Cabernet Sauvignon vs Merlot: 9 Key Differences & Similarities

Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, both red wine grapes that are popular and have a great flavor profile, are also very popular.

Both varieties are derived from the same grape, Cabernet Franc. However, they have very different characteristics. Merlot has softer, fruitier flavors, while Cabernet Sauvignon is more robust and savory.

This article will give you a comparison of Cabernet Sauvignon vs. Merlot, including their taste notes and grape characteristics. We’ll also discuss other pros & cons.

Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot: Similarities and Differences

Before choosing a red wine, you should be aware of some key differences and similarities:

Tasting Notes

Cabernet Sauvignon is a highly tannic wine with racy acidity like Zinfandel and distinct herbaceous tasting notes (similar to Cabernet Franc .)

Soft tannins and milder acidity characterize Merlot. It also has a fruity aroma that includes blueberry, raspberry, and black cherry. It is also considered to be one of the best alternatives for Chianti as both wines have a delicious, ripe fruit taste.

Growing Regions

Both red grape varieties originated in the 15th century in the Bordeaux region of France. However, they thrive in different areas in Bordeaux.

Cabernet Sauvignon is the predominant grape variety on the Left Bank of Bordeaux. This area has gravelly, well-drained soils. Other grape varieties, such as Carmenere Malbec and Petit Verdot, can also be found here in limited quantities.

Merlot, on the other hand, is more prevalent in the Right Bank of Bordeaux, which has a mixture of clay and limestone soils.

Grape Characteristics

The Cabernet grapes are small with thick skin and produce a highly tannic wine. The yields of this small-sized grape variety are usually low, making Cabernet Sauvignon more expensive than Merlot.

Merlot is a darker blue grape variety with a larger size. It also produces low yields because there are few vines planted in the vineyard, and they are placed far apart.

Climate Change

Both grape varieties can acclimatize to cool and hot climatic conditions. The climate determines the overall texture of the red wine.

Merlots produced in cooler climates have a richer body and higher tannin levels. They are often mistaken for Cabernet.

A Cabernet Sauvignon grown in a warm climate may have a fruity flavor and a mouthfeel similar to Merlot.


The Merlot grape is usually harvested two weeks earlier than the Cabernet Sauvignon grape.

The wine is aged in barrels of oak, which gives it a delicious and rich flavor. The winemaker ages the red wine in oak barrels to create a perfect balance between acidity and oaky taste.

The wine has a lighter and fruitier taste because it is aged for a shorter time in oak barrels.


Merlot and Cabernet are often used in making classic red Bordeaux blend wines.

Merlot’s fruity taste and soft tannins make the wine blend smoother, while Cabernet’s acidity and tannic notes add depth.

Merlot, while an excellent grape for blending, has been mastered as a single-varietal wine by the Bordeaux regions St. Emilion and Fronsac.

In the same way, Cabernet can be used to produce a varietal and blend wine.


Merlot lacks the intense tannin levels and earthiness of Cabernet Sauvignon, so it tends to taste slightly sweeter. However, they’re both dry red wines (with low residual sugar levels).

Food Pairing

Cabernet Sauvignon pairs excellently with heavy meat dishes like beef, steaks, duck, and pheasant. This Bordeaux wine also goes well with grilled mushrooms and seasoned vegetables.

Merlot wine pairs well with Italian food that is tomato-based. This dry wine is also great with roasted chicken, Parmesan, and mushrooms.


Chill your Cabernet at around 60°F (15.56°C) and decant it for about 30-60 minutes before serving.

After decanting for at least 20 minutes, you can serve Merlot at a temperature of 55-60degF (12.7-15.5degC).

Cabernet Sauvignon vs. Merlot – Pros and cons

Both wines comprise a delightful bouquet of flavors and stand out with their distinct tasting notes.

If you want a lighter Bordeaux with a smooth finish, Merlot will be the wine for you.

If you are a wine lover who likes a high level of tannin in your glass, Cabernet will not disappoint you.

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Vinovest: Benefits of Investment

Here are some of the benefits of investing in fine wine through Vinovest.

AI technology: Use Vinovest’s artificial Intelligence to buy and sell the best wines in just a few simple clicks.

Best Prices: Vinovest purchases wines at the lowest possible price directly from winemakers and wineries.

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Access a global wine network: Vinovest gives you access to a vast wine network. You can find upcoming vineyards and wineries, as well as private sales by wine companies.

Comprehensive Insurance and Security: Vinovest offers a complete insurance policy that covers each bottle for breakage, theft, and loss.

Enjoy a Glass Of Red Wine

Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are undoubtedly among the finest reds. You can pair them with a variety of main courses and enjoy them at a warm gathering at your house.

Visit the Vinovest website to find fine red wines that have good investment potential. Learn how to buy, sell, and store authentic red wines from the Bordeaux region or anywhere in the world.

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