The 6 Merlots with the best value for money selected by Gambero Rosso

May 19 2024, 15:47
Among the first French grape varieties to be widely planted in Italy after the phylloxera epidemic, Merlot was initially cultivated mainly in Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia, and Trentino. Today, it is also found in central Italy. Here are the best value-for-money labels

We have to mention Sideways again because if in the film Miles Raymond (Paul Giamatti) raves about Pinot Noir, in another scene he expresses disdain for Merlot: "If anyone orders Merlot, I'm leaving," and adds, shouting, "I am not drinking any fucking Merlot."

The reaction is, of course, intentionally exaggerated, but it highlights a sentiment that exists among wine enthusiasts. That is, Merlot cannot aspire to the elegance of Pinot Noir—an inference best discussed with those who can afford to drink Château Petrus, but it reflects a general mindset.

As widely known, Merlot originates from the Bordeaux region, where it is as prevalent as (if not more so than) Cabernet. It was one of the first French grape varieties to be planted extensively in Italy after the phylloxera epidemic, spreading mainly in Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia, and Trentino, and later finding a place in other Italian regions. This is because the grape is highly adaptable to different soil types and is also very productive, often preferred over less fruitful varieties for this reason.

Merlot produces an intensely ruby red wine with intense, vinous aromas of red fruits, tobacco leaves, and violets, which mature into more delicate and refined tones (of cut hay, vegetables, butter). On the palate, the alcoholic component stands out. Despite its robust structure, it is a relatively soft wine from a young age, warm, rich, and velvety, not very tannic. In recent years, there has been a qualitative shift in the management of this grape, with many producers exploiting the great potential of the variety.

In Italy, there are notable examples of pure Merlot designed as ambitious selections that can rival the great world labels. Here, however, we focus on wines with the best value for money, reviewed in the Berebene 2024 guide by Gambero Rosso, including two fragrant and drinkable rosé versions.

The best value-for-money Merlots


Merlot Rialto 2021 by Cantina Colli Euganei, this wine has aromas of plum and spices, with a medium body and an easy-drinking nature. The large cooperative in Vo' Euganeo (PD) boasts nearly 500 hectares of vineyards, meticulously managed by around 700 families. As is traditional in this region, Bordeaux grapes represent the quality peak, with wines combining organoleptic quality and market availability.


Trentino Merlot 2021 by Agraria Riva del Garda, the Trentino Riviera of Lake Garda enjoys an alpine climate with a Mediterranean influence, where olive and vine share the same land, moderated by the beneficial Ora wind. The Agririva cooperative protects the entire Garda olive oil supply chain while also managing premium vineyards, primarily cultivated with international grape varieties. The vineyards edge the lake, framing a landscape that stretches toward the Brenta Dolomites.

Friuli Venezia Giulia

Merlot 2019 by Livio e Claudio Buiatti, this wine leads the entire company range, presenting still fruity notes of blackberry and black cherry, with hints of black pepper and cinnamon; the finish is excellent. The vintage is significant and evident. The wine, with its intense ruby color, suggests sensations of currant and wild strawberries, with a background of pepper and nutmeg. On the palate, it is full and fleshy, with a well-defined structure and a secure progression of good savory verve. Ideal pairing? We see it perfectly with succulent meatballs in sauce.

The Buiatti family boasts over a century of experience in viticulture on the hills of Buttrio. When his father Livio passed the baton to him, Claudio immediately undertook progressive modernization, densifying the plantings and limiting production through drastic pruning. These essential interventions achieved the desired effects, conferring an absolutely high-quality level across the entire range of wines, maintained and consolidated over time. Now, supported by his son Matteo, he aims with conviction to reach the heights of excellence.

The 2019 Merlot offers mature notes of cherry, blond tobacco, and milk chocolate; the mouthfeel is enveloping, with a creamy tannic structure, providing a delightful sip. The finish features red fruit, with a twist of black pepper. The Pinni family has extensive experience in viticulture on the clay and sandy soils of the right bank of the Tagliamento. The company's philosophy has always been based on respect for the environment and the pursuit of excellence through the perfect combination of tradition and modern techniques.


Petalus 2022 by Villa Manù, one of the most original rosés tasted this year, it comes from the Fermo countryside and is produced by Alfredo Allegrini using pure Merlot. The glass is bright cherry-colored, with aromas of black cherry, straw, and a light briny touch. The palate balances fruit sweetness with more savory traits for a well-contrasted, pleasantly rustic sip. A wine that fits well at the table.


Rosa Invidiata 2022, a rosé made from Merlot grapes with floral aromas accompanied by notes of wild red berries. The palate is fresh, fruity, and vibrant. Antica Tenuta Palombo, founded by Giovanni Palombo over forty years ago, now has seven hectares of vineyards in the Valle di Comino, close to the winery, on clay-limestone soils.

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