Merlot vs Carignan


Merlot vs Carignan is a fun comparison.

Merlot has smoother tannins with dark berries and plums. Carignan has more herbal and savory notes, like meat, with a fuller body and grippy tannins. Both wines are everyday drinkers.

TL;DR: If you enjoy the smooth, silky mid-palate mouthfeel of Merlot, you may not like Carignan.

These wines provide an enticing opportunity for red wine enthusiasts to explore and appreciate their distinct flavor profiles, origins, and characteristics.

Merlot Basics: A Velvety Red Classic

what does merlot taste like - infographic - merlot vs carignan

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.)

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

Carignan Basics: Everyday Red Drinker

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.)

Wine Comparison: Merlot vs. Carignan

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

HueMedium rubyDeep purple to ruby red
AromasPlum, red berriesRed berries, spice, earth, meat
TanninsMedium – softMedium to high
Alcohol (%)13-15%13-15%
BodyMediumMedium to full
IntensityMediumMedium to Pronounced
Key Growing RegionsBordeaux, France, California, ItalySpain, France, Italy
Classic PairingsPasta, chicken, soft cheesesGrilled meats, stews, hard cheeses
Price Range$10-$30+$15-$40

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, smoother than Carignan
  • Acid: Merlot has medium acid levels, similar to Carignan.
  • 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.

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, more pronounced than Merlot wines, contributing to its structure and aging potential.
  • Flavors: The flavor profile often includes red berries, licorice, and meat, or leather.

Are Merlot and Carignan Similar?

Merlot and Carignan are similar. Both wines boast dark fruit flavors, medium acid, and medium alcohol. They’re both dry red wines used in blends.

What Is the Difference Between Merlot and Carignan?

Carignan tends to have a fuller body and more robust tannins compared to Merlot’s smoother and softer profile. Carignan will have a savory quality, Merlot is almost always just fruit – like ripe plum and blackberry.

Merlot vs. Carignan Winemaking

Both Merlot and Carignan are blending grapes, meaning that they’re often used in blends with other grapes. Merlot goes into Bordeaux blends, adding softness to Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Carignan is often blended with Grenache, Syrah, and Tempranillo, also tempering some of these bigger wines.

Merlot vs. Carignan: Food Pairings and Serving Temperature

merlot vs carignan - cheese shop

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

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

Both Merlot and Carignan are best enjoyed at slightly below room temperature. Allow them to breathe for a while before serving to enhance their flavors. For Carignan, consider decanting to soften its robust tannins.

Which Is More Expensive, Merlot vs. Carignan?

When comparing the prices of Merlot vs Carignan, it’s natural to wonder about cost.

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

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.

Which Is Better, Merlot or Carignan?

If you enjoy smooth, velvety red wine, Merlot will be the better choice. If you prefer bold and robust red wines with a savory side, then Carignan is the better wine. If you’re on a budget, you’ll find extreme value Merlot wines at a lower price than Carinan in the US market.

Personal Note: I’m not a big Carignan drinker and don’t keep it in my cellar, but Merlot is a favorite go-to for almost any mid-week meal.

Final Thoughts – Merlot vs Carignan?

Merlot and Carignan are two different wines. Merlot is a soft, approachable red wine great for newer wine drinkers. Carignan needs a little more warming up to if you’re not into savory reds.

I’m a big fan of side-by-side tastings to tease out the different wine characteristics. A great way to get started with these two wines is to do a side-by-side comparison.

Grab 2 bottles of similarly priced Caringna and Merlot wine. Invite over a few friends and host a tasting.

Thirsty for More?

I’m a big believer in doing side-by-side tastings to boost your wine knowledge. Here’s how to host your own wine tasting for beginners.

Check out this post on Cabernet Sauvignon vs Merlot, another popular red wine, along with Cabernet Sauvignon vs Malbec, and Shiraz vs Merlot.

You should be able to find delicious wines at every price point. Check out this post on how to find great wines under $50.

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