Merlot vs Petit Verdot

CharacteristicsMerlotPetit Verdot
HueDeep ruby redIntense purple to black
ColorRedRed to black
AromasPlum, red berries, chocolateDark fruit, violet, herbal
TanninsMedium – softHigh
AcidMediumMedium to Medium plus
Alcohol (%)13-14.5%14-15.5%
IntensityMediumMedium plus to High
Key Growing RegionsBordeaux, France, CaliforniaBordeaux, France, Spain, California
Classic PairingsPasta, chicken, soft cheesesGrilled meats, game, aged cheeses
Price Range$10-$30$20-$50

Merlot vs Petit Verdot are fun wines to compare because they come from the same region and have a long history together.

Petit Verdot has a fuller body, much higher tannins, and a signature floral note. Merlot has a medium body, medium aroma and flavor intensity, soft tannins, and plum.

Here’s what you need to know about Merlot vs Petit Verdot wines.

Merlot, with its approachable demeanor, presents a medium to full body, accompanied by velvety tannins and a harmonious blend of red fruit and subtle earthiness. On the other hand, Petit Verdot boasts a bolder profile, offering intense dark fruit flavors, robust structure, and a powerful, lingering finish. While Merlot is often found in a range of affordable options, both wines can be savored within the $20-$30 USD range.

These wines beckon red wine enthusiasts to delve into a captivating journey, comparing and savoring their distinctive flavor profiles, origins, and characteristics.

Merlot Basics: A Versatile Red Classic

merlot vs petit verdot - what does merlot wine taste like infographic

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, along with Petit Verdot. Who knew?

Petit Verdot Basics: A Robust Companion

what does petit verdot wine taste like - petit verdot vs merlot

Petit Verdot, originating from Bordeaux as well, provides a bold and robust experience. While historically used as a blending grape, Petit Verdot has gained recognition for its individual character.

Its flavor profile encompasses dark fruit, such as blackberry and plum, coupled with hints of spice and a touch of floral aromatics.

Fun Wine Fact: Petit Verdot, translating to “little green,” alludes to the late ripening of its small, thick-skinned berries.

Wine Comparison: Merlot vs. Petit Verdot

Here’s a brief side-by-side comparison covering the predominant styles of Merlot vs Petit Verdot.

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 Petit Verdot
  • Acid: Merlot has medium acid levels
  • 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.

Helpful Tip: Both Petit Verdot and Merlot often have oak used during winemaking. Here’s what oak contributes to wine.

Petit Verdot Wine Profile

  • Sweetness: Petit Verdot wines are dry.
  • Alcohol: Petit Verdot wines typically have a higher alcohol content, ranging from around 14% to 15.5% ABV.
  • Body: Petit Verdot is known for its full body and robust structure, fuller than Merlot.
  • Acid: Petit Verdot has medium plus acid, slightly more than Merlot wine.
  • Tannins: Petit Verdot showcases firm and gripping tannins, adding to its powerful and bold character.
  • Flavors: The flavor profile often includes dark fruit notes like blackberry and plum, accompanied by hints of herbs and purple floral undertones.

Helpful Tip: Pop over to this 30-second tasting tip to learn how to taste wine tannins.

Are Merlot and Petit Verdot Similar?

Merlot and Petit Verdot are similar. They’re both dry red wines traditionally used in blends with other grapes.

What Is the Difference Between Merlot and Petit Verdot?

Petit Verdot tends to have a fuller body and more intense tannins compared to the smoother and softer Merlot. While Merlot showcases plum notes, Petit Verdot leans towards herbal and purple floral notes.

Merlot vs. Petit Verdot: Food Pairings and Serving Temperature

  • 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.
  • Petit Verdot: Petit Verdot, with its robust structure and intense dark fruit profile, pairs exceptionally well with hearty dishes like grilled steaks and rich stews.

Personal Note: Petit Verdot is my go-to rainy night and lentil soup wine.

Both Merlot and Petit Verdot benefit from a slightly cooler serving temperature. Place them in the refrigerator for about 15-20 minutes before serving to reach the ideal temperature. Petit Verdot may benefit from a slightly longer time outside the refrigerator to allow its bold flavors to unfold.

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. Petit Verdot?

When comparing the prices of Merlot and Petit Verdot, it’s natural to consider bottle price.

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

Petit Verdot Cost

  • Entry-level Petit Verdot wines are a little more expensive, around $20 to $30 per bottle. These wines provide a robust and flavorful experience at a reasonable cost.
  • On the premium side, Petit Verdot from boutique producers commands prices ranging from $35 to $50 or higher. The investment often reflects the craftsmanship and intensity that these wines bring to the table.

Petit Verdot isn’t as widely planted as Merlot and is usually used as a blending grape, not a single varietal wine, making it more expensive than Merlot wine.

Which Is Better, Merlot or Petit Verdot?

If you appreciate a softer, velvety red wine, Merlot will likely be the better choice. If you enjoy layered herbal and floral notes in a fuller-bodied, tannic red wine, then Petit Verdot is the better option. If you’re on a tight budget, then Merlot is a better choice because it’s less expensive.

Personal Note: Petit Verdot isn’t a beginner’s red wine. Many of my friends who aren’t super into wine dislike the herbal and floral profile of Petit Verdot and those higher tannins. Merlot’s the better choice if you’re new to wines and dislike tannins.

Final Thoughts – Merlot or Petit Verdot?

Both Merlot and Petit Verdot are curious wines to explore because they enjoy a shared winemaking history. Both used in Bordeaux blends, both contributing different qualities.

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 Petit Verdot and Merlot. Invite over a few friends and enjoy together exploring these two classic reds.

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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