Cabernet Sauvignon vs Merlot is one comparison that is bound to get your pulse racing. After all, they are two of the most popular red grape varieties, not only in Australia but across the world, rivalled only by Shiraz (or Syrah). Although most people love drinking these wines, they don’t really know what makes them so different from each other. We are here to help you understand the basic characteristics which make these wines so distinguishable and loved.
Cabernet Sauvignon vs Merlot
Both Merlot and Cab Sauv originated in the reputed Bordeaux region of France around the 15th century. Over the years, they have gained immense popularity, becoming beloved grape varieties across the world.
Cab Sauv grapes thrive in gravelly soils that are well-drained and absorb heat from the environment, which in turn helps the fruit ripen more quickly.
Merlot grows better in clayey as well as limestone-based soils which hold cooler temperatures, resulting in delayed ripening of grapes.
Cabernet wines contain an abundance of tannins embedded in the thick skin of Cab Sauv grapes. Also, Cabernet varietals and blends taste best when subjected to oak maturation, which allows the wine to achieve the perfect balance of bitterness & acidity.
Merlot grapes need to be picked immediately after ripening since over-ripening can cause them to lose their acidity. They too are often aged in oak and blended with other varieties to lessen the tannin content.
Cab Sauv wines generally have a bold and mouth-drying taste, filled with flavours of black cherry, blackcurrant, blackberry, pepper, vanilla and tobacco. With a strong palate backbone, Cabernets are highly tannic wines capable of long-term cellaring. These taste great when paired with rich & heavy dishes like steak, duck, porterhouse, or braised ribs.
Merlot wines are generally softer and easy drinking, brimming with juicy raspberry, plum, cherry mocha and cedar characters. They taste better at a younger age, matching extremely well with cheeseburgers and Italian cuisine.
Both these varieties are often blended together, since the robustness of Cab Sauv is mellowed down by the supple and juicy Merlot.
So, now that you know the basic differences between the two, why not go out & try a rich Cab Sauv, a delightful Merlot, or a vibrant Cabernet Merlot blend!