By Carl Hanson
January 24, 2015

You know Merlot. It's the friendly, inviting pal of the sometimes standoffish Cabernet. Merlot's the wine that wants you to approach it. It's ready to share its soft, supple, fruity qualities...right now.

Merlot's gentle tannins help develop a wine that's easy to drink, with soft, rounded edges and lush fruit flavors of plums and berries. Don't banish it to the cellar, pull the cork and dive in!

Here are 16 of the best food pairings with Merlot.

Why it works: Steaks and Merlot are a sure thing. This one, though, is even sure-ier. Why? Blue cheese, rosemary, garlic, and a hot grill. Merlot's mad for this meal.

Photo by SunnyByrd

Why it works: Say yes to Merlot and burgers in general. By the same token, give the nod to Merlot and lamb in general. And to lamb burgers specifically? Yes, the answer is yes.

Photo by Michaelc

Why it works: Wait, roast chicken with white, right? Well, ok, maybe. But no, go Merlot here. It's a matter of preference, obviously. But if you typically prefer to drink red with dinner, a simple, basic roast chicken with herbs goes really well with Merlot.

Photo by SunnyByrd

Why it works: Apparently, they know how to make meatloaf in Tennessee. This one is billed as "the most delicious meatloaf in the state." Believe it. It boasts a holy trinity of Merlot-loving meats: ground beef, pork, and veal. The glaze will amaze with a nice plummy Merlot.

Photo by naples34102

Why it works: This easy-to-prepare roasted pork loin is rubbed with a rosemary and garlic paste. And the rich wine-reduction sauce has depth, which Merlot can really latch onto. Pro Tip: Use the wine you're drinking with dinner for the reduction sauce.

Photo by tsgma

Why it works: Beef stew is a genius match for Merlot. And of all the beef stews that pair great, this one made the list because it's a wonderful, make-ahead meal that cooks all day. At dinner, a soft, luscious Merlot will step right up to it and be all, "You and me, it's on!"

Photo by abapplez

Why it works: I know I've hit upon a great pairing when I stop just shoveling it in. I slow way down, and start lingering, giving every bite, every sip a few extra beats. This is one of those pairings. A classic. Use the Merlot you'll be drinking with dinner in the reduction sauce. If you don't eat veal, a pork chop would also go for the glory.

Photo by naples34102

Why it works: Meat and potatoes, they're always a winner with Merlot. Cook them in a casserole with some veggies and melty Cheddar, and Merlot is in it for the big win.

Photo by Allrecipes Magazine

Why it works: Merlot loves duck. And the feeling is mutual. Roast duck, grilled duck, duck with fruit sauce -- they're all mad for Merlot. This recipe is one to break out on Valentine's Day or when special guests are coming over and you want to cover yourself in glory. Too worky? This super-simple roasted duck would also be magnificent with Merlot.

Photo by SushineWheat

Why it works: A great pairing doesn't need to be fancy. These simple ground beef steaks are served with a yummy, meaty gravy. With mashers and Merlot, a typical weeknight meal is suddenly special.

Photo by abapplez

Why it works: Pair merlot with chops on the grill and you're guaranteed success. Lamb chops, pork chops, it doesn't matter; if chickens had chops I'm sure they'd be great with Merlot, too.

Why it works: Another Merlot-friendly chicken recipe. And this one is a snap to make. Why does it work? The meaty mushrooms. And the simple sauce made from the roasted chicken and mushroom juices and finished off with a little butter and maybe some fresh herbs. File under No Fail.

Photo by Chef John

Why it works: Beef, mushrooms, and Merlot are pairing up again. Do you sense a trend? Add a little melty cheese on top. Merlot would practically pour itself to pair up with this burger.

Photo by Baking Nana

Why it works: Ok, this one makes the list because sometimes you gotta go big. The rich lamb, the wine-friendly rosemary and garlic, you cannot go wrong here. Also, despite the impressive appearance, this recipe is shockingly easy.

Photo by TheBritishBaker

Why it works: Slow cooked beef in a meaty gravy, it's the kind of pairing that Merlot lives for. Any number of slow cooked beef roasts would be tremendous. This one gets the nod because it's just so simple. If you have 5 minutes in the morning, you're set for a wine-friendly dinner after work. Victory.

Why it works: Grilled lamb and herbs love Merlot. And the feeling is very much mutual. "Enjoy fresh herbs with these grilled lamb chops, says Bibi. "I used what was in my garden: mint, rosemary, parsley, and chives. You may use whatever combination you like! Lamb is very delicate and will stay tender and tasty at medium-rare. Lamb chops grill very quickly, so watch them closely."

Photo by Bibi