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    The Difference Between Malbec & Merlot

    Merlot Vs Malbec

    Merlot and Malbec are two very popular red wines and with names so similar it’s easy to get the two confused. Luckily for us with a little bit of key information it can become easy to tell Malbec and Merlot apart.

    So whats the difference between a Malbec and a Merlot?

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    Malbec Vs Merlot: 7 Main Differences

    Merlot and Malbec Wine Bottles

    To help you on your quest to compare Merlot wine against Malbec wine we’ve compiled a list of the main differences between them.

    So let’s get started, shall we?

    1. Origins

    Bordeaux Merlot

    Like most of our favourite grapes, both Merlot and Malbec originate from France.

    Thankfully they are native to separate regions which play a crucial role in telling them apart.

    Merlot originates from the Bordeaux region in France and is known for its blending role in the fine wines of Bordeaux.

    Malbec, on the other hand, is from the French region of Cahors, although Malbec is now better known for making powerful red wines in Argentina.

    But what about the grapes themselves?

    Do Malbec and Merlot act differently in the vineyard?

    2. Grape Characteristics

    Malbec Wine

    Malbec grapes are very small and dark in colour, with thick robust skins.

    This produces a very deep, full-bodied wine with lots of grippy tannins.

    In comparison, Merlot is also a red-skinned grape but its skin isn’t as intense as that of a Malbec, producing slightly less tannins as a result.

    So how do these characteristics affect appearance?

    What do Malbec and Merlot look like when poured into a wine glass?

    3. Appearance

    Merlot pours a ruby red colour and the key to telling it apart from other red wines is the little glint of brick orange it has a tendency to glisten.

    Malbec, however, is a deeper red which can almost look purple and this can help wine professionals to tell the two apart.

    So how do these differences in colour affect the serving suggestions for Malbec and Merlot?

    4. Serving

    Both Malbec and Merlot get served in similar ways.

    They’re both fuller-bodied red wines who play roles in Bordeaux blends and as a result will prefer a warmer serving temperature in comparison to other wines.

    Merlot Serving Termperature

    Serving suggestions for Malbec and Merlots may vary maker to maker so it’s always best to check in with your wine seller about the best wine glasses to use, although the bigger the better is a solid rule to drink by here.

    Malbec Serving Temperature

    But if they get served in similar manners, does that mean they taste the same?

    Does Merlot taste like Malbec?

    5. Tasting Notes

    Whilst Merlot and Malbec will have lots of fruity flavours, there are some differences between the two.

    Tasting notes associated with Merlot include ripe plums, cooked blackberries and juicy cherries.

    Merlot Tasting Notes

    Think delicious fruit cakes with chocolate notes.

    Malbec, however, is a little darker in flavour with notes of smoky tobacco and sharp black pepper.

    Tasting Notes of Malbec

    How do these tasting notes affect their food pairings? What food pairs best with Merlot and Malbec?

    Related Guide: How Does Merlot Taste?

    6. Food Pairings

    Full-bodied Malbec is perfect for rich, hearty foods such as steak, as well as spicier dishes like fajitas.

    Malbec Food Pairings

    Try Merlot wines with a range of dishes such as roast chicken and lamb casseroles.

    Merlot Food Pairings

    Drink Merlot alongside dishes that contain berries for a really fruity taste sensation.

    And last but not least, what about price?

    Is Merlot more expensive than Malbec?

    7. Price

    When Merlot is brought as a Bordeaux then chances are it’ll cost more than a bottle of Malbec.

    However, when sold as single varieties outside of Bordeaux, whether Merlot or Malbec is more expensive really depends on the maker, so it's best to ask your local wine retailer here.

    So how do all of these differences affect which is best?

    Is Malbec better than Merlot?

    Which Is Better: Malbec Vs Merlot

    Unfortunately, you can have all of the wine facts of the world in your possession, but whether Malbec or Merlot is best is really down to personal preference.

    The good news here is that it's up to you and your tastebuds to decide and the only way to know is to grab a glass of each and find out for yourself.

    Summary of the differences between Malbec and Merlot

    Although the details of each wine can vary with production method along with the region of origin. Here's a summary of the differences between Merlot and Malbec:

    Merlot Wine Malbec Wine
    Origins Bordeaux region in France Cahors region in France (originally), now popular in Argentina
    Grape Characteristics Red-skinned grape with less intense skin and slightly fewer tannins Small, dark-skinned grape with robust skin and lots of grippy tannins
    Appearance Ruby red color with a glint of brick orange Deeper red, almost purple in color
    Serving Served at warmer temperatures, fuller-bodied Served similarly, warmer temperatures preferred
    Tasting Notes Ripe plums, cooked blackberries, juicy cherries, fruit cake with chocolate notes Smoky tobacco, sharp black pepper
    Food Pairings Roast chicken, lamb casseroles, dishes with berries Steak, spicier dishes like fajitas
    Price Bordeaux Merlot tends to be more expensive Price varies depending on the maker and region

    Before You Go... 


    We hope this article answers any questions you may have on Malbec vs Merlot..

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    philip thompson Author: Philip Thompson
    Philip is the General Manager at Expert Wine Storage, and is very knowledgable about all things relating to wine and wine storage, including wine fridges. He is regularly featured in media outlets sharing his knowledge on wine. Connect on Linkedin