Cabernet vs Merlot: The Battle of the Grapes

By Wesley Cable

Last Updated: January 18, 2023
Reading Time: 5 minutes

When it comes to the most popular red wines, there is perhaps no greater debate than that of cabernet vs. merlot.

Whether you’re a seasoned connoisseur or a novice sipper, one thing is clear: there are significant differences between these two dry wines.

Compared to the deep and bold flavor of cabernet sauvignon, merlot tends to be lighter and fruitier, with less tannin and notes of juicy berries and plums.

However, cabernet often features strong tannins, which add structure and complexity to the wine’s flavor profile.

And while both cabernet and merlot are often enjoyed as stand-alone varietals, some prefer to pair them with rich foods like steak or dark chocolate for an added layer of complexity.

Despite their differences, merlot and cabernet sauvignon remain two of the most popular wine varieties in the world today.

Whether you’re looking for an elegant sipping wine or something to complement your dinner table, the choice is up to you – but we guarantee that whichever you choose, you won’t be disappointed!

Merlot Grape Characteristics

Merlot grapes are prized for their deep and complex flavors, making them ideal for making some of the most popular wines in Bordeaux, France.

These dark purple grapes are known for their sweet, fruity flavor that is enhanced by notes of plum and red berry.

With their thick skins and robust stems, Merlot grapes also tend to be especially resistant to rot and mildew, making them a popular choice among winemakers.

Cabernet Sauvignon Grape Characteristics

Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are a highly prized variety known for their rich and complex flavors.

Originating from the Bordeaux region of France, these grapes have long been a favorite among winemakers due to their large size, thick skins, and bright red color.

Today, cabernet sauvignon grapes are grown worldwide, but one of the most well-known regions is Napa Valley in California.

Here, these iconic grapes are carefully tended to by expert vintners who work tirelessly to produce some of the best wines in the world.

Amidst all of this popularity, however, there is also a big difference between cabernet grapes that come from different regions and climates.

While Bordeaux cabernets have a more delicate flavor with notes of berries and herbs, those from California’s Napa Valley tend to be bolder and fruitier with hints of blackcurrant and vanilla.

Regardless of where they’re grown, though, one thing is certain: cabernet sauvignon grapes are considered to be a true delicacy by wine connoisseurs around the globe.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most popular and well-known red wines in the world. Known for its complex flavors, bold structure, and deep ruby color, Cabernet Sauvignon is a wine that truly captures the essence of fine winemaking.

It is especially prized by enthusiasts who favor dry wine, as Cabernet Sauvignon boasts rich berry notes that are wonderfully balanced with earthy flavors.

Whether you’re attending an exclusive wine tasting or simply looking to enjoy a glass at home, Cabernet Sauvignon is sure to delight your palate with its bright fruitiness and crisp finish.

So next time you’re searching for something special to drink, be sure to try this classic red varietal and taste why Cabernet Sauvignon has become the standard for great wine around the world.


Merlot is a fruity, full-bodied varietal wine that has become one of the most popular choices among wine connoisseurs.

Unlike other red wines like Cabernet, which tend to have high tannin, merlot is less astringent and boasts a softer flavor that many find more enjoyable (Similar to Pinot Noir).

Whether you are choosing to drink it on its own or pair it with a gourmet meal, a cooler climate merlot always delivers a rich, satisfying taste that you won’t find in any other red wine.

So if you are looking for an elegant glass of red, look no further than merlot – the perfect choice for all your wine needs!

Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon Key Differences and Similarities

When trying to decide between a bottle of cabernet vs merlot, it helps to know how these two wines are similar and what makes them different. The biggest difference between these two grapes is their flavor profiles.

While both Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon originate from the Bordeaux region of France, are very dark in color, and can be high in tannins, Cabernet Sauvignon has significantly higher levels of flavors that are much more intense than Merlot.

Cabernet Sauvignon has more acidity, which gives it a more robust flavor profile that includes notes of black currant, black cherry, coffee, tobacco, and chocolate.

On the other hand, Merlot has lower acidity and a more subtle taste. It’s often described as being smooth and velvety. Both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are very versatile grapes that pair well with a wide range of food flavors.

Cabernet Sauvignon pairs especially well with strongly flavored foods, such as steak, blue cheese, and black pepper. Meanwhile, Merlot is a lighter grape that pairs well with milder flavors, such as seafood and chicken.

Cabernet Sauvignon Food Pairings

Burgundy Roasted Chicken

Roasted chicken is a classic pairing with red wine, and makes for a great pairing with Cabernet Sauvignon.

Tagliatelle with Mushrooms

A creamy pasta like tagliatelle will help balance out the bold flavor of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Pork Chops

Pork chops are a great food pairing for any type of wine, but they taste especially good with Cabernet Sauvignon.


A classic pairing for red wine, steak goes well with most types of wine, but is especially good with Cabernet Sauvignon.

Merlot Food Pairings

Cheddar cheese

This classic pairing is a delicious choice for Merlot.


This is a classic pairing for Merlot and a great option for a casual dinner.


Salmon is great with strong red wine, like Merlot.


This creamy Italian dish is a great pairing for Merlot.

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

What are dry wines?

Dry wines are those with very little residual sugar. This means that the sugars present in the grapes have been converted into alcohol, and there is little left in the wine itself.

This can make them a bit harsher and more acidic than sweet wines. However, it also makes them more versatile with food, as they can pair with a wider range of dishes.

Between Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, which of these two wines goes better with parmesan cheese?

People who like to pair wine with parmesan cheese choose merlot. Merlot is a good wine to pair with parmesan cheese because it has flavors of blackberry, cherry, and chocolate that contrast well with the salty and nutty flavors of the cheese.

Do Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot Grapes share the same parent grape, Cabernet Franc?

Yes, Cabernet Sauvignon is made from Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon blanc while Merlot’s parents are Cabernet Franc and Magdeleine Noire des Charentes

What climate do Merlot grapes grow best?

Merlot grapes do best in a warmer climate where they can get a lot of sun. They need heat to ripen fully and develop their rich, fruity flavor.

Many Merlot wines come from the Bordeaux region of France, which has a warm, Mediterranean climate. But Merlot grapes are also grown in California, Australia, Italy, and other parts of the world where the weather is warmer.

Where do red wines get their oaky flavor?

Oak barrels are one of the most popular ways to impart oak flavors into red wines. When the wine is in contact with the barrel, it absorbs some of the wood’s tannins and vanillins, which gives the wine its characteristic oaky flavor.

In general, the more complex a red wine is, the more likely it is to go through an aging process in oak barrels. This is because oak barrels can contribute many different flavors (including vanilla, tobacco, and pepper) that can enhance a wine’s complexity.


Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are two very different red wine grapes that have their own unique flavor, aroma, and taste.

While Cabernet Sauvignon is high in flavor and has a strong aroma, Merlot is a lighter grape that has a mild taste. These two are often blended together in Bordeaux wines to create a balanced flavor.

If you’re looking for a strong, rich red wine, choose Cabernet Sauvignon. On the other hand, if you’re searching for a lighter wine, Merlot is a great option.

Whether you enjoy one of these grapes on its own or blend them together, red wine is a great beverage to serve at a party or during a casual meal with friends and family.


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