Carignan vs Merlot: What’s the Difference


So what’s the difference between Carignan vs Merlot?

Carigignan and Merlot are both red wines. Merlot has silkier tannins and plum. Carignan has more non-fruit aromas, like licorice and meat, with red berry. Carignan has a fuller body than Merlot.

Carignan Basics: The Common Man’s Wine

carignan wine profile infographic - carignan vs merlot

Carignan has a reputation for being a robust, everyday drinking wine. Plantings surged post-WWII to slake the thirst of France. Quality, however, has never been one of Carignan’s key features. Today closely linked to regions like Languedoc and Catalonia, Carignan presents a rich flavor profile with dark fruit notes and hints of earthiness thanks to better viticulture and winemaking science. It is renowned for its full body, offering a rustic drinking experience. (Here’s a deep-dive into Carignan wines.)

Fun Wine Fact: Carignan is often used in blends, adding depth and structure to many wines.

Merlot: The Silk Red

merlot wine profile infographic - carignan vs merlot

Fun Wine Fact: Merlot is one of the main grapes that goes into Bordeaux wines.

Merlot, also from France, has gained global recognition for its smooth, silky, quaffable quality. It is known for its well-integrated tannins and plum profile. Expect notes of blackberry, cherry, and hints of vanilla. It ages well and can develop more complexity over time. (Here’s a deep-dive into Merlot Wine.)

Wine Comparison: Carignan vs Merlot

Here’s a quick side-by-side that covers the most common styles of Carignan vs Merlot.

Characteristics Carignan Merlot
Hue Deep purple to ruby red Ruby red
Color Red Red
Aromas Red berries, spice, earth, meat Plum, black cherry, herbal notes
Tannins Moderate to high Soft to moderate
Acid Moderate Low to moderate
Alcohol (%) 13-15% 13-15%
Body Medium to full Medium
Intensity Pronounced Moderate
Key Growing Regions France, Spain, Italy France, Italy, USA
Classic Pairings Grilled meats, stews, hard cheeses Pasta, poultry, roasted vegetables
Price Range $15-$40 $10-$30+

Carignan Wine Profile

  • Sweetness: Carignan is usually made in a dry style.
  • Alcohol: Carignan wines generally have a moderate to high alcohol content, ranging from around 13% to 15% ABV.
  • Acid: Carignan tends to have medium acid, about the same as Merlot
  • Body: Known for its medium (+) to full body, similar to bigger red wines
  • Tannins: Carignan tends to have firm, stalky tannins, not as refined as Merlot, but they do contribute to its structure and aging potential.
  • Flavors: The flavor profile often includes red berries, licorice, and meat, or leather.

Merlot Wine Profile

  • Sweetness: Merlot wines are typically produced in a dry style, offering minimal residual sugar.
  • Alcohol: Merlot wines generally have a moderate to high alcohol content, ranging from around 13% to 15% ABV.
  • Body: Known for its medium body, Merlot has a plush, rounded mouthfeel.
  • Tannins: Merlot wines often have smooth tannins that make it an approachable red wine for new wine drinkers
  • Flavor and Aroma Intensity: Most Merlot wines have medium intensity on the nose, with plum, blackberry, cherry, and notes of mocha and vanilla if oaked.
  • Flavors: The flavor profile often includes blackberry, cherry, and hints of vanilla.

Helpful Tip: If you’re unsure about serving temperatures, here’s a breakdown of wine serving temperatures for different wine styles and occasions.

Are Carignan and Merlot Similar?

Carignan and Merlot are both red wines crafted in a dry style. Both can be oaked and have aromas of warm baking spice, mocha, and coffee.

What Is the Difference Between Carignan and Merlot?

Carignan has a strong raspberry note, Merlot is plum. Carignan will taste stemier with more pronounced tannins and likely have a fuller body than Merlot.

Carignan vs Carignan Food Pairings and Serving Temperature

carignan vs merlot - pork roast

Carignan is a big red wine that demands big flavors – think roasted chicken, turkey, pork chops, smoked cheeses.

Merlot’s softer body and tannins make it a great partner for white meats, like pork chops, as well as green leafy winter salads, risottos, and pizzas.

Merlot Cheese Pairing Guide
Merlot Meat Pairing
Merlot Vegetarian Pairing
Merlot Food Pairing Guide

Both Carignan and Merlot are best enjoyed at a slightly cool temperature. Place them in the refrigerator for about 10-15 minutes before serving.

Note: You may need to decant both Carignan and Merlot if they are made in a fuller-bodied style. If your wine seems closed when you first take a sip, give it a good swirl or let it sit for about 10 minutes to see if it opens up.

Which Is More Expensive, Carignan vs Merlot?

Carignan and Merlot do have an overlapping price-point, but Carignan wines won’t be as widely available depending on where you live in the world, they just don’t share Merlot’s easy-drinking popularity. Hence, you’ll find extreme value Merlot ($5), but you probably won’t find the same for Carignan.

Carignan Cost

Carignan wines from Languedoc come from a region in France that produces a variety of Carignan wines in large volumes, this can reduce per-bottle cost.

Entry-level Carignan wines are generally affordable, ranging from $15 to $20 per bottle. Premium Carignan wines can reach higher price points, around $30 to $40, offering more complexity and depth.

Merlot Cost

  • Entry-level Merlot wines are often priced between $4 and $10 per bottle, offering accessible options for everyday enjoyment.
  • Mid-priced Merlot’s will go for $10-$15
  • If you’re looking for premium selections from renowned producers or specific regions, prices can range from $15 to $30 or more.

See: How Much Should You Pay for a Bottle of Merlot Wine

Helpful Tip: Here’s how a bottle of wine gets priced. This post is a little nerdy, but it’s quite complicated and nuanced depending on where you are in the world and where you’re buying your wine.

Which Is Better, Carignan or Merlot?

If you like smooth, easy-drinking red wines with a lush mouthfeel, then stick with Merlot. If you like rustic red wines with a bit more grip, then go for Carignan.

Final Thoughts – Carignan or Merlot?

carignan vs merlot

Both Carignan and Merlot present distinctive red wine options with their own unique characteristics.

Personal Note: I’m not a huge Carignan drinker and don’t seek these wines out, but when a good one crosses my path, it makes my day.

I always recommend doing a side-by-side tasting to fully untangle the differences between these two wines. Grab two bottles of similarly priced Carignan and Merlot, invite a few friends over, and enjoy an evening of swirling and sipping.

Thirsty for More?

believe in enhancing your wine knowledge through side-by-side tastings. Here’s a guide on how to host your own wine tasting for beginners.

Check out this post on Malbec vs Pinot Noir another popular strong red wine, along with Cabernet Sauvignon vs. Merlot.

You can discover delicious wines at every price point. Explore this post on finding great red wines under $50.

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