10 Best Merlot Wines Under $30 (2021)

Best Merlot Wines Under $30 Featured

“Wine is bottled poetry” – Robert Louis Stevenson

When it comes to pouring a glass of red wine, it’s hard to look past Merlot. Whether you’re hosting a party or celebrating Thanksgiving or sitting with your family for a Sunday night dinner, Merlot is your trusted wine to use and you can’t go wrong with it. Merlot is one of the most popular red wine alternatives in the market today. The wine gets its name from the French word “merle” meaning blackbird. It made its debut in France during the 18th century and became a staple in many people’s wine cabinets and cellars back then.

Today, it continues to be one of the most popular red wine varietals around the world. Merlot wine is a deep red color with a strong aroma of black cherry, plum, and vanilla. This wine has an elegant and full body with rich fruit flavors and a pleasantly woody finish. We hope this article will help you pick the best Merlot wine under $30.


Best Merlot Wines Under $30

Best Overall Best Value Best Under $25 Best From California Best From Washington Best From Australia Best From France Best From Chile Best From Italy Best From South Africa
Bottle
Name The Prisoner Thorn Merlot Textbook Merlot Markham Vineyards Merlot Stags’ Leap Merlot L’Ecole No 41 Merlot Mollydooker The Scooter Merlot Château Lyonnat Emotion Lussac-Saint-Émilion Marques de Casa Concha Merlot Venica & Venica Merlot De Grendel Merlot
Color Red Red Red Red Red Red Red Red Red Red
Country United States United States United States United States United States Australia France Chile Italy South Africa
Grapes Merlot, Syrah, Petit Syrah, Malbec Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Merlot, Petit Syrah Merlot Merlot Merlot Merlot Merlot Merlot
Taste Dark Fruits, Blackberry, Black Cherry, Chocolate, Oak Dried Raspberries, Dark Plums, Vanilla, Spice Black Cherry, Black Plum, Chocolate, Tobacco, Mint Plum, Blackberry, Chocolate, Oak Blueberry, Cherry, Plum, Licorice, Baking Spice Dark Plum, Blackberry, Black Cherry, Vanilla, Lavender Blackcurrant, Blackberry, Vanilla, Spice, Oak Cherry, Blackberry, Tobacco, Vanilla, Oak, Pepper Cherry, Plum, Blueberry, Blackberry, Violet, Mint Plum, Mulberry, Raspberry, Cedar, Chocolate
Food Pairing Flank Steak, Curry, Meaty Stews, Roasted Vegetables, Cocoa Desserts Beef BBQ, Roast Lamb, Burger, Braised Venison Crab Cakes, Italian Chicken, Mushroom Dishes, Pork Chops, Beef Tenderloin Grilled Meat, Chicken Parmesan, Rabbit Casseroles, Seared Salmon Bison Carpaccio, Beef Brisket, Tenderloin, Dark Chocolate Confit De Canard, Grilled Reuben Sandwich, Lobster Fra Diablo, L-Bone Steak Tenderloin Burger, Mushroom Risotto, Roasted Lamb, Duck Confit Beef Wellington, Braised Pork Ribs, Deer Tenderloin, Filet Mignon Deer Ravioli, Lean Meat Cuts, Meaty Pasta, Angus Beef Spicy Indian Food, Hearty Meat Dishes, Roasted Turkey, Duck Breast
Alcohol Content 15.3% 13.3% 14.6% 14.5% 14.5% 17% 14% 14% 13.5% 14.5%
Sugar Content Dry Dry Dry Dry Dry Dry Dry Dry Dry Dry
Our Rating 4.7 out of 5 stars (4.7 / 5) 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5) 4.4 out of 5 stars (4.4 / 5) 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5) 4.4 out of 5 stars (4.4 / 5) 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5) 4.3 out of 5 stars (4.3 / 5) 4.4 out of 5 stars (4.4 / 5) 4.3 out of 5 stars (4.3 / 5) 4.3 out of 5 stars (4.3 / 5)
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Best Overall

  • Name — The Prisoner Thorn Merlot
  • Winery — The Prisoner
  • Country/Region — United States, California, Napa Valley
  • Type — Californian Merlot
  • Aroma — Dark Fruit, Caramel, Rose, Vanilla, Coffee
  • Grapes — Merlot, Syrah, Petit Syrah, Malbec
  • Taste — Dark Fruits, Blackberry, Black Cherry, Chocolate, Oak
  • Alcohol Content — 15.3%
  • Sugar — Dry
  • Pairing — Flank Steak, Curry, Meaty Stews, Roasted Vegetables, Cocoa Desserts
Overall Rating: 4.7

Positives
  • Very Drinkable
  • Smooth Taste
  • Sleek And Powerful
Negatives
  • Fairly High Alcohol Content

About

The Prisoner Wine Company was started in 1997 by Dave Phinney, who had been a winemaker for over 20 years. The name was inspired by a painting by Spanish artist Francisco de Goya which was given to him as a child. Phinney then sold the brand to Constellation who now operates the Prisoner brand as the Prisoner Wine Company.

Preparation

The grapes for this wine are sourced from several vineyards within Napa Valley. It’s made from 80% Merlot and a 20% blend of Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Malbec. The wine starts to show its complexity after three or four years have passed and it has been stored properly – this is when the tannins start to soften up, as well as the other elements of the wine itself.

Taste

The Prisoner Thorn Merlot is a delightfully robust red wine and one of the top-rated Merlot under $30. Its velvety and smooth mouthfeel and complexity provide an immense amount of deliciousness, and the rich fruit flavors are balanced out by spicy undertones. It has a deep purple color and an aroma of cocoa, blackberry, cedar, cherries, and violets. The tasting notes are rich and round with hints of black cherry, oak, plum, vanilla, chocolate mocha, licorice, spice box, and a cinnamon finish. There are high levels of acidity and tannin that balances beautifully with the sweetness of fruit to deliver a long finish. This amazing wine is possibly the best American merlot under $30.


Best Value

  • Name — Textbook Merlot
  • Winery — Alexander Valley Estate
  • Country/Region — United States, California, Napa Valley
  • Type — Californian Merlot
  • Aroma — Blackberry, Black Cherry, Dried Figs, Vanilla
  • Grapes — Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Taste — Dried Raspberries, Dark Plums, Vanilla, Spice
  • Alcohol Content — 13.3%
  • Sugar — Dry
  • Pairing — Beef BBQ, Roast Lamb, Burger, Braised Venison
Overall Rating: 4.5

Positives
  • Well-Balanced
  • Smooth Mouthfeel
  • Fairly Bold
Negatives
  • Needs To Age A Bit

About

Textbook Merlot is made in Rutherford, CA, and is one of the top Merlot wines under $30. The company was established in 2004 and is run by prominent industry professionals Jonathan and Susan Pey. Textbook’s philosophy is to produce wines that are expressive of their vines’ terroir, highlighting the specificity of their unique site.

Preparation

Textbook Merlot is made of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged in French oak barrels, this wine displays aromas of cassis, black cherry, chocolate, and vanilla. It also has notes of black pepper with flavors dominated by dark fruit and spice (from the French oak).

Taste

Textbook Merlot is full-bodied and has a deep purple color. Its aromas are fruity which can be blackberry, strawberry, or raspberry. Textbook Merlot has an intense perfume, with a richness that is refined. It has fruity flavors of plum tart, cherry, and raspberry on the palate. It tastes smoky with notes of plum, fruit, tobacco leaf, and black pepper. The finish is balanced and includes delicate notes of sandalwood & allspice.


Best Under $25

  • Name — Markham Vineyards Merlot
  • Winery — Markham
  • Country/Region — United States, California, North Coast, Napa County, Napa Valley
  • Type — Californian Merlot
  • Aroma — Dark Fruit, Vanilla, Oak, Spice, Plum
  • Grapes — Merlot
  • Taste — Black Cherry, Black Plum, Chocolate, Tobacco, Mint
  • Alcohol Content — 14.6%
  • Sugar — Dry
  • Pairing — Crab Cakes, Italian Chicken, Mushroom Dishes, Pork Chops, Beef Tenderloin
Overall Rating: 4.4

Positives
  • Smooth And Light Acidity
  • Very Approachable
  • Lovely Finish
Negatives
  • Slightly Too Sweet

About

Markham Vineyards was founded in 1874 by Jean Laurent after he left Bordeaux to join the California Gold Rush. In 1978, Bruce Markham, a businessman from Arizona then purchased the vineyard and 230 acres of land across Napa Valley and began to plant vines and make wines. Fast-forward to today, Markham Vineyards has expanded to be one of the largest producers of varietal wines in Central California. The vineyard has been farmed sustainably since its inception.

Preparation

The Merlot produced by Markham Vineyards is a reflection of the terroir of Napa Valley. Prior to fermentation, the grapes are sorted according to grape type, color, and degree of ripeness. The grapes are then crushed and destemmed before they are fermented with yeast for about 10 days. After fermentation, they’re aged in oak barrels for up to 18 months.

Taste

The Merlot from Markham Vineyards is the winemaker’s flagship product and one of the best merlot under $25. It starts off sweet and smooth before turning to a slightly bitter flavor that lingers in the throat. It has the aromas of layers of dark fruit, spice, leather, tobacco, earth, and oak. Taste-wise, it is both fruity and floral, with hints of cloves, blackberries, and plums mixed in with vanilla bean, caramelized sugar, black pepper, and oak flavors.


Best From California

  • Name — Stags’ Leap Merlot
  • Winery — Stags’ Leap
  • Country/Region — United States, California, Napa Valley
  • Type — Californian Merlot
  • Aroma — Black Fruit, Plums, Vanilla, Licorice, Coffee
  • Grapes — Merlot, Petit Syrah
  • Taste — Plum, Blackberry, Chocolate, Oak
  • Alcohol Content — 14.5%
  • Sugar — Dry
  • Pairing — Grilled Meat, Chicken Parmesan, Rabbit Casseroles, Seared Salmon
Overall Rating: 4.5

Positives
  • Surprising Depth
  • Smooth Tannins
  • Lovely Texture
Negatives
  • Slightly Overpriced

About

So besides the other Californian wines that we have in our list, here is the Stags’ Leap Merlot. Stags’ Leap has a rich history with multiple owners owning the vineyard dating back to 1872. The vineyard was purchased by restaurateur Carl Doumani in 1970 and in 1996 he sold the property to Beringer, now known as Treasury Wine Estates. The Stags’ Leap vineyard in the district known as the Stags’ Leap Palisades or simply the Stags’ Leap District produces wines that are expressive of its special terroir. They use an enduring and unique winemaking technique while incorporating modern capabilities.

Preparation

Stags’ Leap Merlot is made from 86% Merlot, 6% Petite Sirah, 5% Malbec, 1% Petit Verdot, 2% Mixed Red. The Merlot grapes undergo a 2 to 3-week maceration process. This process helps extract ideal flavor, color, and tannin from the skins. This Merlot is aged in high-quality French oak barrels for 16 months. The percentage of new oak is down to 35% which imparts a level of structure and agreeability with a hint of flavor complexity on the fresh fruits.

Taste

Stags’ Leap Merlot produces aromas of blackberry, blueberry, cherry, black pepper, and cocoa. It has a robust structure with flavors of blackberry, plum, blackcurrant, and other red and black fruit flavors on the palate with pepper and cedar notes and currant jam followed by notes of blueberry and cherry. It is a well-balanced wine with rich texture and velvet tannins that leads to a long finish. If you are looking for good Merlot under $30, this is a great choice.


Best From Washington

  • Name — L’Ecole No 41 Merlot
  • Winery — L’Ecole No 41
  • Country/Region — United States, Washington, Columbia Valley
  • Type — Washington State Merlot
  • Aroma — Rose Petals, Black Cherry, Raspberry, Plum
  • Grapes — Merlot
  • Taste — Blueberry, Cherry, Plum, Licorice, Baking Spice
  • Alcohol Content — 14.5%
  • Sugar — Dry
  • Pairing — Bison Carpaccio, Beef Brisket, Tenderloin, Dark Chocolate
Overall Rating: 4.4

Positives
  • Fairly Complex
  • Balanced Acidity
  • Lovely Finish
Negatives
  • Maybe A Tad Too Earthy

About

L’Ecole No. 41 is a third-generation family-owned winery that was founded in 1983 and has been producing wine ever since. It is located in the Frenchtown School area in the Walla Walla valley. The focus of the company is to produce premium wine based on the unmistakable nature of Washington State and the unique terroir of their Walla Walla Valley vineyards.

Preparation

The L’Ecole Merlot begins with grapes being harvested and brought into contact with their grape skin, which helps to release more flavor. The grapes are then fermented in oak barrels, which produces a deep color, a rich body & an intense taste.

Taste

The L’Ecole No 41 Merlot has notes of ripe plums and subtle oak. It’s a red wine that has character without being too heavy, with aromas of rose petals, black cherry, plum, and raspberry. The wine has lingering tastes of baking spices and cocoa with a finish of fine-grained tannins. The wine is lively and easy to drink but still has hints of firmness in the structure that makes it an ideal pairing for most foods.


Best From Australia

  • Name — Mollydooker The Scooter Merlot
  • Winery — Mollydooker
  • Country/Region — Australia, South Australia, Fleurieu, McLaren Vale
  • Type — Australian Merlot
  • Aroma — Blackberry, Black Cherry, Raspberry, Plum, Oak
  • Grapes — Merlot
  • Taste — Dark Plum, Blackberry, Black Cherry, Vanilla, Lavender
  • Alcohol Content — 17%
  • Sugar — Dry
  • Pairing — Confit De Canard, Grilled Reuben Sandwich, Lobster Fra Diablo, L-Bone Steak
Overall Rating: 4.5

Positives
  • Easy To Drink
  • Smooth
  • Lingering Finish
  • Great Acidity
Negatives
  • Could Be A Bit More Balanced

About

Mollydooker is Australian slang for “left-hander” and both owners Sarah and Sparky Marquis decided on that name because both of them are left-handed. Sarah and Sparky had a story of ups and downs until they founded Mollydooker in 2006. They finally bought land in Seaview Ridge, McLaren Vale, and that began the Mollydooker story. “The Scooter” is named after Sparky because he raced a big tire scooter in his youth.

Preparation

The grapes used in “The Scooter” are grown on the Long Gully Road vineyard in the McLaren Vale area in Australia. The Merlot grapes are fermented and matured in 93% American and 7% French oak barrels, using 33% new, 44% one-year-old, and 23% two-year-old barrels.

Taste

The Scooter Merlot is fragrant, enticing & satisfying. It has aromas full of cherries, raspberry, plum, and forest fruits. You’ll first taste sweet plum and berries that gently ease you in before they give way to mocha, spicy nutmeg, and cinnamon.


Best From France

  • Name — Château Lyonnat Emotion Lussac-Saint-Émilion
  • Winery — Château Lyonnat
  • Country/Region — France, Bordeaux, Lussac-Saint-Emillon
  • Type — French Bordeaux Saint-Émilion
  • Aroma — Prune, Plum, Raisin, Chocolate, Floral Notes
  • Grapes — Merlot
  • Taste — Blackcurrant, Blackberry, Vanilla, Spice, Oak
  • Alcohol Content — 14%
  • Sugar — Dry
  • Pairing — Tenderloin Burger, Mushroom Risotto, Roasted Lamb, Duck Confit
Overall Rating: 4.3

Positives
  • Balanced Fruit Flavor
  • Lovely Finish
  • Nicely Rounded
Negatives
  • Need More Complexity

About

Château Lyonnat is one of the best Merlots under $30 located in the Lussac-Saint-Émilion sub-region of Bordeaux, France. There are various accounts on its history with some resources suggesting that it existed even in 1615. This estate has been in the Milhade family since 1961 when Damase Milhade acquired the Chateau. It’s now owned by Gerard Milhade and his wife Brigitte.

Preparation

The vines comprise 85% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Cabernet Franc. The wine is kept in the cellar where they’ve used the old concrete vats instead of switching to stainless steel. The advantage is that there are 72 of them. The wine is aged in oak barrels and the barrels comprise only one-third of new wood.

Taste

The scent of the Lyonnat is composed of black fruits and fruit leathers. It also has notes of toasted nuts and subtle hints of oak ambergris. On the palette, you can expect a juicy blend of blackcurrant and blackberry, savory vanilla and spice, finishing soft and full with notes of oak.


Best From Chile

  • Name — Marques de Casa Concha Merlot
  • Winery — Marques de Casa
  • Country/Region — Chile, Central Valley, Rapel Valley, Peumo
  • Type — Chilean Merlot
  • Aroma — Berries, Dark Fruit, Spices, Mocha, Vanilla, Oak
  • Grapes — Merlot
  • Taste — Cherry, Blackberry, Tobacco, Vanilla, Oak, Pepper
  • Alcohol Content — 14%
  • Sugar — Dry
  • Pairing — Beef Wellington, Braised Pork Ribs, Deer Tenderloin, Filet Mignon
Overall Rating: 4.4

Positives
  • Full Body
  • Fruity And Smooth
  • Light Tannins
Negatives
  • A Bit Higher Acidity

About

The Marques de Casa Concha Merlot is a Chilean wine produced by the Marques de Casa Concha company. The roots of the company are from nobility, namely, the Marquis of Casa Concha. The Marques de Casa Concha brand was introduced in 1976 and immediately positioned as a noble winemaking brand from Chile.

Preparation

The vineyards here are located on the San Clemente zone’s hills & alluvial terraces near the northern bank of the Maule River. The Merlot is aged for 18 months in barrels 50% French oak and 50% stainless steel foudres.

Taste

This Merlot has a deep ruby color. It incorporates aromas of wild berries, plums, blackcurrants, and spices with touches and shades of mocha, vanilla, and oak. On the palate, it provides a slightly oaky and fruity texture with a hint of cherry and tastes of velvety soft tannins that complement its fruity nature along with a long finish.


Best From Italy

  • Name — Venica & Venica Merlot
  • Winery — Venica & Venica
  • Country/Region — Italy, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Collio
  • Type — Italian Merlot
  • Aroma — Dark Fruit, Vanilla, Oak, Spice, Plum
  • Grapes — Merlot
  • Taste — Cherry, Plum, Blueberry, Blackberry, Violet, Mint
  • Alcohol Content — 13.5%
  • Sugar — Dry
  • Pairing — Deer Ravioli, Lean Meat Cuts, Meaty Pasta, Angus Beef
Overall Rating: 4.3

Positives
  • Strong Fruity Notes
  • Well-Balanced Acidity
  • Full Body
  • Great Price
Negatives
  • A Bit Too Fruity For Some

About

Venica & Venica are owned by two brothers Gianni and Girogio who have developed their grandfather Daniele’s estate that he bought in the early 20th century. The vineyard is based in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Italy. The Venica & Venica Merlot echoes the practices of Friulian culture and winemaking and the advent of the Merlot grape from France to Italy.

Preparation

The grapes used in the preparation of this wine are macerated for 10 days and the wine is aged in their cellars in wooden barrels for 13 months.

Taste

Venica & Venica Merlot is ruby red and has slightly herbaceous aromas. It comprises fruity elements like blackcurrants, violets, blueberries, plum, cherries, a little rhubarb, and some tomato leaf. While on the palate, it is wide and deep. The blackberry and cherry flavors are light but still maintain their own character. The velvety tannins settle on the tongue & palate for a soft & enveloping taste that balances with the fruit smells to provide a complex medium-bodied sip.


Best From South Africa

  • Name — De Grendel Merlot
  • Winery — De Grendel
  • Country/Region — South Africa, Western Cape, Coastal Region, Cape Town
  • Type — South African Merlot
  • Aroma — Blackberry, Hazelnut, Caramel, Mocha, Vanilla, Lecorice
  • Grapes — Merlot
  • Taste — Plum, Mulberry, Raspberry, Cedar, Chocolate
  • Alcohol Content — 14.5%
  • Sugar — Dry
  • Pairing — Spicy Indian Food, Hearty Meat Dishes, Roasted Turkey, Duck Breast
Overall Rating: 4.3

Positives
  • Rich Flavors
  • Delightful Acidity
  • Lovely Lingering Finish
Negatives
  • Needs A Bit More Body

About

De Grendel vineyard in South Africa was purchased by Sir David Graff in 1891. The Graff family has been operating the winery and estate for four generations. This winemaker also has its roots in nobility as Sir David Graff was knighted and bestowed the title of the first Baronet of De Grendel.

Preparation

De Grendel are not terroir winemakers. They instead choose to blend wines from grapes from different regions. The regions are mainly Tygerberg and Witzenberg. The De Grendel Merlot grapes are handpicked and fermented in stainless steel tanks. After fermentation, the wine is aged in French Oak barrels (⅓ New, ⅓ Second Fill, and ⅓ Third Fill) for 13 months.

Taste

The De Grendel Merlot has a dark ruby color. It has an aroma of multiple berries, cedar, aniseed, and licorice which also carry through to the palette. It has a lingering oaky and mocha flavor while the structure is provided by the tannins. The texture is also very smooth and well-rounded apart from providing balance and elegance. One of our favorites on the list of Merlots under $30.

Conclusion

Merlots are a great option that can replace the more popular Cabernet Sauvignon. They have their own ways of cultivation and preparation and offer a unique taste that the Cabernet Sauvignon doesn’t. We hope that our list helped you find out what the best merlot under $30 is.

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