Merlot vs Cabernet: an Epic Wine Showdown
Are you torn between Merlot vs Cabernet for your next bottle of wine? If so, this guide is here to help. In this article, we’ll compare Merlot vs Cabernet in depth. We’ll examine their history, production processes, colors, tannins, tasting notes, and more. We’ll also look at the pros and cons of each varietal and how to choose which is best for you. Finally, we’ll provide some tips on serving guidelines and answer frequently asked questions about these two popular wines. So pour yourself a glass of either variety, and let’s get started!
Overview of Merlot vs Cabernet
1.1. History of Merlot
Merlot is a red wine grape that has existed since the Middle Ages. It was first grown in Bordeaux, France, and is now one of the most widely planted grapes in the world. Merlot has fruity flavors such as plum and blackberry, with notes of tobacco and chocolate. It is known for its smooth texture and medium to full body.
History of Cabernet
Cabernet is also a red wine grape but has been around longer than Merlot. It originated in the Middle East and was later planted in Bordeaux, where it quickly became one of the most popular varietals. Cabernet has complex aromas like black currant, cedar, leather, and tobacco. It has a full-bodied texture is known for its strong tannins and high acidity.
Merlot vs Cabernet: an Epic Wine Showdown
Merlot and Cabernet are two of the most popular red wines in the world. While they have some similarities, they also have many differences. By comparing the two in-depth, this guide will help you decide which is best for you.
- Merlot has a deep, ruby-red color with a violet hue.
- It is known for its intensity and vibrancy in the glass.
- When young, Merlot has ripe berries and cherry aromas while also showing notes of herbal spices such as thyme or oregano.
- Cabernet has a deep, intense ruby color with hints of purple or blue tones when young.
- It is known for its complexity and depth of color in the glass.
- When young, Cabernet has a bouquet of olives, blackcurrant, and cedar with herbal notes of menthol or eucalyptus.
Tasting Notes: Merlot vs Cabernet
Merlot Tasting Notes
- Merlot has a smooth, velvety texture with moderate tannins and mild acidity.
- It is known for its rich, dark fruit flavors, such as black cherries, ripe plums, and blueberries with cocoa, tobacco, and leather notes.
- When aged, Merlot develops more complex flavors such as caramel, toffee, and nuts.
Cabernet Tasting Notes
- Cabernet has a bolder texture with intense tannins and high acidity.
- It is known for its full-bodied structure with notes of dark fruit such as black cherry, raspberry, and plum, as well as rich herbal flavors like sage and eucalyptus.
- When aged, Cabernet develops more complex aromas like leather, tobacco, cedar, chocolate, and espresso.
Tannins: Merlot vs Cabernet
- Merlot is known for its soft tannins, which give it a smooth, velvety texture.
- It has moderate astringency and bitterness, making it an easy-drinking wine.
- Merlot tends to be lower in tannins than other wines, which makes it great for pairing with food.
- Cabernet has high tannin levels, giving it a bold, full-bodied texture.
- It has strong and intense levels of astringency and bitterness, making it ideal for aging.
- Cabernet tends to be higher in tannins than other wines, which makes it great for pairing with heavier dishes.
Production Process: Merlot vs Cabernet
Merlot Production Process
- Merlot is typically grown in warmer climates with higher humidity, allowing the grapes to ripen more quickly and easily.
- The production process for Merlot is usually shorter than other wines, making it easier to produce on a large scale.
- Merlot tends to be aged for shorter periods, typically 6-12 months in oak barrels.
Cabernet Production Process
- Cabernet is usually grown in cooler climates with lower humidity, allowing the grapes to ripen more slowly and evenly.
- The production process for Cabernet is usually longer than other wines, making it ideal for smaller-scale production.
- Cabernet tends to be aged for longer periods, typically between 12-24 months in oak barrels.
Food Pairing: Merlot vs Cabernet
Merlot Food Pairing
- Merlot pairs well with various dishes and cuisines, such as grilled meats, roasted vegetables, and creamy pasta.
- It is also great with milder cheeses such as Brie and Camembert.
- Merlot has enough body to stand up to spicier foods, such as Thai or Mexican dishes.
Cabernet Food Pairing
- Cabernet pairs well with bolder dishes such as grilled steaks, rich sauces, and aged cheeses.
- It is also great with heavier pasta and dishes with robust flavors like lamb or game meats.
- Cabernet has enough tannins and structure to stand up to heartier fare, such as BBQ ribs or burgers.
Aging Potential: Merlot vs Cabernet
Merlot Aging Potential
- Merlot has a moderate aging potential and is usually enjoyed when young or after two to four years of aging.
- Its mild tannins mean it does not need to be aged long enough to reach its peak flavor profile.
Cabernet Aging Potential
- Cabernet has a long aging potential and is best enjoyed after four to six years.
- Its intense tannins mean it needs to be aged longer to reach its peak flavor profile.
Acidity: Merlot vs Cabernet
- Merlot has moderate acidity levels and is usually balanced by its soft tannins.
- Its mild acidity makes it a great wine for pairing with food or drinking alone.
- Cabernet has high acidity levels and is usually balanced by its intense tannins.
- Its strong acidity makes it a great wine for pairing with bolder dishes or aging in the cellar.
Popularity: Merlot vs Cabernet
- Merlot is one of the most popular red wines in the world, and its popularity continues to grow with each passing year.
- Its easy drinking style and food-friendly characteristics make it a great choice for many occasions.
- Cabernet is also one of the most popular red wines in the world, and its popularity is growing steadily.
- Its full-bodied style and complex flavors make it a great choice for special occasions or aging in the cellar.
Price: Merlot vs Cabernet
- Merlot tends to be more affordable than Cabernet, making it a great choice for everyday drinking.
- It is usually priced between $10-$20 per bottle, depending on the quality and vintage.
- Cabernet tends to be pricier than Merlot, making it a great choice for special occasions or cellaring.
- It is usually priced between $20-$40 per bottle, depending on the quality and vintage.
Pros & Cons of Merlot vs Cabernet
- Merlot has a softer texture and milder tannins, making it easier to drink.
- It is usually lower in alcohol content than other wines, which makes it more suitable for casual drinking.
- Merlot pairs well with a wide variety of dishes and cuisines.
- Merlot can be overly fruity and lacking in complexity.
- It can also become flabby or boring if aged for too long or not stored properly.
- Merlot can be overpriced compared to other wines, especially in certain regions.
- Cabernet has a bolder texture and intense tannins, making it ideal for aging.
- It is usually higher in alcohol content than other wines, which gives it more complexity and flavor.
- Cabernet pairs well with bolder dishes and heavier cuisines.
- Cabernet can be overly tannic and astringent when young.
- It can also become dull or flabby if not aged properly or stored correctly.
- Cabernet can be overpriced compared to other wines, especially in certain regions.
How to Choose: Merlot vs Cabernet
When choosing between Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, it is important to consider the food you are pairing it with, the occasion, and your taste preferences. Both wines offer different characteristics that make them unique and appealing for various occasions and dishes.
When to Pick Merlot
- Merlot is a great choice for everyday drinking, as it is usually lower in alcohol content and easier on the palate than other wines.
- Its mild tannin structure makes it a great food-pairing wine, ideal for casual dinners and gatherings with friends.
- Merlot is often affordable, making it a great choice for those on a budget or exploring wines without breaking the bank.
- Merlot is usually best enjoyed when young or after two to four years of aging, so it can be consumed immediately without waiting.
- Its mild acidity and fruit notes make it a great choice for those new to or exploring red wine.
- For those who prefer to drink their wine without storing it for a long time, Merlot is a good option.
When to Pick Cabernet
- Cabernet is ideal for special occasions, as it has intense tannins and a bolder flavor profile that can stand up to richer dishes.
- Its higher alcohol content and complex flavors make it ideal for cellaring or aging in the bottle, making it a great choice for those looking for wines with long-term potential.
- Cabernet is usually pricier than other wines, making it a great choice for those looking for a luxurious drinking experience.
- Cabernet is usually best enjoyed after four to six years of aging, so it should be purchased in a cellar or stored for an extended period.
- Its high acidity and robust tannins make it a great choice for experienced wine drinkers looking to explore the world of bolder wines.
- Cabernet is also a great choice for those looking for a wine that can withstand bolder dishes or intense flavors.
- If you want to store or age wine for long periods, Cabernet is an excellent choice.
Best Serving Guidelines for Merlot vs Cabernet
When it comes to serving Merlot vs Cabernet, there are a few things to consider. The right storage and serving temperatures can help to bring out the best flavors in each wine, so it’s important to follow some basic guidelines when serving either type of wine.
Best Serving Guidelines for Merlot
- Merlot is best served at a temperature of around 55°F – 60°F, which allows its flavors and aromas to be fully appreciated.
- Merlot should be decanted before drinking, allowing it to open up and reveal its full potential.
- Merlot pairs well with various dishes, including grilled meats, stews, and roasted vegetables.
- Merlot can be enjoyed on its own or with various cheeses, such as Brie, Camembert, and Gouda.
- If you are looking for a more complex pairing experience, serve Merlot with dark chocolate, which brings out its hidden nuances.
- Merlot complements cumin, cardamom, and curry powder, among other spices.
Best Serving Guidelines for Cabernet
- Cabernet should be served at a temperature of around 60°F – 65°F. This will allow its full flavors and aromas to be fully appreciated.
- Cabernet should also be decanted before drinking, allowing it to open up and reveal its full potential.
- Cabernet pairs well with bolder dishes, such as grilled steaks, roasted lamb, and game meats.
- Cabernet can be enjoyed independently or with various cheeses, such as Parmigiano Reggiano and Comte.
FAQs about Merlot vs Cabernet
Q: Can I store Merlot for a long period?
A: While Merlot can be aged up to four years, it is best to drink it shortly after purchasing. Storing too long or not stored correctly can make the wine flabby or boring.
Q: If I’m looking to explore bolder wines, should I choose Cabernet?
A: Yes! Cabernet is a great choice for those exploring the world of bolder wines. It has intense tannins, high alcohol content, and complex flavors, making it ideal for cellaring or aging in the bottle.
Q: How do I know when to serve Merlot or Cabernet?
A: Merlot is usually best served at a temperature of 55°F – 60°F and pairs well with grilled meats, stews, and roasted vegetables. It can also be enjoyed on its own or with various cheeses.
Merlot vs Cabernet is an epic wine showdown, and the choice ultimately comes down to preference. Merlot is great for everyday drinking. Cabernet is best served on a special occasion or when exploring bolder wines with intense tannins and higher alcohol content. However, you can go right with either option!
The key to remember when deciding which one to pick is that Merlot should be served young, and Cabernet needs some time to mature. Both wines can be enjoyed fully with the right storage and serving conditions. With so many varietals and regions to choose from, the possibilities are endless. So grab your glass and get ready to explore the world of wine!