What Is The Difference Between Pinot Noir And Merlot

If you’re a fan of red wine, then you’ve likely heard of Pinot Noir and Merlot. They are two of the most popular red wines around, but what is the difference? Are they both made from the same grape variety or do they have unique flavor profiles? In this article, we’ll explore the differences between these two varieties so you can make an informed decision when choosing which one to enjoy. Let’s dive in and take a look at the origin and history of each, their grape variety, flavor profile, aging process, and food pairings.

Origin and History

Having both originated in the Bordeaux region of France, pinot noir and merlot have been highly regarded for centuries. Pinot noir is a thin-skinned grape that produces lighter red wines with earthy aromas and delicate flavors. Merlot, on the other hand, is a thick-skinned grape which produces full-bodied wines with sweet tannins and intense fruit flavors. While they both can produce great terroir driven expressions, their primary difference lies in the grape variety itself. Consequently, each wine has its own unique flavor profile that appeals to different palates. As such, it’s important to understand the nuances between them before deciding which one to choose.

Grape Variety

When it comes to grape variety, Pinot Noir and Merlot are two popular choices. Pinot Noir is a dark-skinned grape that originated in the Burgundy region of France. It can produce both red and white wines, depending on its ripeness. Merlot is another dark-skinned grape also native to France but grown in many other wine regions around the world.

The two grapes have different flavors: Pinot Noir has earthy notes such as mushroom and forest floor while Merlot has more fruity notes like plum, blackberry, blueberry, cherry or raspberry. Furthermore, Pinot Noir tends to be more acidic than Merlot which makes for a lighter body with higher tannins. Generally speaking, Pinot Noir is considered more complex than Merlot because of its depth and range of flavors that age well over time. With this in mind, it’s easy to see why these two grapes have become so popular with wine drinkers throughout the years. Transitioning into the next section about flavor profile showcases how both varietals differ when it comes to taste profile further emphasizing why they remain so sought after by wine lovers everywhere.

Flavor Profile

Tasting both varietals reveals distinct flavor profiles: Pinot Noir offers earthy nuances while Merlot provides a more fruit-forward experience. To illustrate the differences, let’s take a look at a side-by-side comparison in terms of aroma, body and finish.

Pinot Noir has an aroma of mushrooms, green peppers and tobacco while Merlot has aromas of blackberry, cherry and plum. Pinot Noir is lighter bodied with flavors such as violets or baking spices while Merlot is medium to full-bodied with notes of chocolate or coffee. The finish for Pinot Noirs tend to be long and soft whereas the finish for Merlots are usually rounder and smoother.

Aroma Pinot Noir Merlot
Mushrooms, green peppers & tobacco X
Blackberry, cherry & plum X
Body — — — — — – – – – – – Finish       Pinot NoirMerlotLongSoftRoundSmoothX

Aging Process

The aging process imparts distinct nuances to both varietals, creating a unique experience for the taste buds. Pinot Noir tends to be aged in oak barrels or tanks made from either stainless steel or concrete. This process adds complexity and richness to its flavors, such as notes of toast, spice, and vanilla. On the other hand, Merlot is usually aged in American or French oak barrels. The aging process gives it an intense bouquet of dark fruit aromas with subtle hints of woodiness. As its tannins soften over time, this variety develops more elegant flavors that linger on the palate. With these two wines having different aging processes, their flavor profiles are also quite different, making them ideal for pairing with specific foods.

Food Pairings

With their unique flavor profiles, both Pinot Noir and Merlot can provide an unforgettable dining experience – as if each sip is a tiny explosion of flavor in your mouth! When pairing these two varietals with food, there are some key differences to keep in mind.

Pinot Noir has a light body and bright acidity, making it perfect for dishes like grilled salmon or roast chicken. It also pairs well with earthy flavors like mushrooms and truffles. Merlot, on the other hand, has more tannins and bolder fruit flavors that make it a great match for richer foods like steak or lamb. Its soft tannins can also stand up to stronger flavors such as blue cheese or figs. Here are some popular pairings with each varietal:

  • Pinot Noir: Salmon, Chicken, Mushrooms, Truffles
  • Merlot: Steak, Lamb, Blue Cheese, Figs * Cabernet Sauvignon: BBQ, Roasted Beef, Dark Chocolate, Olives

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the price difference between Pinot Noir and Merlot?

When it comes to prices, pinot noir and merlot vary. Pinot noir tends to be more expensive than your average bottle of wine, while merlot is generally a little less expensive. If you’re looking for a good quality bottle of red wine on a budget, then opt for the merlot. However, if you’re willing to splurge and want something special, try the pinot noir – you won’t be disappointed!

What is the alcohol content of Pinot Noir and Merlot?

You could say Pinot Noir and Merlot are like two sides of a coin, both sharing similar qualities yet possessing distinct differences. When it comes to alcohol content, the difference between these two wines is quite striking. On one side, you have Pinot Noir which typically has an alcohol content of 12-13%, whereas Merlot’s luxurious bouquet brings with it a higher ABV of 13-14%. So no matter which side is your favorite, just make sure you know exactly how much kick you’re getting when you pour yourself a glass!

Does Pinot Noir or Merlot have higher tannin levels?

You might be wondering which wine has higher tannin levels: pinot noir or merlot? Generally speaking, pinot noir has higher tannin levels than merlot. This is due to the fact that merlot grapes are thicker-skinned than pinot noir grapes, and this affects their respective tannin levels. Tannins provide a bitterness and astringency in wines and can give them structure, ageability, and complexity. Pinot noir often has more of these characteristics compared to its counterpart, making it an ideal choice for those who enjoy a bolder flavor profile.

How many calories are in a glass of Pinot Noir and Merlot?

If you’re watching your calorie intake, you may be wondering which of these two popular wines is the best choice. A glass of Pinot Noir contains about 121 calories while a glass of Merlot has slightly more – 125 calories. So while there’s not much difference between them, if it’s important to you, then Pinot Noir might be the better option.

Are there any health benefits associated with drinking Pinot Noir and Merlot?

Drinking a glass of pinot noir or merlot can offer some health benefits. Pinot noir is known to have a high content of resveratrol, an antioxidant that has been linked to fighting inflammation and cancer, as well as reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Merlot also contains antioxidants, including polyphenols which may help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Furthermore, both wines contain beneficial properties such as tannins which are thought to aid digestion and protect against harmful bacteria in the stomach.


You now know the difference between Pinot Noir and Merlot. Both have their origin in France, but are made from different grape varieties. Pinot Noir has a lighter flavor profile while Merlot is full-bodied and richer. When it comes to aging, Pinot Noir generally needs less time to mature than Merlot. Lastly, even though they both pair well with food, each variety brings something unique to the table.

Pinot Noir is one of the most popular wines in the world – accounting for over 8% of global wine production! So if you’re looking to try something new or just want an enjoyable glass of red wine, you can’t go wrong with either Pinot Noir or Merlot.

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