Merlot vs. Cabernet Sauvignon, What’s the Difference?

Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, two of the world’s most popular red wine varietals are many times the “go-to” red wine offering at bars, restaurants, house parties and so on. But how do you know which one is which, or what you or your guests will like better?

 

The taste, body and overall composition of these wines are a bit different. Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty and teach you the basic break down of merlot vs. cabernet sauvignon.

 

Merlot

Merlot Grapes
Merlot Grapes on the Vine
Photo By: Vinepair.com

 

The History of Merlot

Discovered around 1784 in the Bordeaux region of France. The merlot grape was predominately used as a blending grape; meaning, this grape was used with other grape varietals to create a single wine rather than letting it stand on it’s own.

 

Merlot means “little blackbird” in French, it’s name’s origin isn’t quite definitive if it was named after the dark skin of the grape or the fact that blackbirds were quite fond of eating grapes off of this vine.

 

Characteristics of Merlot

 

Merlot is known for its delicateness. It is many times added to wines as a blend which adds a softness. This grape is a wonderful table and food pairing wine in which the flavors can really enhance a dish.

 

Tasting NotesWhat flavors to expect.

Merlot is a red grape that lends it’s tastes to those of black cherry, raspberry and plum flavors. It can carry other flavors such as vanilla, cedar, tobacco, clove or mocha depending on the region and fermentation process endured.

TanninsDrying sensation in the mouth:

Medium

BodyFull to Light Bodied, how viscous is the wine:

Medium

AcidityReferring to the tart or sour attributes:

Medium

ABVAlcohol By Volume:

12-15%

Merlot vs. Cabernet Sauvignon
Boldness Scale, Merlot vs. Cabernet Sauvignon
Photo By: Wine Folly

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet sauvignon grapes at Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard in Maryland in October 2016. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

The History of Cabernet Sauvignon

Bordeaux, France was said to be the founding place of this grape. The word sauvignon in French comes from the word sauvage, which means “wild”.

 

The cabernet sauvignon grape was actually believed to perhaps have been used to make ancient Roman wine which occurred much before the 18thcentury where the wine began to grow traction.

 

In 1996, DNA evidence determined that the cabernet sauvignon grape was the offspring of cabernet franc and sauvignon blanc as it shares similar qualities and aromas of both of those grapes.

Bordeaux, France
Bordeaux, France

Characteristics of Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is known for its robust and rich flavor. It is great to enjoy all by itself or can be a fantastic accompaniment to paired food items. 

Tasting NotesWhat flavors to expect.

Cabernet Sauvignon houses primary flavors such as black cherry, black current, cedar, baking spices and graphite. Smokey flavors or more fruit forward attributes depends on the region the vines are grown in.

TanninsDrying sensation in the mouth:

Medium/High

BodyFull to Light Bodied, how viscous is the wine:

Full Bodied

AcidityReferring to the tart or sour attributes:

Medium

ABVAlcohol By Volume:

13.5-15%

 

Now that you know a little bit about merlot vs. cabernet sauvignon wine varietals, you’re ready to make some educated decisions on your next red wine purchase.

 

You can now cheers your glass with the quintessential “tink” of confidence!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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