What Is The Difference Between Cabernet And Merlot

Are you a wine enthusiast looking to expand your knowledge and find the perfect bottle for any occasion? If so, then you’ve probably heard of Cabernet and Merlot. These two red wines are incredibly popular, but what exactly is the difference between them? In this article, we’ll explore the history and origin, growing conditions, flavor and aroma, color and taste as well as food pairings of both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot so that you can make an informed decision when selecting a bottle!

History and Origin

Although they share similar traits, the historical origins of these two popular wines are quite distinct. Cabernet Sauvignon originated in the Bordeaux region of France during the 17th century. It is a cross between the grape varieties Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. Merlot on the other hand, has its roots centuries earlier in Bordeaux as well and was first mentioned in writings from 14th century. The grape variety is thought to be a descendant of both cabernet Franc and Magdeleine Noire des Charentes grapes. Moving onto growing conditions…

Growing Conditions

Growing conditions can have a big impact on the flavor of a wine. For example, in California’s Napa Valley region, Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are grown in warm climates with dry soil while Merlot grapes thrive in cooler climates with more moisture. The different growing conditions can greatly affect the flavor and aroma of these wines:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon typically has higher tannin levels and is full-bodied with flavors of blackberries, cherries, currants, and herbs such as mint.
  • Merlot typically has lower tannin levels and is medium to light bodied with flavors of plums, raspberries, black cherries, licorice, chocolate and tobacco.
  • Cabernets from warmer climates tend to be fruit-forward and less acidic than those from cooler sites.
  • Merlots from cooler climates tend to have higher acidity and more earthy characteristics.
    These differences in growing conditions between Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot create distinctions in flavor profiles that will be explored further when looking at the ‘flavor and aroma’ profile for each variety.

Flavor and Aroma

Though their growing conditions may vary, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wines have distinct flavor and aroma profiles that make them stand out from one another. Cabernet Sauvignon is known for its full-bodied black cherry and currant flavors blended with herbal notes, like cedar or tobacco. On the other hand, Merlot is often described as having a soft plum and blackberry flavor profile along with notes of cocoa or coffee. Both of these wines are also characterized by their layers of complexity that can range from subtle to intense depending on how they’re aged. As such, each bottle offers a unique experience when it comes to flavor and aroma. To better understand the differences between these two wines in terms of color and taste, let’s take a closer look at how they compare.

Color and Taste

Let’s start off the discussion of Cabernet and Merlot by talking about the color. Cabernet is a deep, dark red wine with intense flavors, while Merlot tends to be a bit lighter and softer in flavor. Both wines have hints of blackcurrant and cherry, but cabernet has a much more robust flavor profile than merlot. There are also noticeable differences in tannins between the two varieties; Cabernet Sauvignon has higher levels of tannins that give it an astringent taste while Merlot has lower levels of tannins that provide it with a smoother finish.


Cabernet is a full-bodied, complex red wine that’s sure to please even the most discerning of palates! It has intense flavors of blackberry and currant, as well as hints of cedar and tobacco. Cabernet typically has moderate tannins that can be quite pronounced in some wines. Its flavor profile is often described as being bold, intense, and slightly dry. The structure of cabernet makes it an ideal pairing with hearty foods like steak or lamb. Additionally, its acidity levels make it an excellent choice for aging–the longer you age your cabernet, the more complexity it will develop over time. With all these qualities in mind, cabernet is a great option for any occasion.

On the other hand, merlot is classified as a medium-bodied red wine with fruitier notes than cabernet sauvignon. Its soft tannins are much less pronounced than those found in cabernets and therefore it tends to be more approachable for novice drinkers. Merlots have aromas of dark cherry or plum along with subtle earthy tones like leather or mushroom. This type of wine pairs well with poultry dishes such as roast chicken or turkey but can also stand up nicely to richer meats like beef brisket or pork tenderloin. Merlot offers an inviting flavor profile that won’t overpower food on the plate yet still provides enough complexity to keep experienced drinkers sipping away happily! Thus transitioning into merlot from cabernet offers something special for everyone at the table!


Merlot’s softer tannins and inviting flavors of dark cherry and plum make it a great choice for both novice drinkers and those looking for a more complex red wine experience. Its softer flavor profile, when compared to Cabernet Sauvignon, can be attributed to two main qualities:

  • Lower acidity levels: Merlot has lower levels of malic and tartaric acids than Cabernet Sauvignon. This gives the wine a less harsh or acidic taste.
  • More supple tannins: Merlot also has fewer tannins than Cabernet Sauvignon; this means that it is easier on the palate and does not require as much aging before drinking.

These characteristics make Merlot an excellent option for those who prefer wines with a smoother, fruitier finish. With its mellow notes of dark fruit and spice, it pairs well with many foods—from grilled meats to creamy pasta dishes—and is sure to bring out the best in any meal. From here we can move onto discussing food pairings with Merlot…

Food Pairings

Pairing food with either cabernet or merlot can make any meal more enjoyable. Merlot is a great choice for meals that are heavier in flavor, like beef and pork dishes. Its smooth texture helps bring out the savory flavors of those entrees without overpowering them. Merlot also pairs well with tomato-based sauces, especially when they have some sweetness to balance out the acidity. It’s a great match for grilled meats, too.

For lighter fare such as poultry and fish dishes, try pairing a Merlot with your meal. The subtle fruit flavors will highlight the delicate flavor of these foods instead of masking them. White wines can sometimes be too acidic for these types of dishes; so opt for a Merlot to get the perfect balance between flavor and complexity without being overly heavy.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the alcohol content of Cabernet and Merlot?

You can tell the difference between cabernet and merlot just by looking at their alcohol content. Cabernet has a bold, robust flavor with an ABV (alcohol by volume) of 12.5-15%, while Merlot offers a softer taste that’s easily recognizable with its ABV of 11.5-13.5%. Imagine cabernet as a strong cup of coffee, perfect for those who like to linger and savor their beverage, whereas merlot is more akin to a glass of tea – light and refreshing for any occasion.

What is the difference between Cabernet and Merlot in terms of cost?

Cabernet and Merlot are two of the most popular red wines, but they can vary greatly in terms of cost. Cabernet generally costs more than Merlot due to the fact that it is a fuller-bodied wine that requires more aging before it reaches its peak flavor. Additionally, Cabernet grapes tend to be much harder to grow than Merlot grapes, making them more expensive. On the other hand, Merlots are typically less expensive because they usually don’t require as much aging and have a softer taste compared to Cabernets.

How long can Cabernet and Merlot last when stored properly?

When it comes to the longevity of cabernet and merlot, you can’t go wrong. Both wines will last a long time when stored properly – for years on end! Cabernet has a reputation of being a bit hardier than merlot, but if you give both wines the same treatment, they’ll be sure to stick around ’till the cows come home. Proper storage includes keeping them away from light and in an environment with consistent temperature and humidity levels.

What is the best way to serve Cabernet and Merlot?

When it comes to serving cabernet and merlot, the best way to do so is with food that will complement their distinct flavors. Cabernet has a bold flavor profile, consisting of dark fruit notes like blackberries and currants, as well as herbal and earthy undertones. Merlot has a softer flavor profile, featuring fruity notes of cherry and plum, along with subtle hints of spice. Both wines pair well with red meat dishes such as steak or lamb, but they can also be enjoyed with other foods like pastas, salads, or even lighter fare. Additionally, cabernet should be served slightly cooler than room temperature while merlot should be served slightly warmer.

What is the difference between Cabernet and Merlot in terms of tannin levels?

You might be wondering what the difference between Cabernet and Merlot is in terms of tannin levels. Well, here’s an interesting statistic: the average tannin level in a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon is more than twice that of a glass of Merlot! This is because Cabernet grapes are typically thicker-skinned, making them more tannic than their thinner-skinned Merlot counterparts. So, while both wines offer amazing flavor profiles, you can expect a bolder and more robust experience with a glass of Cabernet.


You can now clearly see the difference between cabernet and merlot! Cabernet is a bold, full-bodied wine that packs an intense flavor punch. Merlot, on the other hand, is a more mellow and fruity option with a smooth finish. Both wines are sure to make any dinner party or gathering even more special – they’re just that good! With their unique characteristics and flavors, you can’t really go wrong no matter which one you choose. But if you’re looking for something truly extraordinary, then why not try them both? You won’t regret it – trust us! Your taste buds will thank you for this incredible experience like never before.

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