cabernet sauvignon vs merlot

Clash of Grapes: Merlot vs Cabernet Sauvignon

Belonging to the same parent, Cabernet Franc, yet being distinctly different from each other, just like your elder sibling who might be an extreme extrovert, and then come you, dead introvert. Yes, we are talking about the wildly popular red wine grape varietals, Merlot vs Cabernet Sauvignon.

Let’s bring light to Merlot vs Cabernet for today’s Clash of Grapes.

merlot vs cabernet sauvignon

Demystifying Merlot vs Cabernet Sauvignon

Background Information

History and Origin

  • Cabernet Sauvignon: Originating in the Bordeaux region, France, in the 17th century, Cabernet Sauvignon is a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc grapes. Its rich history is intertwined with the legendary C hâteau Mouton Rothschild.
  • Merlot: With roots tracing back to Bordeaux as well, Merlot wine has a softer history, believed to have derived from a natural crossing of Cabernet Franc and Magdeleine Noire des Charentes. It gained popularity in the 18th century.

Global Production and Popularity

  • Cabernet Sauvignon: The reigning monarch, Cabernet Sauvignon, dominates vineyards globally, with regions like Napa Valley, Bordeaux, and Chile producing exceptional varieties. Its popularity is reflected in its consistent presence in prestigious wine lists. Australian Cabernet Sauvignon and French Cabernet Sauvignon are among the top in these lists.
  • Merlot: Although overshadowed by Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot has a substantial global presence with a whopping 185,888 tons crush in 2022 in California itself, thriving in regions like Bordeaux, California, and Italy. Among these, Australian Merlot is emerging to be a great choice. Its approachable character has garnered a dedicated fan base.

Know what is a good red blend wine here.

Characteristics of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot


Cabernet Sauvignon:

  • Color: Deep, intense red hues with a pronounced rim variation.
  • Clarity: Typically clear, showcasing the wine’s purity.


  • Color: A shade lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon, ranging from ruby to garnet.
  • Clarity: Generally clear, offering a visually inviting experience.

Aroma and Flavor Profile

Cabernet Sauvignon:

  • Fruitiness: Dark fruits like blackcurrant, blackberry, and plum dominate.
  • Earthiness: Notes of cedar, tobacco, and sometimes green bell pepper.
  • Tannins: Firm and structured, contributing to its aging potential.


  • Fruitiness: Embraces a spectrum from red cherries to plums.
  • Earthiness: Exhibits softer earthy tones, with hints of chocolate and herbs.
  • Tannins: Supple and velvety, providing a smoother texture.

Body and Mouthfeel

Cabernet Sauvignon:

  • Fullness: Robust and full-bodied, leaving a lasting impression.
  • Heaviness: Dense and weighty on the palate.
  • Complexity: Layers of flavors unfold, offering a multifaceted experience.


  • Fullness: Medium to full-bodied, striking a balance.
  • Heaviness: Softer and more approachable, delivering a gentle weight.
  • Complexity: Exhibits elegance with a simpler, more immediate appeal.

Food Pairings

Cabernet Sauvignon:

  • Perfect companion to hearty dishes like grilled steak, lamb, or aged cheeses.
  • Enhances the flavors of dishes with rich, savory elements.


  • Versatile pairing with roasted chicken, pasta, or softer cheeses.
  • Accompanies dishes with herbal and earthy components.

merlot vs cabernet

Key Differences and Similarities of Merlot vs Cabernet

In order to be clear about how to tell Cabernet Sauvignon vs Merlot, this Cabernet Sauvignon vs Merlot guide will take you to explore the key differences and similarities between both.

Key Differences

  • Tannins: Cabernet Sauvignon boasts firm tannins, adding structure and aging potential, while Merlot offers a smoother texture with velvety tannins.
  • Acidity: Cabernet Sauvignon tends to have higher acidity, contributing to its crispness, whereas Merlot displays a softer acidity.
  • Flavor Profile: While both share a fruit-forward nature, Cabernet Sauvignon leans towards darker fruits with pronounced earthy notes, while Merlot offers a more diverse and approachable flavor spectrum.


  • Origin: Both varieties originate from Bordeaux, France, cementing their place in the rich viticultural history of the region.
  • Popularity: Widely recognized and celebrated, both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot have carved out their niches in the global wine market.
  • Food Pairings: Despite their differences, both wines complement a range of dishes, making them versatile choices for various culinary delights.

See Ya…

Now when you are successfully equipped with the right knowledge, let your palate guide you through the best red wine Singapore variety of your choice – whether it’s the bold elegance of Cabernet Sauvignon or the approachable charm of Merlot. Also, don’t forget, no matter which one you end up with, you can get your favorite wine delivered right to your doorstep with Benchmark Wines.

Read more from Clash of Grapes – Pinot Noir vs. Cabernet Sauvignon. Cheers!