Wine 101: Cabernet versus Merlot

Posted on 05/11/20

Wine 101: Cabernet versus Merlot - Gabriel-Glas North America

At Gabriel-Glas, we love to serve every style and variety of wine in our stunning “One for All” wine glasses, but we are based in Napa, where Cabernet Sauvignon is king, and we drink a LOT of it! Upon careful scrutiny of many California wines labeled as “Cabernet Sauvignon”, the consumer may discover that “Cabernet Sauvignon” may actually be blended with Merlot, and sometimes Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec.

These five Vitis Vinifera grapes are considered the “noble grapes” of Bordeaux, and were first planted in California in the mid-1800s.  These grape varieties can be used for blending purposes or can be made as single varietal stunners. But since Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot tend to dominate the vineyards in our backyard, let’s compare and contrast the difference between the two.

Jump Back—Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are related!

Researchers have discovered that in the 17th century in southwestern France, a Cabernet Franc grape plant and a Sauvignon Blanc grape plant accidentally merged, and Cabernet Sauvignon—the most popular grape variety in the world—was born.

Additionally, DNA analysis indicates that Cabernet Franc is also one of the two parents of Merlot! So, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are different grape varieties but both are related to Cabernet Franc.


What’s the difference between Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot?

While both are dark-skinned grape varieties that can produce full-bodied red wines with velvety tannins, and both are grown in many countries in the world, there are differences:

  • – Cabernet Sauvignon tends to be slightly higher in tannins than Merlot.
  • – Cabernet Sauvignon may have a longer finish than Merlot.
  • – Merlot tends to taste “fruitier” (but dry) than Cabernet Sauvignon’s more savory black pepper and sometimes green pepper or leathery characteristics.
  • – Wines made from Merlot tend to be more medium-bodied than their robust Cabernet Sauvignon counterparts.
  • – On average, Merlot may be slightly less expensive than Cabernet Sauvignon.


The above comments are broad generalizations, and wine lovers can certainly find bold Merlots and medium-bodied Cabernet Sauvignons, expensive Merlots and good value Cabernets!


Why Blend Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot Together?

While both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are produced as beautiful single varietal wines, they are a match made in heaven for blending purposes too.

Generally speaking, in a Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend, the Cabernet usually provides the blend’s structure and backbone and contributes tannin and acids to the final product. On the other hand, Merlot is usually a little “juicier”, a little “plumper” with less structure, but it adds fruit flavors and palate weight to the wine.


The Best Way to Enjoy both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot

At Gabriel-Glas we’re “equal opportunity” for the two varieties, blended or not. But forget about drinking the noble wines produced from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from big- bowled “Bordeaux” glasses.  Get close to your wine with our “One for All” Gabriel-Glas.  Our glass is designed to fully express the subtleties of Cabernet or Merlot (or any other style of wine) and delivers maximum wine drinking pleasure.  Cheers to that!

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