How Is Merlot Made

Are you curious about how Merlot is made? This delicious, full-bodied red wine has been produced around the world for centuries. In this article, we’ll explore the process of making Merlot from start to finish. From hand-picking and sorting the grapes to bottling and enjoying the finished product, you’ll learn all the steps required to make this classic wine. Let’s get started!

Hand-picking and Sorting of Grapes

You’ll be amazed to learn the amount of care that goes into hand-picking and sorting grapes – it’s all part of the winemaking process! The Merlot grapes are carefully selected one by one in order to create a delicious wine. This is done by hand because it allows for more precision when choosing the best fruit, which ensures only perfect grapes are added to the batch. After they have been chosen, they are then put through a sorting process which further removes any imperfections or damaged fruits. Once sorted, the grapes can now move onto their next stage in winemaking: destemming and crushing.

Destemming and Crushing

After the grapes have been harvested, you’ll begin the process of destemming and crushing them to extract their juice. Destemming is the removal of stems from the grapes while crushing breaks open each individual grape in order to release its juice. This is done typically with a machine called a crusher-destemmer which removes the stems and crushes the grapes at the same time. Here are some key steps involved:

  • Grapes must be evenly spread out on a conveyor belt that leads into the crusher-destemmer
  • A rotating blade within will remove most of the stems
  • The remaining berries will then fall down and be crushed by another spinning blade or rollers
  • The juice will run off into tanks while other solids such as skins, pips, stalks, etc., are kept separate from it
  • The extracted juice will then be ready for fermentation.


Once the juice has been extracted, you’ll be ready to take it to the next level and start fermenting it into delicious wine! Fermentation is an essential part of winemaking as it transforms the sugars in grape juice into alcohol. Merlot grapes are usually fermented at warm temperatures between 60-75°F for 8-14 days. During this process, yeast breaks down the sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide gas. The temperature of fermentation must be controlled carefully in order for yeast to perform its job correctly. The longer a wine ferments, the more tannins will develop resulting in a deeper flavor profile. As fermentation takes place, flavors like black cherry, plum, licorice and spice appear. Once fermentation is complete, wines are ready for aging in barrels.

Aging in Barrels

Aging in barrels brings out the complexity and depth of a wine, and can truly transform it into something magical. The barrel aging process adds subtle notes of smokiness, woody flavors, and spice to wine. Here’s what you should expect when a Merlot is aged in barrels:

  • Vanilla, caramel, or coconut flavors from oak
  • Complexity from extended contact with yeast cells
  • Herbal aromas like tobacco or eucalyptus
  • Richness and an increased tannin level
  • Balanced acidity that allows for the fruit flavors to be showcased

The result is a smooth and flavorful Merlot that has been enhanced by its time spent aging in oak barrels. This high-quality product is ready for bottling and enjoyment.

Bottling and Enjoyment

You’ll love the smooth flavor and complexity of a barrel-aged Merlot; in fact, over 90% of consumers prefer it to non-barrel aged wines! After the aging process is complete, the wine is bottled for enjoyment. Depending on the type of Merlot being produced, it may be filtered or unfiltered before it’s poured into bottles. If you’re looking for a more full-bodied experience with intense dark fruit flavors and aromas, then opt for an unfiltered bottle. Once bottled, Merlot should be consumed within two to four years to best enjoy its complex flavors. It can also benefit from decanting prior to consumption if desired. With proper storage and service temperatures between 57°F and 64°F, one can expect a long-lasting flavor that is sure to please any palate.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of soil is best for growing Merlot grapes?

When growing merlot grapes, it is important to choose the right soil. The best type of soil for merlot grapes tends to be well-draining, slightly acidic, and relatively low in organic matter. If possible, the soil should also have a good amount of calcium carbonate which helps to reduce disease pressure. Merlot grapes grow best in soils that are not overly dry or wet as too much moisture can cause rot and too little water can lead to poor yields.

How much alcohol does Merlot typically have?

You’ve probably wondered how much alcohol typical Merlot has. Well, coincidentally the answer is right in line with what you might expect. Merlot typically has a 12–14% alcohol content, which makes it slightly higher than average for red wines. This means that if you’re looking for something smooth and light to enjoy with dinner or by itself, this could be the perfect choice!

How long should Merlot be aged in barrels?

Aging merlot in oak barrels for an appropriate time period is key to developing its signature flavors. Generally, you want to age it between 8 and 24 months—any shorter and you won’t get the full depth of flavor, while any longer can sometimes result in a wine that’s overly oaky. You’ll need to experiment with different aging times so you can determine which length of barrel-aging works best for your tastes.

What is the difference between Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon?

You may be wondering what sets Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon apart. Though they are both red wines, there are some key differences between them when it comes to flavor, aging, and tannins. Merlot tends to be softer than Cabernet Sauvignon with milder tannins. It usually has flavors of plum, blackberry, cherry, and sometimes tobacco or chocolate notes. Merlot is typically aged for one year in oak barrels while Cabernet Sauvignon can take up to two years in the barrel. Despite this small difference in aging times though, these two wines can make an excellent pair due to their distinct flavor profiles.

What is the optimal temperature for serving Merlot?

Merlot is best served at a temperature slightly cooler than room temperature, between 58-62°F. Allowing your bottle of merlot to rest at this temperature before serving will ensure that you get the full flavor and bouquet of the wine. If you serve it too warm, the taste will be dulled and not as flavorful. Too cold and you won’t get to experience all its unique characteristics.


You’ve come a long way to create the perfect bottle of merlot. The journey has been filled with hard work and dedication. Every step along the way, from hand-picking and sorting grapes to aging in barrels, has been essential in creating this delicious wine.

The process is symbolic of life itself: it’s full of ups and downs, but with each step we take we become closer to achieving our goals. So when you uncork that bottle of merlot, take a sip and savor its depth – it’s taken a lot of effort to get here! Enjoy every moment as if it were your last; for in the end, all that matters is that you appreciate what you have.

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