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Merlot vs Malbec

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A common challenge that wine enthusiasts run into are distinguishing between Merlot and Malbec. Both malbec and merlot are dry red wines, although malbec is slightly sweeter than merlot. Merlot and Malbec are both fruit forward, and have notes of cherry and plum. That is the common reason why wine drinkers can sometimes not distinguish between the two wines. Both wines are very popular around the world, and are also used in several different red wine blends.

Differences of Merlot Versus Malbec

Malbec is mostly grown in Argentina, while Merlot is usually grown in old world wine regions in Europe and in California. Malbec is a dark purple in color while merlot has a cherry red color to it.

Both wines are rich and bold, but Malbec has a slightly heavier body and is considered a full bodied wine. While Merlot is usually more of a medium-bodied wine. Malbec will have a smoky finish that lasts a while in your mouth. Merlot has a smooth and silky mouthfeel that still lasts a while, but not as long as a Malbec.

Usually a Merlot is a more approachable and beginner-friendly wine than a Malbec, which strong flavors and complexity may be too much for a beginner’s palate.

How To Distinguish Between Merlot & Malbec

You may think it can be difficult to tell the difference between a merlot or malbec in a blind tasting. The easiest way to tell the difference is by the color. Merlot is ruby red in color while malbec tends to be more purplish in color. 

The tasting notes are somewhat similar, and why so many get these wines confused. In general malbec will tend to have smoky notes, while a merlot will tend to have a smoother texture and body. Both wines have tasting notes of cherry and plum.

Merlot vs Malbec Comparison Chart

Characteristic Merlot Malbec
Sweetness Dry Dry
Acidity Medium Medium
Tannins Medium to High Medium
Body Medium Bodied Full Bodied
Tasting Notes Cherry, Plum, Chocolate, Bay Leaf, Vanilla Black Cherry, Pomegranate, Plum, Raspberry, Blackberry, Blueberry, Raisin
Popularity 40,500 Monthly Searches 27,100 Monthly Searches

Pairing Food With Merlot & Malbec

Merlot is a very common wine that wine lovers will drink with a meal. The balanced wine pairs well with a lot of different dishes, especially red meat like filet mignon, New York strip or a pork chop. However, dishes that are strong flavored may overpower the wine and would be better paired with a Malbec. This includes ribeyes, beef brisket or ribs, or anything wrapped in bacon. For more detailed pairing information for Merlot and Malbec, click on the links below.

Merlot Food Pairing

Malbec Food Pairing

All About Merlot

All About Malbec

Cabernet Sauvignon vs Merlot

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