Merlot vs Carménère

HueMedium Ruby to GarnetMedium Ruby to Garnet
AromasPlum, red berries, chocolateRaspberry, peppercorn,
green bell pepper, jalapeno
TanninsMedium – softModerate
Alcohol (%)13-14.5%13.5-14.5%
IntensityMediumMedium plus
Key Growing RegionsBordeaux, France, Italy, CaliforniaChile, Bordeaux
Classic PairingsPasta, chicken, soft cheesesRoasted pork, stuffed bell pepper,
aged cheddar
Price Range$10-$30+$10-$30+

Comparing Merlot vs Carmenere is a must-do if you’re getting into red wine.

Camenere has a distinctive jalapeño or green spicey quality. Merlot has soft red and black fruit. Both are medium body, medium tannin wines.

TL;DR: If you enjoy Merlot, you may or may not like Caremenere. Carmenere can taste green, which some wine drinkers dislike

Merlot Basics: A Mellow Red Classic

what does merlot wine taste like - carmenere vs merlot

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.

Carmenere Basics: A Bold Chilean Wine

what does caremnere wine taste like? Caremenere vs merlot

Carmenere, originally from Bordeaux, is now the signature red wine of Chile. It has a distinctive green quality about it with a spiciness that sets it apart. It has medium tannins, a medium body, and medium plus acidity. Check out this post on the curious history of Carmenere in Chile – it’s quite interesting and a quirky twist of fate.

Fun Wine Fact: For many years, Chilean winegrowers thought that their Carmenere vines were actually Merlot. It wasn’t until DNA testing in 1994 that they realized what they thought was Merlot was, in fact, Carmenere. (They also thought that these particular vines weren’t very good and produced off-tasting Merlot).

Today, Carmenere has gained recognition beyond its Bordeaux origins, with vineyards in regions such as California and Australia.

Wine Comparison: Merlot vs. Carmenere

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

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
  • Acid: Merlot has medium acid levels, a little lower than Carmenere
  • 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.

Carmenere Wine Profile

  • Sweetness: Carmenere is almost always dry.
  • Alcohol: Carmenere wines typically have a moderate to high alcohol content, similar to Merlot, ranging from around 13% to 15% ABV.
  • Body: Carmenere is known for its medium body.
  • Tannins: Carmenere showcases medium, firm tannins.
  • Acid: Carmenere will have medium plus acidity, slightly higher than Merlot wines.
  • Flavor and Aroma Intensity: Carmenere boasts bold red fruit notes and a distinctive herbaceous undertone, notably peppercorn and bell pepper or jalapeno.

Are Merlot and Carmenere Similar?

Merlot and Carmenere are similar. Both wines have a medium body and tannin levels. Both wines have historically be used as blending grapes in Bordeaux wines.

What Is the Difference Between Merlot and Carmenere?

Carmenere has green notes that Merlot won’t have. It also has a spicy quality. Merlot is pure fruit goodness. Carmenere may be slightly higher in acid than Merlot.

Merlot vs. Carmenere: Food Pairings and Serving Temperature

carmenere vs merlot - stew
  • 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.
  • Carmenere Food Pairing: Carmenere is a great wine to pair with aged cheeses, Mexican tacos and nachos, chile, and steak salads. Pick up your spice game with this red wine.

Personal Note: Caremenere is my go-to wine for taco salad.

Both Merlot and Carmenere are best enjoyed at slightly below room temperature. Place them in the refrigerator for about 15-20 minutes before serving. For Carmenere, you may want to let it breathe for a few minutes after opening to enhance its flavors. Merlot can be enjoyed immediately after opening.

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

Which Is More Expensive, Merlot vs. Carmenere?

When comparing the prices of Merlot and Carmenere, it’s natural to wonder about their relative costs.

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

Carmenere Cost

  • Similar to Merlot, entry-level Carmenere wines also fall within accessible price ranges, usually ranging from $10-$15 per bottle.
  • On the premium side, Carmenere will have more intense dark fruit flavors. You’ll immediately notice just how pronounced they can be. Premium Carmenere wines are $20 to $30 or more.

Which Is Better Merlot or Carmenere?

If you enjoy smooth, mellow red wine, Merlot will be better for you. If you enjoy a red wine with distinctive spice and green notes, Carmenere is the better choice.

Personal Note: Carmenere is not a wine for beginners. I keep Carmenere in my cellar, but don’t share it with friends who aren’t really into wine. Merlot’s much more approachable than Carmenere.

Final Thoughts – Carmenere or Merlot?

Merlot and Caremenere are two very different red wines. Despite sharing similar tannin, body, and alcohol levels, their flavor profiles couldn’t be more distinctive.

A great way to get started with these two wines is to do a side-by-side comparison. Grab 2 bottles of similarly priced Merlot and Carmenere. Invite over a few friends and enjoy an evening of swirling and sipping.

Tip: I would totally pair either of these wines with aged white cheddar cheese if you’re doing a tasting.

Merlot showcases a mellow and easy-drinking nature at a price point that makes the wine a great choice for everyday drinking. If you’re looking for an unusual red wine, then Carmenere will be a fun choice.

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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