Merlot is typically a soft, plummy wine that was used primarily as a blending varietal for many years. It has now become one of the most popular single varietals in the United States. Most merlot is ready to be consumed upon release, which means holding and storing it for further aging does nothing to increase its quality. However, collecting and storing merlot produced by certain vineyards from particularly good vintages can be a way of enjoying it in the future.
Store wine on its side. Merlot and other types of wine should always be stored lying down no matter how long you intend to keep it. Storing wine on its side keeps the cork moist and prevents air from seeping in. Air will eventually create oxidation in the wine, turning it brown, much like rust does to metal. Of course, if the wine has a composite cork made of a synthetic rubber compound, then oxidation does not become an issue.
Maintain the proper temperature and avoid temperature fluctuations. The ideal temperature for merlot and all red wines is 55 to 65 degrees F. A few degrees either way is acceptable provided it remains constant. Wine that is stored in a warm environment will age rapidly and eventually become oxidized. Wine that is cold will not mature properly.
Avoid exposing merlot or any wine to direct sunlight. Sunlight will not only heat the wine but expose it to UV rays, which will oxidize it and make it undrinkable. Merlot should be stored in a dark environment.
Keep the humidity level at around 70 percent. Lack of moisture in the air will cause the cork to dry out, creating high levels of evaporation and exposure to air. Humidity levels over 80 percent might encourage mold, which should be avoided.
Allow merlot wine to rest in a vibration-free environment. Wine is a living, breathing thing, and as such needs to rest in order to develop. Any vibration will agitate the wine and cause an interruption in its maturation.
Consider a wine-storage unit If you are planning a serious wine collection and would like to store merlot under optimum conditions. Wine-storage systems offer ideal temperature and humidity settings. Units are available from a number of manufacturers, and depending on storage capacity, they can be found for less than $150.