How Long Does Merlot Last? How can I tell if it’s gone Bad?

A Merlot wine that is unopened can last for as much as 20 years, and this is subject to storage conditions, temperature, oxidation, etc.

However, a popular saying informs us that wines taste better with age, but with aging, wine can also become bad. And this brings us to the question; How long does merlot last?

And how to determine if it has gone bad. For a Merlot to last, factors such as storage conditions, temperature, and proper corking have to be taken into consideration. Furthermore, to tell if a merlot wine has gone bad, you would need to carry out a sensory evaluation of the wine, and careful inspection of the bottle. 

So many people find this analysis difficult, but in this article, you will get detailed insight into how long Merlot can last, and how to determine if it is still fit for consumption.

 A brief on Merlot

Merlot is produced in the Bordeaux region of France and it is popularly referred to as the queen of grapes. The Merlot wine is made from Merlot grapes, and it has a good amount of tannin and other aromas that make it desirable. 

It is a characteristically soft wine that is easy to drink. And this makes it acceptable to individuals of various ages and gender. The interesting part about this wine is that it undergoes a long fermentation process; the breakdown of sugars into alcohol. 

It also undergoes a longer maceration time, in which the must (freshly crushed grape) gotten from the wine remains with the residue’s skins and seeds. All these help contribute to the flavor and taste of this dry wine and thus making it last longer.

Where are the best Merlot wines from?

Merlot wines are produced from Merlot grapes, and if you seek to know how long your Merlot wine can last, then you first need to know where the best Merlot wines are from. This is because grape variety, origin, vinification, and the contents of the conserving agents in the Merlot wine contribute to its lasting.

If you seek the best Merlot wines, then you should check for those from the districts on the right (east) side of the Dordogne River ENE of Bordeaux: Saint Emilion and Pomerol.

In saint Emilion, the wineries that are top-ranked are Petrus and Chateau Ausone. While in 2012, Merlot from Chateau Pavie and Chateau Angelus was added to the list too. For Pomerol, two areas that stand out for using 100% Merlot grape in the production of Merlot wine are Chateau Petrus and Chateau Le Pin.

Asides from these regions, other regions where you can get good Merlot wines to include US (California and Washington), Italy (some “Super Tuscans”), Spain, Australia, Argentina, Chile, and South Africa.

And some non-Bordeaux regions where you can get good Merlot wines are:

  • Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Masseto (Tuscany, Italy)
  • Tua Rita (Tuscany, Italy)
  • Le Macchiole Messorio (Tuscany, Italy)
  • Castello di Ama, L’Apparita (Tuscany, Italy)
  • Miani (Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy)
  • Mt Brave (Napa, US)
  • Amuse Bouche (Napa, US)
  • Duckhorn Three Palms (Napa, US)
  • Venge (Napa, US)
  • Jonata Fenix (Santa Ynez CA, US)
  • Leonetti Cellar (Washington State, US)

How long does Merlot last when unopened?

A Merlot wine that is unopened can last for as much as 20 years, and this is subject to storage conditions, temperature, oxidation, etc. Furthermore, if you want to enjoy Merlot wine, it is advised that you let it age for a period of at least 5 years, as it tends to taste better with time. 

For example, a Merlot from a top Napa producer can peak after 10 years, and they will still taste great. All you need is to cellar them properly

How long does Merlot keep once opened? 

A Merlot wine that has been opened can last for at most two or three nights because it is red wine. This is not a general yardstick for all red wines, but it helps you factor in the time to consume the wine. 

Most people do think that after these three days the wine becomes toxic, but it does not work so. What actually happens is that Merlot wine is made from grapes, and they are subject to oxidation.

Take for example, when you bite an apple, and then leave it in the open air, there would be a gradual discoloration, due to the fact that there has been oxidation of the enzymes in the fruit. The same thing happens with a Merlot that has been opened. 

But if you want your Merlot to last, then you should try as much as you can to eliminate increased oxidation. To do this, you will need smaller bottles into which you can decant the bigger bottle of Merlot. This helps to eliminate the need to open the bigger bottle, and the smaller bottle would also trap less air than the bigger one. 

Is an unopened Merlot that’s been in the fridge for a year okay to drink?

Yes, an unopened Merlot that’s been in the fridge for the year is okay to drink. The analogy behind it is that Merlot is made from grapes, and these grapes undergo enzymatic reactions over the years. And from basic enzymology studies, temperature does have an effect on various enzymes. And the optimal temperature at which all enzymes work or can be deactivated differs for various species. 

For Merlot, the optimum temperature range for which you should store it in the fridge is 57℉ (14℃) up to 60℉ (16℃) depending on its strength. At a temperature below or above this, the flavor and notes of the Merlot become less pronounced. And on becoming less pronounced, the taste becomes more bitter and acidic. 

Furthermore, while storing your unopened Merlot in the fridge, ensure to maintain the temperature at all times. This is because a drop or increase in temperature makes the bottle expand, and pushes the cork upward, thereby creating a vacuum for air to go in.

How can you tell if Merlot has gone bad?

To determine if your Merlot has gone bad, you will need to check for cork taint, the smell of the wine, expansion, taste, and appearance

So how do you use the following to detect if your wine has gone bad? In chronological order, you should check the following:


First off, when given a bottle of Merlot, you should check if the cork is pushed an inch from its usual position. If this is the situation, then it has not been stored properly, and this is the first sign that should make you wary of the bottle.

You may ask why a pushed cork matters. As stated above, the presence of air causes oxidation of the wine, and with oxidation comes the loss of flavor and aroma

Cork taint:

After checking for expansion, you would have to open the bottle, if you choose to. And upon opening the bottle, you should smell the cork. If the cork smells like a wet dog or rotten cabbage, then it is a red flag. 

The appearance of the wine:

Now that you have checked the box for cork taint, you need to pour the wine into your glass to analyze its color. Since Merlot is a red wine, you should see a red or brick-red color. But if the color looks muddy or brown, then you can tick the box for the third factor of it being bad. 

Furthermore, if it appears cloudy, or has the presence of bubbles (indicates second fermentation) then you can clearly be sure that the wine “may” not be good. But you also need to note that cloudiness can be due to improper filtration of the must.

The smell of the wine:

Now that you have arrived at this point, you would have to smell the wine. But prior to smelling the wine, you will need to give it a swirl and let it breathe. Furthermore, while smelling the wine, you should keep it some centimeters away from your nose. This is because if the wine has gone bad, you would perceive acetic acid or burnt marshmallows smell from the wine.

And this smell can be repulsive. 

Taste of the wine:

And now, you would have to taste the wine, and this marks the final step to conclude if the wine is bad. If your Merlot has gone bad, it will have a sharp or sour vinegar flavor, a Horseradish-like taste, and sherried or caramelized flavors. 

Does Merlot improve with age?

Yes, if you store Merlot properly, it would improve with age. And how to store it properly includes you keep it away from direct sunlight, placing the bottle horizontally in a cellar or a fridge, if possible, and keeping it in a dark room too.

Conclusion: How Long Does Merlot Last?

As promised, this article has shown how long Merlot can last, and also how to detect when it is bad. In conclusion, you can also see that aside from the manufacturer’s poor storage conditions, for your Merlot to last, you will need to do a lot after purchasing it.

Furthermore, you saw how to determine if a Merlot is bad. Though you might not get so good at it now, with time and practice, you will become better at detecting a bad Merlot.

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