food or the wine, and then match the other with what you’re going for.
Check out these meat dishes that go well with Merlot wine.
Merlot Meat Pairing #1: Smoked Kielbasa and Sauerkraut
Savor the smoky delight of smoked kielbasa intertwining with tangy sauerkraut, perfectly accompanied by the captivating allure of Merlot.
The warm, full-bodied style of this wine complements the robust flavors of the kielbasa, infused with the essence of wood smoke.
Merlot’s dark fruit profile, with its richness and complexity, enhances the savory intensity of the dish, creating a symphony of flavors that leaves a lasting impression.
- Pairs Best With: Look for a warm climate Merlot that has a fuller body to pair with the heavier flavor and texture profile of smoked Kielbasa. Napa County in California, Columbia Valley in Washington, or the Central Valley in Chile all work.
Merlot Meat Pairing # 2: Italian Meatball Soup
Soup fans, anyone? The comfort of traditional Italian meatball soup harmonizes well with Merlot.
Little flavor bombs of spiced meatballs immersed in a hearty broth find their perfect match in the wine’s warm, full-bodied style.
Body and soul, people. Body and soul.
- Pairs Best With: You’ll want a full-bodied Merlot with generous dark fruit flavors and well-integrated tannins. Seek out Merlots from regions such as California’s Central Coast, the Veneto region in Italy, or Argentina’s Mendoza.
Easy Merlot Meat Pairing # 3: Classic Meatloaf
A classic American meatloaf begs to be paired with Merlot. Herbs, fat, and tangy sauce work well with Merlot’s softer, plushier styles.
Meatloaf and Merlot Mondays, anyone?
- Pairs Best With: Meatloaf needs a heavier style of Merlot to help it out. Check out Merlots from Paso Robles in California, Walla Walla Valley in Washington, or Tuscany in Italy.
Merlot Meat Pairing # 4: Shepherd’s Pie
Shepherd’s pie has ground meat, tomatoes, carrots, and onions neatly tucked under a browned blanket of mashed potatoes.
Feel free to substitute ground turkey for this recipe if you’re trying to eat healthy(er).
Helpful Tip: Check out this post that explores where Merlot wines are grown around the world.
The comforting layers of seasoned meat, vegetables, and creamy mashed potatoes find their perfect companion in a glass of Merlot.
- Pairs Best With: Again, stick with those warmer growing regions, like Napa Valley, Paso Robles, or the Central Valley. Even a generic California “Merlot” will work with this one.
Delicious Merlot Meat Pairing # 5: Roasted Chicken
Whether you pick up a pre-cooked roasted chicken at the grocer or make it homemade, roasted chicken always works with Merlot.
Use your favorite herbal rub to add layers of earthy flavor that will compliment Merlot’s plummy goodness.
Personal Note: Merlot and roasted chicken is a regular meal rotation in our house. This is a beautiful pairing.
- Pairs Best With: Thanks to chicken’s leaner white meat, you can opt for a warm climate or cooler climate Merlot. Any style of Merlot will work. Go have fun!
Merlot Meat Pairing # 6: Beef Stew
Beef stew is a heavier dish with those tender chunks of beef, simmered with aromatic vegetables and savory spices.
Like other beef dishes, beef stew works well with Merlot thanks to its protein and fat-rich components.
- Pairs Best With: Stick with warmer climate Merlots, like a generic California Merlot, a Central Valley Merlot from Chile, or even a Merlot from San Juan, Argentina or Southeastern Australia.
Merlot Meat Pairing # 7: Grilled Ribeye Steak
When pairing Merlot with meat, you’ll want to think about the fat content. Richer, heavier meats, like a marbled ribeye steak, will hold up to heavier styles of Merlot wine.
The charred exterior of the steak provides a delectable contrast to the wine’s smoothness.
Helpful Tip: Love Merlot? Check out this Merlot and Cheese pairing guide.
Tannin and acid will cut through fat, which helps cleanse and refresh your palate.
- Pairs Best With: Heavier styles of Merlot wine. Look for Merlot wines from Eastern Washington, California, Argentina, and Southeastern Australia. Look for Alcohol levels 13%+ as a good clue.
Merlot Meat Pairing # 8: Braised Short Ribs
Braised short ribs are another winning Merlot and meat pairing idea. You have protein and fat that always work well with red wines.
Go for slow-cooked short ribs.
Deep, layers of flavors can enhance Merlot’s dark fruit profile.
Helpful Tip: If you love spicy rubs on your ribs, be careful when it comes to wine pairing! Chili spice can exacerbate the alcohol in wines, especially if they’re already higher alcohol, like a warm climate Merlot. Stick with low-heat rubs when pairing Merlot with meat.
Merlot Meat Pairing # 9: Salisbury Steak
Salisbury steak is essentially a grilled hamburger patty with gravy. Add fried onions, a side of peas, and some mashed potatoes or fries and you have a hearth meat-and-potatoes meal.
Personal Note: Salisbury steaks were my grandfather’s favorite Friday night indulgence. With a glass of Merlot, it’s all about simple comforts.
- Pairs Best With: Is it beef? Yup! Go for a warm climate Merlot. You know the drill: Eastern Washington, California, Southeastern Australia. All of these will work with your thrifty date night dinner.
Easy Merlot Meat Pairing # 10: Chicken Tacos
If you have leftover chicken from your roasted chicken, or have a favorite taco place, then all you need next is a bottle of Merlot.
Take the tortillas and add lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, cheese, guacamole – whatever your fancy.
Helpful Tip: Stick with mild seasonings and mild salsa (chile verde works well). Chili heat can exacerbate tannin and alcohol in your Merlot.
- Pairs Best With: Look for lighter styles of Merlot with vibrant acidity and crunchy plum and bramble. Bordeaux, Coastal California, and Sonoma will all work.
Easy Merlot Meat Pairing # 11: Pastrami Sandwich
Pastrami on rye is a quick and simple Merlot pairing idea. Whether you construct your own or pick up a sandwich from your favorite deli, the robust flavors of a pastrami sandwich unite with the captivating allure of Merlot.
Pastrami delivers salt, smoke, fat, and a savory earthiness that works every time. This is simple pairing celebrates the pleasures found in the perfect union of flavors.
- Best Paired With: Warm climate Merlot wines. Generic “California” Merlot, Southeastern Australia, Central Valley Chile.
Delicious Merlot Meat Pairing # 12: Flank Steak
Typically flank steaks are marinated and grilled. It’s a thin slice of meat that’s known for being chewy and delicious.
Flavorful marinades from soy sauce, mustard, or even garlic will work well with Merlot.
- Pairs Best With: Stick with those full bodied Merlots for this pairing. Look for Merlots from regions like California’s Napa Valley or Paso Robles, or even Southeastern Australia.
Delicious Merlot Meat Pairing #13: Chicken Fried Steak
Greasy American, anyone? Chicken fried steak with its crispy, subtly spiced breading and rich, meaty interior give Merlot a bold flavor combination to work with. You may want add some ketchup or blue cheese sauce.
- Pairs Best With: Honestly? I’d recommend an inexpensive, generic Merlot from Southeastern Australia. Get yourself a critter wine and call it a day. (Critter wines have animals on the labels). If you’re looking for something a little classier, go for Columbia Valley, Washington, Central Valley, Chile, or even a Paso Robles bottle of Merlot.
Best Merlot Meat Pairing #14: Roast Beef with Red Wine Reduction
If you’re looking to indulge and have the time for a more involved menu, a classic roast beef and Merlot pairing is what you want. Throw in some of your wine to make a red wine reduction and you’re on your way to an amazing meal.
Love Merlot? Here’s what you need to know about aging and cellaring Merlot wine.
Merlot’s acid and tannins will combine beautifully with the tender, juicy slices of beef, cooked to perfection.
The red wine reduction with roast beef mirrors the flavors in your Merlot wine, elevating both the meat and your wine.
- Pairs Best With: Find yourself a full-bodied Merlot. Look for Merlots hailing from regions such as California’s Napa Valley, Australia’s Coonawarra, or Italy’s Bolgheri.
Final Thoughts – Best Meat Pairings for Merlot
The perfect meat and Merlot combinations have to start with the dish. Think about the dominant flavors and whether the meal will be on the heavier side (beef, gravies, starch), or on the lighter side (herbs and white meat).
- Pair heavier meat dishes with fuller-bodied Merlot wines that deliver opulent, velvety ripe fruit.
- Pair lighter meat dishes with lighter styles of Merlot that forefront crunchy fruit and higher acid.
It’s 100% worth experimenting with Merlot wines from different regions to understand just how versatile this friendly red wine is.
With so many Merlot pairing recommendations for meat, it’s worth taking your time to learn about the different wine styles and flavor combinations; soon you’ll be pairing your Merlot and meat like a pro.
Thirsty for More?
Food and wine pairing is something of an art, which is why I put together this quick food and wine pairing guide to get you started.
Love Merlot as much as me? Check out these other wines that are similar (but distinctive and delicious) to Merlot.
Okay. I know you just came here looking for Merlot and meat pairings, but if you have a vegetarian in your life (or even high cholesterol), then head over to this post that covers delicious Merlot and vegetarian pairing options.
Check out this post that gives you a good idea of how much you should be spending on your next bottle of Merlot wine.
I love Merlot because of its versatility, but Malbecs also offer something similar. Check out this post on the difference between Merlot and Malbec wines.
Need inspiration? Check out this post for ultimate list of finger foods for wine tasting (for red and white wines).