10 Best Merlot Wines Under $50 (2021)

Best Merlot Wines Under $50 Featured

Merlot grapes are a versatile varietal originating from the Bordeaux region of France. They are now grown all around the world, and the red wine produced is the drink of choice for many wine lovers around the world. This grape is adaptable, and, like a chameleon, it takes on the traits of the location in which it is grown and the personality of the winemaker.

Merlot wine is characterized by its gentle, seductive texture which can be velvety or dense and oaky. It is usually dry and full-bodied with medium acidity and soft tannins. What makes a good and distinctive Merlot are the layers of flavor such as graphite, dark fruits, herbs, and spices. There may also be hints of cedar and vanilla when it has been aged in oak. Here, I present to you, some of the best Merlot under $50 from some familiar and some unexpected places.


Best Merlot Wines Under $50

Best Overall Best Value Best From Washington Best From Napa Valley Best From Australia Best From Israel Best From Italy Best From France Best From Croatia Best From Switzerland
Bottle
Name Emmolo Merlot Tamarack Merlot Northstar Columbia Valley Merlot Duckhorn Napa Valley Merlot Mollydooker The Scooter Merlot Golan Heights Winery Yarden Merlot Antinori Tenuta Guado al Tasso Cont’Ugo Bolgheri Denis Durantou Saintayme Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Franc Arman Merlot Superior Delea Carato Merlot
Color Red Red Red Red Red Red Red Red Red Red
Country United States United States United States United States Australia Israel Italy France Croatia Switzerland
Grapes Merlot 90% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon 76% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon 80% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2.5% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot, 0.5% Malbec Merlot Merlot & Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Merlot Merlot Merlot
Taste Sweet Plum, Blueberry, Cocoa, Cranberry, Pomegranate, Chocolate Cherry, Cranberry, Thyme, Vanilla, Juniper Berries, Coffee Blackberry, Dark Cherry, Chocolate, Vanilla, Dark Fruits Cherries, Raspberry, Black Plum, Tobacco, Oak Dark Plum, Blackberry, Black Cherry, Vanilla, Lavender Blackberry, Plum, Jam, Raspberry, Cocoa, Oak Plum, Cherry, Chocolate, Vanilla, Oak Black Cherry, Red Cherry, Licorice, Almonds, Vanilla Cherry, Dark Fruits, Raspberry, Vanilla, Oak Black Cherry, Blackberry, Vanilla, Dark Berries, Licorice
Food Pairing Smoked Turkey, Argentinian Steak, Roasted Duck, Dark Chocolate Desserts Rib-Eye Steak, Meaty Pasta, Seared Sirloin, Chocolate Desserts Skirt Steak, Grilled Chicken, Hearty Meat Dishes, Roasted Duck Roasted Brussel Sprouts, Dry Aged Steak, Porcini Filet Mignon, Roasted Lamb Confit De Canard, Grilled Reuben Sandwich, Lobster Fra Diablo, L-Bone Steak Steamed Wild Boar, Roasted Beef, Serrano Ham, Anything Mushrooms Venison Ragu, Meaty Pasta, Glazed Pork, Roasted Lamb Roasted Duck, Seared Salmon, Beef Burger, Cocoa Desserts Roasted Duck, Braised Venison, Meaty Stews, Pork Chops Ribeye, Marinara, Crispy Duck, Spicy Dishes
Alcohol Content 15.1% 14.2% 14.5% 14.5% 17% 15% 14.5% 14.5% 13.5% 13.5%
Sugar Content Dry Dry Dry Dry Dry Dry Dry Dry Dry Dry
Our Rating 4.9 out of 5 stars (4.9 / 5) 4.6 out of 5 stars (4.6 / 5) 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5) 4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5) 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5) 4.6 out of 5 stars (4.6 / 5) 4.7 out of 5 stars (4.7 / 5) 4.4 out of 5 stars (4.4 / 5) 4.6 out of 5 stars (4.6 / 5) 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)
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Best Overall

  • Name — Emmolo Merlot
  • Winery — Emmolo
  • Country/Region — United States, California, Napa Valley
  • Type — Californian Merlot
  • Aroma — Blackberry, Dried Fruit, Mocha, Orange, Cocoa, Vanilla
  • Grapes — Merlot
  • Taste — Sweet Plum, Blueberry, Cocoa, Cranberry, Pomegranate, Chocolate
  • Alcohol Content — 15.1%
  • Sugar — Dry
  • Pairing — Smoked Turkey, Argentinian Steak, Roasted Duck, Dark Chocolate Desserts
Overall Rating: 4.9

Positives
  • Big And Rich
  • Well-Rounded
  • Very Unique
Negatives
  • Might Be a Little Bit Fruity For Some

Jenny Wagner is a third-generation winemaker with family roots in Sicily. Now she manages the Napa Valley Emmolo Winery that provides most of the grapes used in Emmolo Merlot. She is an intrepid winemaker who strives to be innovative and inspirational in her winemaking techniques. She believes in the quality of the Emmolo Merlot, and she thinks it can give Cabernet Sauvignon a run for its money. Jenny Wagner’s Emmolo Merlot is earthy with a subtle texture and full fruit flavors.

Napa Valley’s Oak Knoll district means that the grapes grow in light, gravelly soil and flourish in this cooler climate. The resulting wine is lush, full of dark berry flavors and leathery tannins. It has a deep ruby appearance which is alluring and full of promise. You will be held captive to the end of the long, dry finish. Pair this Merlot with any red meat, especially a big juicy steak or beef bourguignon.


Best Value

  • Name — Tamarack Merlot
  • Winery — Tamarack Cellars
  • Country/Region — United States, Washington, Columbia Valley
  • Type — Washington State Merlot
  • Aroma — Raspberry, Cherry, Plum, Butterscotch, Spice
  • Grapes — 90% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Taste — Cherry, Cranberry, Thyme, Vanilla, Juniper Berries, Coffee
  • Alcohol Content — 14.2%
  • Sugar — Dry
  • Pairing — Rib-Eye Steak, Meaty Pasta, Seared Sirloin, Chocolate Desserts
Overall Rating: 4.6

Positives
  • Lingering Tannins
  • Smooth And Rich
  • Well-Balanced
Negatives
  • Tad Bitter After-Taste

The Tamarack Cellars are winemakers who are committed to producing exclusive, hand-crafted wines from a few select vineyards in the Walla Walla, Yakima, and Columbia Valley appellations. From their winery which is situated on what was the Walla Walla airport barracks and a WW2 fire station, they produce one of the best merlots under $50. Following the harvest, the grapes are cold soaked in bins and inoculated with a variety of yeasts, then pressed to the barrels where the fermentation takes place. The individual varietals are kept separate for about a year before they are blended with the Tamarack Cellars Merlot.

Using a blend of 90% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petit Verdot, they can make a merlot that is full of the opulent aromas of ripe berries, loamy earth, almonds, and coconut. The palate full of dark, fleshy plums with savory notes of smoky prosciutto. The soft tannins ensure that the tastes are balanced and lengthy. These features make it an ideal wine to enjoy today, or keep for a couple of years.


Best From Washington

  • Name — Northstar Columbia Valley Merlot
  • Winery — Northstar
  • Country/Region — United States, Columbia Valley, Washington
  • Type — Washington State Merlot
  • Aroma — Cherry, Blackberry, Blueberry, Raspberry, Cinnamon
  • Grapes — 76% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Taste — Blackberry, Dark Cherry, Chocolate, Vanilla, Dark Fruits
  • Alcohol Content — 14.5%
  • Sugar — Dry
  • Pairing — Skirt Steak, Grilled Chicken, Hearty Meat Dishes, Roasted Duck
Overall Rating: 4.5

Positives
  • Delicious
  • Smooth
  • Well-Balanced
Negatives
  • Slightly High Acidity

This is a quote from the Northstar winery’s story: “Just as the North Star has been used through the ages as a directional guide, Northstar Winery was established in the early 1990s to guide the creation of world-class Merlot-based wines that demonstrate the potential of the variety in Washington State.” And, the Northstar Winery has succeeded in creating a big, bold red Merlot that Washington State can be proud of. With the perfect wine-growing conditions of the region, it is easy to see why they chose this location. It benefits from a long growing season with low temperatures at night. This ensures that the grapes ripen slowly and evenly with the acidity locked in. The result? A full-bodied Merlot that continues to grow in popularity.

Northstar Merlot has rich, concentrated aromas of black cherry and licorice on the nose. The palate is delightfully full of balanced, smooth flavors of ripe fruits with hints of menthol and smoky oak. You may also be able to detect dark chocolate, and spicy nutmeg, and vanilla. The moderate tannins give a dry finish that is long and lovely. This good Merlot under $50 will pair very well with homemade meatloaf or garlicky leg of lamb served with roasted Mediterranean vegetables. Because it is created to be full of vigor, this Merlot will age gracefully if you can hold a few bottles back. It will be difficult due to it being very “moreish”.


Best From Napa Valley

  • Name — Duckhorn Napa Valley Merlot
  • Winery — Duckhorn
  • Country/Region — United States, Napa Valley, California
  • Type — Californian Merlot
  • Aroma — Black Cherry, Spiced Plum, Cedar, Tobacco, Vanilla
  • Grapes — 80% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2.5% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot, 0.5% Malbec
  • Taste — Cherries, Raspberry, Black Plum, Tobacco, Oak
  • Alcohol Content — 14.5%
  • Sugar — Dry
  • Pairing — Roasted Brussel Sprouts, Dry Aged Steak, Porcini Filet Mignon, Roasted Lamb
Overall Rating: 4.8

Positives
  • Very Unique
  • Bold
  • Full Body
Negatives
  • A Bit Overripe

This is an elegant take on the classic Napa Valley Merlot. Duckhorn is a rich, supple Merlot with plenty of blackberry and smoky oak flavors. It is perfectly balanced to give immense pleasure. This blend of Merlot has a little Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Petit Verdot and that is what gives it the full-bodied flavor. There are layers of fruitiness, a hint of herbs, and blended seamlessly with firm tannins. You will savor the long finish that has hints of tobacco and clove.

Inspired by the Merlot’s of Bordeaux, Duckhorn Merlot has been met with wide acclaim and brought honor to the Napa Valley winemakers. Dan and Margret Duckhorn started the Duckhorn Merlot vineyard in 1976 with the dream of cultivating Merlots that would give the Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon wines a bit of competition. Duckhorn has fulfilled all their wishes and has become the signature red wine of the region. Their winemaking technique is innovative and unconventional, but that is what gives Duckhorn Merlot its unique character. It is certainly one of the top Merlot wines under $50.


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

Everything about the Mollydooker Winery is slightly left of the field! From the name, which is Australian slang for a left-handed person, to their unique winemaking techniques. Mollydooker is a family-based winery from the beautiful McLaren Vale in South Australia. There are few more perfect homes for the Merlot grape than this beautiful vale, and the evidence for this is the number of awards that Mollydooker wines have received over the years. Their motto “sipping it forward” is at the heart of their winemaking passion as well as their philosophy towards those less fortunate. They make annual donations to national and international charities that offer hope to the homeless and victims of abuse.

The Scooter is a light-hearted wine with big, fruity flavors. Your palate will be tickled pink with raspberry, cherry, and blueberry tangs and a hint of peppercorn. It is smooth with soft tannins that round the wine in your mouth. One sip and you will be filled with the joy of being alive! All the flavors are well-balanced, and the sweetness of vanilla custard, cinnamon, and cherry soda is refreshing and wholesome. This hearty wine is a pleasure to drink now, or it will store beautifully for a few years in a cool, dark place. Pair it with, chicken, salmon, trout, or any BBQ meat and you will feast like a king.


Best From Israel

  • Name — Golan Heights Winery Yarden Merlot
  • Winery — Golan Heights
  • Country/Region — Israel, Galilee
  • Type — Israeli Merlot
  • Aroma — Blackcurrant, Blackberry, Orange, Chocolate, Pepper
  • Grapes — Merlot & Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Taste — Blackberry, Plum, Jam, Raspberry, Cocoa, Oak
  • Alcohol Content — 15%
  • Sugar — Dry
  • Pairing — Steamed Wild Boar, Roasted Beef, Serrano Ham, Anything Mushrooms
Overall Rating: 4.6

Positives
  • Velvety Tannins
  • Full-Bodied
  • Long Finish
Negatives
  • Maybe A Tad Bitter

I guess I am not alone when I say that my knowledge of Israeli wines is sadly lacking. However, after trying this Merlot from the Golan Heights, my interest has been awakened! If you cast your mind back to the Bible story of the wedding at Cana, when Jesus turned water into wine, you may remember that it took place near the Sea of Galilee.

Yarden Merlot is made from a blend of mostly Merlot and a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon. These grapes are all grown in the Golan Heights which has the perfect microclimate for these varietals. The soil is rocky and volcanic, and the high altitude has the essential cool climate that these grapes need to flourish. Using mainly classic French cultivars, it is important to note that all the wines from the co-operative winery are kosher.

French oak barrels are used for the aging process which lasts for up to fourteen months. The resulting flavors are orange zest, dark berries which are layered with rich vanilla and oak. What makes this a top-rated Merlot under $50 is the deep violet appearance, the fruits and spices, full flavor, velvety tannins, and long finish. It can only be described as excellent! Pair this Merlot with hearty, meaty meals, and serve it at 65-70 degrees F, or store in a cool, dark place.


Best From Italy

  • Name — Antinori Tenuta Guado al Tasso Cont’Ugo Bolgheri
  • Winery — Antinori
  • Country/Region — Italy, Toscana, Bolgheri
  • Type — Italian Merlot
  • Aroma — Red Fruit, Cherry, Spice, Tobacco
  • Grapes — Merlot
  • Taste — Plum, Cherry, Chocolate, Vanilla, Oak
  • Alcohol Content — 14.5%
  • Sugar — Dry
  • Pairing — Venison Ragu, Meaty Pasta, Glazed Pork, Roasted Lamb
Overall Rating: 4.7

Positives
  • Super Aroma
  • Well-Rounded
  • Extremely Elegant
Negatives
  • Can Be Slightly Too Fruity

This best Italian Merlot under $50 is from the Bolgheri region in Tuscany. This region is known for beautifully deep red-colored wines, which are easy drinking but also well suited for storing. The vineyards are planted on sloping hills situated on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea. The sea breeze brings the much-needed coolness to the vines, thus prolonging the ripening but keeping high levels of acidity. That is what contributes to the balanced, complex wines of the region.

Antinori is a winery known particularly for the top-quality Merlot, with Antinori Tenuta Guado al Tasso Cont’Ugo Bolgheri being one of the best that they produce. The wine estate was started by the Della Gherardesca family in the 17th century. Through a marriage union in the 1930s the estate was placed under the control of the powerful Antinori family.

Cont’Ugo is made solely from Merlot grapes and is an authentic representation of wines from the Bolgheri region. The grapes are harvested by hand, and after selection, the grapes are fermented in contact with their skins for up to three weeks. The temperature is precisely controlled to ensure the maximum aromatic freshness as well as extracting all the important elements that form the structure of the wine. The different types of Merlot that emerge are stored in small, separate oak barrels.

Malolactic fermentation takes place while the wine is resting in the barrels for up to eight months. The finest examples of the Merlot are then blended and placed in another barrel for four more months of aging. After bottling, the wine is aged for a further six months before it is ready to be sold. The Merlot that emerges after all this delicate nurturing has an intense garnet color in the glass. The nose is full of the notes of red fruit like cherries and raspberries. It is accompanied by the aromas of spice and the flora of the Mediterranean coast. The supple tannins are pleasurable on the palate and the finish is long and full.


Best From France

  • Name — Denis Durantou Saintayme Saint-Émilion Grand Cru
  • Winery — Denis Durantou
  • Country/Region — Bordeaux, France
  • Type — French Merlot
  • Aroma — Plum, Strawberry, Black Cherry, Licorice, Oak
  • Grapes — Merlot
  • Taste — Black Cherry, Red Cherry, Licorice, Almonds, Vanilla
  • Alcohol Content — 14.5%
  • Sugar — Dry
  • Pairing — Roasted Duck, Seared Salmon, Beef Burger, Cocoa Desserts
Overall Rating: 4.4

Positives
  • Long Finish
  • Well-Structured
  • Full Of Character
Negatives
  • Tannins Can Be A Bit Overwhelming

Denis Durantou is a winemaker par excellence and he has the reputation for producing some of the best Pomerol wines. His Saintayme Saint-Émilion Grand Cru is considered the best Merlot wine under $50 from this region of France. With a limestone, clay, and gravel terroir, the thirty-five-year-old vines are ideally placed to produce superior Merlot. Denis Durantou employs a small technical team to support him in his winemaking. Using stainless steel vats for better control of the yeast and bacteria, the malolactic fermentation takes place under their watchful eyes. It is then aged in French oak for about a year. Saintayme Merlot is usually perfect to drink after about 3-5 years of bottling age.

Upon opening, you will be dazzled by the deep purple colors and the rich aromas of berries, hints of licorice, and a luscious smokiness. The wine is juicy and medium-bodied with hints of hazelnuts running in layers between the ripe fruity flavors. It has an elegant finish that carries the rounded flavors through to the end. Because of the richness of the wine, it pairs beautifully with hearty meat dishes. Saintayme can hold its own with veal, pork, beef, lamb, duck, game, and roast chicken. It is also good when matched with Asian dishes, fatty fish courses, or rich vegetarian dishes like earthy mushrooms with pasta.


Best From Croatia

  • Name — Franc Arman Merlot Superior
  • Winery — Franc Arman
  • Country/Region — Croatia, Istria
  • Type — Croatian Merlot
  • Aroma — Cherry, Oak, Blueberry, Tobacco, Pepper
  • Grapes — Merlot
  • Taste — Cherry, Dark Fruits, Raspberry, Vanilla, Oak
  • Alcohol Content — 13.5%
  • Sugar — Dry
  • Pairing — Roasted Duck, Braised Venison, Meaty Stews, Pork Chops
Overall Rating: 4.6

Positives
  • Heaven In A Bottle
  • Perfectly Balanced Tannins
  • Soft And Smooth
Negatives
  • Might Be A Tad Acidic

If you are unfamiliar with the wines of Croatia, then take a sip of this Franc Arman Merlot and you will be blown away! I am sure that you will agree with me when I say that it is the best Merlot wine for under $50. The vineyards are located in the Istria region in Croatia. Here the summers are long and hot, with plenty of rain all year round. This leads to the production of well-ripened grapes that have been cooled by breezes that blow off the Adriatic Sea. The appearance of the Franc Arman Merlot has a distinctive ruby color infused with purple reflections, and it stirs something inside you as you just gaze at the wine in the glass.

The nose is full of the aromas of sour cherries and oak, that will have you salivating in anticipation of the taste to come. You will experience layers of soft jammy fruit, polished tannins with salty, finely balanced acidity. These flavors come from the minerality of the red soil in which the grapes grow, as well as the aging in oak barrels. This Merlot will be good to drink after decanting in a glass for a short while, and it also has the potential to age very well. It is excellent when paired with red meat and will be a special treat at celebrations like Thanksgiving and Christmas.


Best From Switzerland

  • Name — Delea Carato Merlot
  • Winery — Delea
  • Country/Region — Switzerland, Ticino
  • Type — Swiss Merlot
  • Aroma — Plum, Blackberries, Prunes, Spice, Vanilla
  • Grapes — Merlot
  • Taste — Black Cherry, Blackberry, Vanilla, Dark Berries, Licorice
  • Alcohol Content — 13.5%
  • Sugar — Dry
  • Pairing — Ribeye, Marinara, Crispy Duck, Spicy Dishes
Overall Rating: 4.5

Positives
  • Powerful Body
  • Distinct Tannins
  • Excellent Structure
  • Good Aging Potential
Negatives
  • A Bit Hollow In The Middle Of The Palate

The very old Merlot vines grown on the hillsides of Locarno, Switzerland produce the Merlot grapes that are used to make this famous Carato Merlot red wine. The vineyard gets plenty of warm sunshine, and the hills are cooled by fresh breezes at night, which enable the grapes to mature to perfection. After fermentation, the grapes are rest for nearly two years in French oak barrels where the complex structure of this Merlot develops. The terroir contributes to the intense, elegant flavor of the wine, and the oak brings the spicy, aromatic hints that characterize this Merlot.

In the glass, you will see purple reflections in the deep, ruby wine. Aromas of cassis, blackberry, leather, tobacco, and tea come in gentle waves, and then the palate is brought to life by the jammy flavors with balsamic sweetness. This full-bodied Merlot has a long and elegant finish, and it is well-suited to aging. Don’t be afraid to pair Carato Merlot with any red meats like steak fillets, chargrilled ribs, lamb, or game. It is also great with poultry such as pigeon or duck.

Conclusion

After spending a couple of years in the wine wilderness, Merlot has been re-introduced to wine lovers and they realize what they have been missing. The flavors, aromas, and delightful character of Merlot wines make them one of the best reds around. It is not difficult to find a good Merlot, and this list of the best Merlot under $50 is by no means comprehensive. It is, however, a very good starting point.

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