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Merlot vs Malbec: A Deep Dive into These Red Wines (2024)

Merlot vs Malbec

Have you ever been caught in the Merlot vs Malbec debate? Or are you torn between sipping Malbec vs Merlot wines? If you are nodding as you answer these questions, we’re on the same page!

Comparing Malbec and Merlot can be somewhat challenging since both are excellent red wines.

So, as an ardent lover of wines, I took the time to differentiate these two red wines, and today, I am spilling all those important points for you.

In-Depth Comparison of Merlot & Malbec Wines

Bottle of Merlot Wine

Merlot and Malbec are both dry red wines, yet they offer unique taste experiences. For a quick summary, here’s how they differ from one another:

Malbec originates from France. French Malbec is a bold and full-bodied red wine with a rich purple hue, intense aromas, medium acidity, and robust tannins, making it apt for long-term oak aging in oak barrels.

“Merlot’s velvety touch contrasts Malbec’s bold embrace.” – Liquor Laboratory

Conversely, Merlot is a native of the Bordeaux region of France. Merlot wines are medium-bodied with soft tannins, exuding blackberries, plums, chocolate, and leather aromas.

The mellow, fruity flavors of the Merlot wine make it highly approachable and popular. So, I won’t be surprised if this is a go-to wine for beginners and connoisseurs alike.

While both Malbec and Merlot red wines differ in their flavor profiles, they can harmoniously blend (with Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc grapes), making Bordeaux blends.

Malbec vs Merlot Wines Comparison Table

CharacteristicsMerlotMalbec
Originating RegionsBordeaux, France, Italy, and ChileCahors, France and Argentina
BodyMedium-bodied wineFull-bodied wine
AcidityMedium acidityMedium-high acidity
Aging Potential5 to 15 years5 to 10 years
Food PairingsPoultry, roasted veggiesGrilled meats, BBQ
Climate PreferenceModerately warmWarm and dry
Average PriceRoughly $10 to $60 per 750mlRoughly $12 to $50 per 750ml
Star Rating★★★★★★★★★☆

How Are They Different?

History & Origin

Both Merlot and Malbec wines came from the wine regions of France, benefiting from the country’s cooler climates. But now, they’re being produced in several parts of the world.

Merlot wine comes from the belle of Bordeaux, France, and Chile’s Central Valley.

Malbec wines come from the Cahors region of France and Argentina’s Mendoza region, now well-known for producing world-class Argentinian Malbec bottles [1].

Grape Variety & Color

Glass of Wine

Merlot and Malbec are crafted using different wine grape varieties, which dictates their tasting notes.

Merlot grapes are thinner-skinned, resulting in a slightly lighter red wine with a medium-to-dark red hue.

In contrast, Malbec grapes have thicker skins, resulting in a full-bodied Malbec wine with an almost purple color.

These red grapes are now widely planted grape varieties coming not just from France’s Cahors and Bordeaux region but in other parts of the world, like Chile, Italy, Argentina, California, and Australia.

Flavor Profile (Tasting Notes)

Palate

Malbec wine has robust black fruit flavors, like plum and blackberry, with underlying spicy and peppery notes. Notably, French Malbecs are very fruit-forward.

As for Argentine Malbec, this Malbec wine exudes flavor depth, and it pairs well with spicier dishes like roast chicken.

On the other hand, Merlot [2] has a silky texture, filled with plum, black cherry, and other red fruit flavors, often rounded out by chocolate and bay leaf notes.

Aroma

The Malbec red wine exudes a fruity aroma from the Malbec grapes, with a hint of vanilla and tobacco.

In comparison, the Merlot red wine welcomes the nose with scents of black cherry, bay leaf, black tea, and sometimes vanilla.

Hue

Malbec wine tends to be darker, like inky purple, while Merlot wine showcases a ruby-red tint.

Finish

Since Malbec is a complex wine, it leaves a lasting impression with its lingering spicy finish, while Merlot delivers a smooth, fruity flavor profile up to the end. But is Malbec really sweet?

Food Pairings

Merlot and Malbec are both versatile wines. But they’re best served with other dishes, matching their taste profile, like the following:

  • The food pairings of Malbec include meat, especially steak and BBQ dishes. The robust flavor of Malbec pairs excellently with hearty meals and spicier fare such as fajitas.
  • The food pairings of Merlot include both poultry and roasted vegetables. You can enjoy Merlot with berry-infused dishes for a delightful burst of fruitiness.

Malbec vs Merlot: Tannins

Bottles of Malbec Wine

Malbec grape has high tannin content (like Cabernet Sauvignon), giving a more structured mouthfeel, while the Merlot grape variety has moderate tannins, delivering a softer wine.

Dryness of Malbec vs Merlot

Both Merlot and Malbec wines are dry. But Merlot is considered an extremely dry wine, like the Pinot Noir wine, since it only contains 0.5 grams of residual sugar.

“Penicillin cures, but wine makes people happy.” — Alexander Fleming, Scottish Physician & Microbiologist

Malbec vs Merlot Wines’ Sweetness

Neither wine is genuinely sweet, but considering their residual sugar, Malbec is quite sweeter than Merlot. Malbec has 1.5 grams of residual sugar, which is basically more glucose than Merlot’s.

FAQs Related to Merlot vs Malbec

Is Malbec dry or sweet?

Malbec is a dry wine, though its fruity flavors can occasionally give an impression of sweetness. But note that Malbec and Merlot are both dry wines, playing a role in making a Bordeaux blend.

Which is softer and more velvety between, Malbec and Merlot?

Merlot is softer and more velvety due to its juicy tannins and medium body, while Malbec is bolder with a firmer texture from its higher tannin structure – both influenced by their grape varieties.

Which regions are known for producing Merlot and Malbec wines?

Merlot is widely cultivated in Bordeaux, France, particularly in the Right Bank regions of Pomerol and Saint-Émilion. Malbec is most famously associated with Argentina, particularly in the Mendoza region, although it also has roots in France, notably in Cahors.

Can you describe the flavor profile of Merlot compared to Malbec?

Merlot wines often display flavors of ripe red fruits such as cherry and plum, along with herbal notes and hints of cocoa or mocha. Malbec wines typically feature flavors of blackberry, black cherry, and plum, with undertones of violet, spice, and occasionally tobacco.

Are there differences in the tannin levels of Merlot and Malbec wines?

Yes, there are differences in the tannin levels between Merlot and Malbec wines. Merlot tends to have softer, smoother tannins, making it more approachable and versatile for early drinking. Malbec wines often have firmer, more robust tannins, contributing to their structure and aging potential.

What are some common food pairings for Merlot and Malbec wines?

Merlot pairs well with a variety of foods due to its moderate tannins and fruit-forward flavors. It complements dishes such as roasted chicken, pork tenderloin, mushroom risotto, and soft cheeses. Malbec’s fuller body and tannic structure make it an excellent match for grilled meats, barbecue, hearty stews, and aged cheeses.

Can Merlot and Malbec wines age differently?

Yes, Merlot and Malbec wines can age differently depending on factors such as grape quality, winemaking techniques, and regional characteristics. High-quality Merlot wines from Bordeaux and certain New World regions can age gracefully for several years, developing complexity and tertiary flavors. Malbec wines from Argentina also have aging potential, but they are often enjoyed in their youth for their vibrant fruit flavors.

In Conclusion

Deciphering the Malbec vs Merlot puzzle has been a wine-tasting journey, rich in flavor and history.

While both Malbec and Merlot are fine wines and hold their ground with unique offerings, if I had to pick the best one, Merlot slightly edges out with its versatility and velvety texture.

It has a balanced acidity and approachable flavor profile that will surely suit the taste buds of wine enthusiasts.

However, for wine lovers seeking a bolder experience, Malbec awaits with its intense flavors.

As you can see, the best wine depends on your preference, so whichever you choose, consider the experience you want to achieve. Cheers!

References:

  1. https://www.forbes.com/sites/karlsson/2022/02/24/malbec-the-french-grape-that-conquered-argentina/
  2. https://www.wsj.com/articles/where-did-all-the-merlot-go-cb99edda
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