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White Merlot Wine Guide: How Wineries Make White Merlot

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Sep 17, 2020 • 1 min read

Merlot may be one of the world's most famous red wines, but winemakers also make it in the style of a white wine.



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What Is White Merlot?

White merlot is not actually a white wine. It’s a style of blush wine made from black-skinned merlot grapes that undergo a short period of skin contact before the grape skins are removed from the juice, yielding a light pink wine. Though some blush wines are just blended rosés (rosés made with a mix of white wine and red wine), varietal rosés like white merlot contain only one type of grape, so you can be certain that the pink hue comes from maceration, not blending. California winemakers developed white merlot and its sibling white zinfandel in the 1980s as alternatives to rosé, and the wine also took hold in France.

How Is White Merlot Made?

Blush wines like white merlot are actually made in the same manner as rosé wines and white wines—it's the marketing and the grapes themselves that make these types of wine distinct. White merlot starts with a red wine grape (merlot) that winemakers juice and macerate with the red grape skins for a short period of time—anywhere from a few hours to a couple days. They then remove the grape skins and allow the grape juice to continue fermentation until bottling, completing the winemaking process.

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What Does White Merlot Taste Like?

White merlot wine is a sweet wine with a crisp finish. Since the grapes spend less time on the skins than they would for a red merlot, the level of tannins is significantly decreased. Tasting notes for this type of wine include blackberry, cranberry, sweet cherry, ripe plum, orange peel, and raspberry aromas. Popular among wine drinkers in the United States during the 1980s and ’90s, white merlot has recently lost ground to drier rosé-style wines, such as those made with pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon.

How to Pair White Merlot With Food

Try white merlot with savory foods to balance out the wine's fruity sweetness. Classic options include red meat—barbecued meats, in particular—tomato dishes, and smoked cheese. White merlot’s black cherry flavor also complements the sweetness of fruit desserts.

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