Gamay vs Merlot

CharacteristicsGamayMerlot
HueBright ruby to violetMedium ruby to garnet
ColorRedRed
AromasRed berries, banana, floralRed and black cherry, plum, herbal
SweetnessDryDry
AcidMedium to highMedium
Alcohol (%)12-13%13%-15%
TanninLowMedium, Soft
BodyLight to mediumMedium to full
IntensityMediumMedium
Key Growing RegionsBeaujolais (France)France (Bordeaux), Italy, California
Classic PairingsPork, grilled sausages, charcuterieRoast chicken, pasta, soft cheese
Price Range$10-$25+$10-$40+

Comparing Gamay vs Merlot is fun red wine comparison. They’re distinctive, but both easy to drink.

Merlot has more body and tannin than Gamay. Gamay is lighter. Merlot has plummy notes. Gamay has bright red fruit and purple flower. 

TL;DR: If you like either Gamay or Merlot, then you should try the other wine, too. They’re similar.

Merlot: The Silky Red Bordeaux

what's merlot taste like infographic - merlot vs gamay

Merlot, 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.)

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

Gamay: Easy-drinking Red

what's gamay wine taste like infographic - gamay vs merlot

From the Beaujolais region of France just south of Pinot Noir’s Burgundy, most everyday Gamay wines have a lively and fruit-forward flavor profile. It offers juicy red fruit flavors, including cherry and cranberry, with a subtle hint of sweetness. The wine’s moderate acidity adds a refreshing and vibrant quality to the overall taste. Gamay’s tannins are soft and gentle, contributing to its smooth and easy-drinking nature. Check out this full post on Gamay wine.

Fun Fact: Gamay’s earned a reputation as being the first wine of the new harvest season. It goes by the term: Beaujolais Nouveau. Here’s why Beaujolais Nouveau’s so famous.

Wine Comparison: Gamay vs Merlot

Here’s a quick side-by-side that covers the most common styles of Gamay and Merlot wine.

Gamay Wine Profile

  • Sweetness: Gamay is typically made as a dry table wine.
  • Alcohol: Gamay will have medium alcohol, similar to Merlot.
  • Acid: Gamay wines medium to medium plus acid, about the same or a little higher than Merlot.
  • Body: Gamay is a lighter-bodied red wine, lighter than Merlot.
  • Tannin: Expect your Gamay to have low tannins, making it a friendly, approachable wine, often lower than Merlot.
  • Flavors: Gamay forefront ripe red fruit, like raspberry, strawberry, and cherry. Expect a distinctive floral note. Depending on the winemaking style, you may get cola, banana, or even bubblegum.

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.

Are Gamay and Merlot Similar?

Yes, Gamay and Merlot red wines are similar. They share red fruit, medium alcohol, and smooth tannins. Depending on the style, they can both be medium-bodied. This will make the wines taste similar.

What Is the Difference Between Gamay and Merlot?

Gamay has a distinctive floral and herbal note that Merlot doesn’t have. Merlot has an overt dark plum quality and is typically fuller bodied than most styles of Gamay. Gamay is usually lighter in body and tannin than Merlot.

Gamay vs Merlot Food Pairings and Serving Temperature

merlot vs gamay - pizza

Gamay works well with dishes that need a little brightening up, like risotto, salads, and roasted white meats (e.g., turkey, pork loin, chicken, white beans).

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.

Discover More:
Red Wine and Cheese Pairing: What You Need to Know
Tempranillo Cheese Pairing Guide
Merlot Cheese Pairing Guide
Merlot Meat Pairing
Merlot Vegetarian Pairing
Merlot Food Pairing Guide

Both Gamay 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 Gamay 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, Gamay vs Merlot?

It’s logical to think about cost when it comes to comparing Gamay and Merlot wines.

QualityPrice RangePrice Range
WineMid-LevelPremium
Gamay$12 – $25$25 – $40+
Merlot$10 – $15$15 – $40+

Producers craft Gamay and Merlot in the extreme-value price band. You can find both under $5 USD. Moving up the quality ladder, these two wines are similarly priced. Merlot’s the more popular red wine, and enjoys greater production volume than Gamay, so will often be lower priced. Super-premium Merlot wines tend to cost much more than similar quality levels of Gamay thanks to name recognition and limited production (see What’s a good price to pay for Merlot here.).

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, Gamay or Merlot?

If you prefer a more fruit-driven, uncomplicated wine with floral and candied notes, then Gamay is the better choice. If you like a medium-bodied red wine with more tannins, and a smooth, round mouthfeel, then Merlot is the better choice.

Personal Note: I’m huge fan of Merlot and think it’s highly underrated. I have Merlot in my cellar right now, I don’t have any Gamay. But many of my friends love Gamay wines.

Final Thoughts – Gamay or Merlot?

Gamay and Merlot are easy-drinking red wines that many newer wine drinkers enjoy for their soft, fruit-forward style.

These two wines are best compared side-by-side, more so than most. Grab two bottles of similarly priced Gamay and Merlot, invite a few friends over, and enjoy an evening of swirling and sipping.

Thirsty for More?

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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