Merlot vs Pinot Grigio

Characteristics Merlot Pinot Grigio
Hue Deep ruby red Straw yellow to copper
Color Red White
Aromas Plum, red berries, chocolate Citrus, green apple, pear
Tannins Soft to moderate Low
Acid Low to medium High
Alcohol (%) 13-14.5% 12-13.5%
Body Medium Light
Intensity Moderate Moderate
Key Growing Regions Bordeaux, France, California Italy, California, Oregon
Classic Pairings Pasta, chicken, soft cheeses Seafood, light salads, chicken
Price Range $10-$40 $10-$25

When it comes to white and red wines, the world is awash in delicious options, but how do you choose Merlot vs Pinot Grigio?

Merlot is a red wine that has a medium to full body, along with subtle notes of red and black fruits. Pinot Grigio, a white wine, has a lighter body with delicate flavors of pear, green apple, and lemon zest. Both wines are widely available at entry-level prices.

These wines provide an accessible opportunity for wine enthusiasts to indulge, here’s what you need to know about each.

Pinot Grigio Basics: A Versatile Italian Classic

pinot grigio wine profile infographic - pinot grigio vs merlot

Pinot Grigio, originating from Italy, has gained international popularity due to its approachable and versatile nature. Pinot Grigio’s closely connected to quintessential wine-growing regions in Italy, such as Trentino-Alto Adige and Friuli-Venezia Giulia.

This widely-available white wine presents a delicate flavor profile with subtle fruit notes and enticing floral aromas. It is renowned for its light to medium body, offering a refreshing and easy-to-drink experience. (Here’s a deep-dive into Pinot Grigio wines.)

Being one of the world’s most popular white wines, Pinot Grigio is crafted by numerous Italian wineries at affordable, everyday prices, making it a great wine for casual drinking. You’ll also find higher-end selections crafted by renowned producers that exhibit more expressiveness and flavor on the palate.

Let price be your guide.

Fun Wine Fact: Pinot Grigio is known as Pinot Gris in France. Despite the different names, both refer to the same grape variety. Pinot Gris is often made in a fuller-bodied style.

Merlot Basics: A Smooth Red Classic

merlot wine profile infographic - merlot vs pinot grigio wine

Merlot, originating from Bordeaux, France, has gained international popularity due to its smooth and approachable nature. Today, it’s cultivated in various wine regions globally, including California, Chile, and Italy.

Merlot presents a medium to full body with flavors of red and black fruits, often accompanied by hints of vanilla and spice. It is renowned for its versatility, making it a favorite among both new and experienced wine drinkers. (Here’s a deep-dive into Merlot wines.)

Being a widely grown grape variety, Merlot is crafted into an array of styles, from fruit-forward and easy-drinking to more complex and age-worthy options. Let your palate guide you in choosing the Merlot that suits your taste.

Fun Wine Fact: Merlot is often used in blending, particularly in Bordeaux-style blends, where it contributes to the wine’s smoothness and richness.

Wine Comparison: Merlot vs Pinot Grigio

clear martini glass on brown surface - pinot grigio vs merlot wine

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

Pinot Grigio Wine Profile:

  • Sweetness: Pinot Grigio is typically produced in a dry style, offering minimal residual sugar.
  • Alcohol: Pinot Grigio wines generally have a moderate alcohol content, ranging from around 11% to 13% ABV.
  • Body: Known for its light to medium body, Pinot Grigio provides a refreshing and easy drinking experience.
  • Acid: Crisp, Pinot Grigio tends to have higher acidity compared to Merlot.
  • Flavor and Aroma Intensity: Pinot Grigio exhibits delicate flavors and aromas, with subtle floral nuances and hints of tree and stone fruits.
  • Flavors: The flavor profile often includes notes of pear, green apple, lemon zest, and sometimes a touch of almond or honey.

Merlot Wine Profile:

  • Sweetness: Merlot wines typically lean towards dryness, offering a range of dry to off-dry styles.
  • Alcohol: Merlot wines generally have a moderate to slightly higher alcohol content, ranging from around 12% to 14% ABV.
  • Tannin: Merlot has medium tannins with soft, velvety tannins.
  • Body: Merlot is known for its medium to full body.
  • Acid: Merlot showcases moderate acidity. Flavor and Aroma Intensity: Merlot boasts flavors of red and black fruits, often with hints of vanilla and spice.
  • Flavors: The flavor profile often includes plum, black cherry, red currant, vanilla, and sometimes a touch of herbal or earthy notes.

Helpful Tip: If you’re unsure about serving temperatures, here’s a breakdown of wine serving temperatures for different wine styles and occasions.

Are Pinot Grigio and Merlot Similar?

Both Pinot Grigio and Merlot are widely considered easy drinking wines, whether you prefer red or white, it’s up to you!

What Is the Difference Between Pinot Grigio and Merlot?

Merlot tends to have a medium to full body, compared to Pinot Grigio’s light to medium body. Merlot often exhibits flavors of red and black fruits, often with hints of vanilla and spice, while Pinot Grigio leans towards delicate stone fruit notes. Additionally, Merlot has lower acidity.

Merlot vs Pinot Grigio: Food Pairings and Serving Temperature

Pinot Grigio Pairing: Pinot Grigio’s delicate fruit and floral character make it a versatile companion for a variety of dishes, including appetizers, white meats, and lighter vegetarian cuisine.

Merlot Pairing: Merlot, with its medium to full body and flavors of red and black fruits, pairs exceptionally well with hearty dishes like grilled meats, pasta, and flavorful cheeses.

Personal Note: I love pairing Merlot with take-out burgers and fries.


Both Pinot Grigio and Merlot are best enjoyed at specific temperatures. Pinot Grigio should be served slightly chilled, around 46-50°F (8-10°C), to bring out its refreshing qualities. Merlot, being a red wine, is best served at slightly cooler than room temperature, around 60-65°F (15-18°C).

Which Is More Expensive, Merlot vs Pinot Grigio?

brown wooden wine bottle rack - pinot grigio vs merlot wine

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

Pinot Grigio Cost

Entry-level Pinot Grigio wines are typically affordable, ranging from $8 to $15 per bottle. If wine affordability is something you’re thinking about, Pinot Grigio is an accessible choice without compromising on the refreshing and crisp flavors that make this wine so popular.

If you look for premium Pinot Grigio, there are higher-priced Pinot Grigio wines available. These bottles, priced around $25 to $50 or higher, offer a more complex and nuanced drinking experience.

Merlot Cost

Similar to Pinot Grigio, entry-level Merlot wines also fall within accessible price ranges, usually ranging from $10 to $20 per bottle. These wines are known for their smooth and approachable nature, making them perfect for everyday enjoyment.

On the premium side, Merlot can be found at higher price points, ranging from $25 to $60 or more, especially for well-aged and prestigious bottles.

Which Is Better, Pinot Grigio vs Merlot?

If you enjoy light, easy-drinking white wine, Pinot Grigio will be better for you. If you prefer fuller styles of red wine with flavors of red and black fruits, then Merlot is the better choice.

Helpful Tip: Most inexpensive Pinot Grigios are made to enjoy young and fresh. You should enjoy these wines when you purchase them. Don’t cellar them for a long time.

Final Thoughts – Merlot or Pinot Grigio?

Both Pinot Grigio and Merlot present delightful wine options with their own unique characteristics.

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 Pinot Grigio and Merlot. Invite over a few friends and enjoy an afternoon of swirling and sipping.

Pinot Grigio showcases a delicate and easy-drinking nature at a price point that makes the wine a great choice for everyday drinking. If you’re looking for a wine that’s more robust with flavors of red and black fruits, then Merlot will be a fun choice that satisfies your palate.

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 Chardonnay vs. Sauvignon Blanc, another popular white wine, along with Pinot Grigio vs Pinot Blanc.

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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