Merlot vs Petite Sirah


Merlot vs Petite Sirah is an interesting comparison. These are very different red wines.

Petite Sirah has a fuller body, much higher tannins, and dark fruits and spices compared to Merlot. Merlot has a medium body, medium aroma and flavor intensity, and soft tannins with plum notes.

TL;DR: If you love the plush, velvety softness of Merlot wines, you may not enjoy Petite Sirah. It’s a bigger red wine.

Here’s what you need to know about Merlot vs Petite Sirah.

Merlot Basics: The Friendly Red Wine

what does merlot wine taste like - infographic - merlot vs petite sirah

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.

Petite Sirah: The Red Powerhouse

petite sirah wine profile infographic - merlot vs petite sirah

Petite Sirah, originally from France, is now closely associated with the California wine industry. Petite Sirah showcases a bold character.

Petite Sirah, known for its full body, exhibits flavors of blackberries, plums, and a touch of black pepper and black licorice, creating a rich and complex palate. Check out more about Petite Sirah wines.

Fun Wine Fact: Petite Sirah is sometimes labeled as Durif, named after its French botanist creator, Dr. François Durif.

Wine Comparison: Merlot vs. Petite Sirah

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

CharacteristicsMerlotPetite Sirah
HueMedium Ruby to GarnetDark purple to black
ColorRedRed to black
AromasPlum, red berries, herbalBlackberry, blueberry, peppery, licorice
TanninsMedium – SoftHigh
AcidMediumMedium – High
Alcohol (%)13-15%14-16%
Key Growing RegionsBordeaux, France, California, ItalyCalifornia, Australia, France
Classic PairingsPasta, chicken, soft cheesesGrilled meats, hearty stews, strong cheeses
Price Range$10-$30$10-$50

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, much smoother than Petite Sirah.
  • Acid: Merlot has medium acid levels, maybe a little less than some Petite Sirahs
  • 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.

Petite Sirah Wine Profile

  • Sweetness: Petite Sirah tends to be on the drier side, offering bold and dry styles.
  • Alcohol: Petite Sirah wines typically have a higher alcohol content, ranging from around 14% to 16% ABV.
  • Body: Petite Sirah is known for its full body, providing a robust and intense drinking experience, much fuller than Merlot wine.
  • Tannin: Petite Sirah will have high tannin levels, much higher than Merlot, that are rasping.
  • Acid: Petite Sirah showcases balanced acidity, contributing to its bold character, in the medium to high range.
  • Flavor and Aroma Intensity: Petite Sirah boasts a rich and intense dark fruit profile with notes of blackberry, plum, and black pepper and licorice.

Are Merlot and Petite Sirah Similar?

Merlot and Petite Sirah are similar. They’re both traditionally used in blends. Merlot is used to soften Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc in Bordeaux blends. Petite Sirah is used to add color, body and structure to Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and even Pinot Noir.

Nerdy Wine Fact: Pinot Noir should be a light colored wine, but many wine consumers think the color of the wine is a sign of quality, so they dislike light-colored Pinot Noir and think it’s a weak wine. Winemakers know this and will deepen the color of their Pinot Noirs by blending in Petite Sirah, for example. Serious wine enthusiasts know this and get suspicious when drinking dark Pinot Noir.

What Is the Difference Between Merlot and Petite Sirah?

Merlot tends to have a medium body with a smoother profile, while Petite Sirah boasts a full-bodied and robust character. Merlot leans towards plum notes, while Petite Sirah presents a darker fruit profile with a touch of spice. Additionally, Petite Sirah has higher alcohol content and more pronounced acidity.

Merlot vs. Petite Sirah: Food Pairings and Serving Temperature

merlot vs petite sirah - pizza
  • Petite Sirah Food Pairing: Petite Sirah’s spicey and dark fruit flavors make it a versatile companion for a variety of dishes, including grilled meats and stews. This is a wine you’ll want to pair with protein and fat.
  • 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.

Both Merlot and Petite Sirah benefit from being served at a slightly cooler temperature. Chill them in the refrigerator for an hour or two before serving for an optimal experience.

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. Petite Sirah?

When comparing the prices of Merlot and Petite Sirah, it’s natural to wonder about price differences.

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

Petite Sirah Cost

  • Entry-level Petite Sirah wines are typically affordable, ranging from $10-$15 per bottle.
  • Mid-tier Petite Sirah wines are $20-$30. These showcase regional differences and the hand of the winemaker.
  • Premium Petite Sirah wines are $35-$50+

Which Is Better, Merlot or Petite Sirah?

If you appreciate a smoother, medium-bodied red wine that complements a variety of dishes, Merlot is the better choice. For those seeking a bold and intense red wine experience, especially with heartier meals, Petite Sirah is the preferred option.

Personal Note: I keep Merlot in my cellar to drink regularly. I don’t keep Petite Sirah. I’ll drink Petite Sirah, don’t get me wrong, but the wine’s higher alcohol and firm body means that I need to pair it more carefully with richer foods that I don’t typically eat.

Final Thoughts – Merlot or Petite Sirah?

Both Petite Sirah and Merlot are very different red wines. If you enjoy Merlot, you may or may not like Petite Sirah.

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 Petite Sirah and Merlot. Invite over a few friends and enjoy tasting.

Merlot presents a smooth and versatile nature at a price point that makes it suitable for everyday enjoyment. If you’re in the mood for a wine that offers juicy dark fruit and bold intensity, then Petite Sirah is a fabulous choice that will leave a lasting impression.

Thirsty for More?

I strongly believe in side-by-side tastings to enhance your wine knowledge. Here’s how to host your own wine tasting for beginners.

Explore the nuances of other popular red wines with this post on Cabernet Sauvignon vs. Pinotage.

Here’s another intriguing post to check out: The allure of Malbec – a deep dive into this robust red wine.

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