Cabernet and merlot are similar yet different red wines. Both are made from grapes that originated in the Bordeaux region of France centuries ago. The first is made from the cabernet grape that thrives in sandy soil that drains well and the second begins with the merlot grape that does well in loam, clay and limestone and soils that drain well.
Flavors and Aromas
As for merlot vs cabernet, the first is a deep-colored, fruity and sweet wine at maturity with lower acidity and higher alcohol levels than the latter, which is bitter because of the tannin in the thick skin of its grape. Merlot has hits of plum, licorice, black cherry, chocolate, blueberry, black raspberry, boysenberry and blackberry. Cabernet sauvignon may offer flavors of black cherry, blackberry and black currant. Cabernet franc, which is less widely consumed worldwide, offers wafts of plums, flowers, blackberries, cassis and spices.
Characteristics of the Wines
A 1996 study of plant DNA points to the birth of the cabernet sauvignon grape as being the unintentional crossing of the cabernet franc and the sauvignon blanc grape. Besides France, cabernet grapes are grown in the United States, Italy, South Africa, Argentina, Bulgaria and other countries. Because the tannic acid in cabernet grapes adds dryness to wines, cabernet is commonly blended with varietals to give them a stronger and more appealing taste. While merlot is often sold unblended, it too may be added to wines to boost aroma and make them taste smoother. It is not uncommon for merlot and cabernet to be combined.
Some wine connoisseurs think merlot should be drunk only with food and that it is okay to drink cabernet sauvignon without food. Wine drinkers should feel free to drink either wine alone or with a meal. When thinking of merlot vs cabernet, merlot mates well when eating:
- Roasted squash
- Red peppers
- Cranberry sauce
It also mates well with vegetables that are slightly sweet and grilled mushrooms. Try it too with salads that contain red berries, pork, chicken and commonplace foods such as pizza and hamburgers.
Cabernet sauvignon also pairs well with mushrooms and many varieties of cheeses. It too is a good accompaniment for lamb, veal, pork and duck. Also drink this wine with braised red cabbage. Cabernet Franc pairs favorably with the above-mentioned animal entrees and also with:
- Hearty fish selections
- Soft cheeses
According to recent statistics about wine sales in food stores, people who drink either cabernet sauvignon or merlot are imbibing one of the most popular wines in the U.S. Chardonnay is number one followed by cabernet sauvignon, red blends, pinot grigio and merlot.
- “5 Facts About Blended Wines for Beginners” by Ross Szabo. Huff Post. November 6, 2012. Online, June 18, 2017.
- “Cabernet Sauvignon” on Wikipedia. June 18, 2017.