Merlot vs Cabernet: Choosing the Right Red

Merlot vs Cabernet: Choosing the Right Red

June 12, 2017 Comments (0)

When it comes to red wines, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are two of the most popular choices. It’s not surprising that these two wines are so beloved: Both have strong, fruity flavors that don’t require a subtle palate or experience with wine tasting to enjoy, making them good choices for beginners and casual wine drinkers.

Of course, wine experts know that there’s more to both of these varieties than just their initial bold flavors. Despite initially seeming very similar, the small differences between Merlot and Cabernet make all the difference in the world when it comes to pairing them with foods or learning to appreciate each’s unique characteristics. In this article, we’ll break down the differences in the battle of Merlot vs. Cabernet.

The Origins of Merlot and Cabernet

Both Merlot and Cabernet originate from the Bordeaux region of France, and both were created in the 15th century. However, the process of making the two wines is very different. Cabernet is made from a small, thick grape that grows best in gravely soil, particularly the Médoc region along the Left Bank. Because of the particular qualities of the Cabernet vine, the plant absorbs much heat from the environment and delivers it to the fruit, meaning that the grapes ripen very quickly.

Merlot grapes, on the other hand, grow best in soil filled with clay and limestone and ripen at a much slower pace. Traditionally, this meant that Merlot grapes were grown in the Gironde Estuary on the Right Bank.

How They Are Produced

One of the key differences between Cabernet and Merlot is that the first has a much higher level of tannins. Tannins are contained in the skin of the fruit, meaning that the small, thick-skinned grapes used to make Cabernet are naturally richer in tannins.

Though both types of wine are generally aged in oak barrels, the higher tannin content gives Cabernet a higher level of acidity and bitterness. In fact, softer-tasting Merlot grapes are often blended with Cabernet to keep the bitterness down.

How to Pair Them with Meals



In general, Cabernet will have a stronger, bolder taste than Merlot. This means that Cabernet is often a poor choice for delicate meals, as its strong and bitter flavor can easily overpower the rest of the meal. Cabernet goes best with heavier and more flavorful dishes, such as steak, duck, and other high-protein foods. It can also be paired with some fish dishes with lower amounts of natural oils, such as tuna or swordfish, but goes less well with oilier varieties of seafood.

Because of its softer, less bitter taste, Merlot can be paired with a wider variety of foods. Merlot pairs especially well with Italian food, especially tomato sauces and parmesan cheese. Other foods that Merlot pairs well with include chicken and mushrooms, as the wine will bring out the flavors of both.

Looking for the perfect bottle of wine for any occasion? Wired For Wine® carries a huge variety of reds, whites, and specialty wines, all at great prices. For more information, contact us today at 609-483-2682.

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