Chances are, if you’ve looked at a wine list or walked down a wine aisle recently you’ll have come across Merlot and Shiraz. These two red wines are household names and for excellent reason, they’re both delicious.
But what is the difference between a Shiraz from a Merlot wine and, when it comes down to it, why do you pick one over the other?
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Merlot Vs Shiraz: 7 Main Differences
Merlot is a delicate, medium bodied wine full of flavour. Think berries, plums and currants, which gives a velvety feel in the mouth. While Shiraz is a more poweful, full-bodied, bold wine with tasting notes of pepper and truffle. Shiraz has a higher tannin level and is denser than Merlot.
So let’s get started, shall we?
Merlot originates in France and is best known for its blending role in the fine wines of Bordeaux, where it is native.
Shiraz is a very important grape in the Rhône Valley of France where it is known as Syrah.
However, Shiraz is perhaps best known for being one of the most planted grape varieties in Australia, where it grows to huge success.
So does this mean that Shiraz grapes have different characteristics to Merlot grapes?
2. Grape Characteristics
Shiraz is a thick, dark-skinned grape variety which produces red wines deep in colour and high in tannins.
Shiraz grapes prefer warmer climates which mean their wines normally have higher levels of alcohol.
Merlot is also a red-skinned grape but it doesn't have the intensity of Shiraz.
It’s slightly thinner skin means less tannins and a lighter colour, in comparison.
So what do Shiraz and Merlot look like when poured into glasses side by side? Do the two wines look the same?
Both Merlot and Shiraz are red wines so it can be hard to tell them apart at first glance.
However, if you look closely you’ll notice that Shiraz pours a very dark and intense red wine.
Merlot also pours noticeably red but has a little glint of brick orange to it that can be helpful in identifying Merlot from other red wines.
How do you serve Merlot and Shiraz?
Should they be served the same because they’re both red wines?
Shiraz is a powerful and intense red wine that requires a lot of space in order to let its aromas develop outside of the bottle.
A larger serving glass is recommended here and a Bordeaux style wine glass would be perfect.
Whilst Merlot wines aren’t as rich on the alcohol and tannins as a Shiraz they still benefit from having room to breathe, and a Bordeaux style glass will suit this grape variety wonderfully, too.
Does being served in similar glasses mean they’ll taste the same?
Does Shiraz taste the same as Merlot?
5. Tasting Notes
Shiraz has a reputation for having lots of rich and powerful flavours.
Think lots of spice and peppercorn with smooth notes of chocolate and juicy brambles.
Merlot is a little lighter in comparison, although still has lots of red fruit flavours such as plum jam, rich fruit cake and cherry garcia.
Related Guide: Merlot Taste Guide
But what food pairs best with Merlot and with Shiraz?
6. Food Pairings
Shiraz is not for the faint-hearted and requires food to match its full-bodied flavours.
- Try a Shiraz with decadent hamburgers or game dishes such as wild boar and venison.
- Try Merlot wines with lighter meat dishes such as grilled lamb and chicken wings.
Because Merlot doesn’t dominate the palate so much it can pair well with a wider range of dishes.
So how does this affect price?
Which is more expensive, Merlot or Shiraz?
When it comes to price comparisons between Merlot and Shiraz it’s important to keep the fine wine market in mind.
Whilst you can find lots of Merlots at the same price bracket as Shiraz wines, you’ll be hard pressed to find a Shiraz that retails as high as a Bordeaux.
Does this mean that Merlot is a better wine than Shiraz?
Which Is Better: Syrah Vs Merlot
You can spend all the money in the world on wine but the only person who has the final say in whether Shiraz is better than Merlot is you and your tastebuds.
If rich, intense reds are your thing then Shiraz may be the best option but that doesn't mean that Merlot can’t pack a punch when it needs to.
So why not get a bottle of both for your next event and let you and your guests decide which you think is best?
Summary of the Differences Between Shiraz 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 Syrah:
|Merlot Wine||Shiraz Wine|
|Origins||France (Bordeaux region)||France (Rhône Valley) and Australia|
|Grape Characteristics||Red-skinned grape with lighter color and fewer tannins||Thick, dark-skinned grape with deep color and high tannins|
|Appearance||Red with a glint of brick orange||Very dark and intense red|
|Serving||Bordeaux-style glass recommended||Larger serving glass, Bordeaux-style glass also suitable|
|Tasting Notes||Red fruit flavors like plum jam, fruit cake, and cherry||Rich and powerful flavors with spice, peppercorn, chocolate, and brambles|
|Food Pairings||Lighter meat dishes like grilled lamb and chicken wings||Decadent hamburgers, game dishes like wild boar and venison|
|Price||Can be found at similar price range as Shiraz||Shiraz wines tend to have higher price ranges in fine wine market|
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