When it comes to red wines, understanding the differences can help you pick out wines you enjoy, like Shiraz vs. Merlot.
Shiraz has a fuller body, higher tannins, dark fruits, and black pepper, while Merlot offers a medium to full body, rich berry flavors, and a smoother texture. Shiraz will be darker in your glass than Merlot.
Comparing Shiraz vs. Merlot provides an excellent opportunity for new red wine enthusiasts to appreciate the distinct flavor profiles, origins, and characteristics of these uber-popular red wines.
- Shiraz Basics: A Bold Red
- Merlot Basics: A Classic Choice
- Wine Comparison: Shiraz vs. Merlot
- Shiraz Wine Profile
- Merlot Wine Profile
- Final Thoughts – Merlot or Shiraz?
Shiraz Basics: A Bold Red
Shiraz, also known as Syrah, has gained international popularity due to its bold and versatile nature. Syrah originated in France, and migrated to Australia with European settlers. Today, Syrah is widely known as Shiraz in Australia, where it’s the country’s signature red wine grape.
Syrah presents a robust flavor profile with intense black fruit notes and a hint of spice, offering a powerful and complex drinking experience. Australia is one of the top exporters of Shiraz, providing a range from entry level to higher-end options.
Helpful Tip: Here’s a full guide to Syrah wine.
Merlot Basics: A Classic Choice
Merlot, a classic choice, is known for its smooth and approachable character. Like Shiraz, it also originated in France and has become widely popular, offering a range of styles from dry to off-dry. (Here’s a full guide to Merlot wine.)
Merlot showcases a medium to full body with flavors of ripe blackberries, plum, and sometimes hints of vanilla. Its moderate tannin levels make it a versatile option for a variety of palates.
Fun Wine Fact: Merlot gained significant recognition for its contribution to Bordeaux blends and its stand-alone appeal.
Wine Comparison: Shiraz vs. Merlot
Here’s a quick side-by-side comparison that covers the most common styles of Syrah and Merlot.
|Deep purple to black
|Ruby red to garnet
|Dark fruits, black pepper, smoke
|Plum, red cherry, herbal notes
|Medium to full
|Key Growing Regions
|Rhône Valley, Australia, California
|Bordeaux, California, Italy
|Grilled meats, game, spicy dishes
|Roasted chicken, pasta, grilled vegetables
Shiraz Wine Profile
- Sweetness: Shiraz is typically produced in a dry style, offering minimal residual sugar.
- Alcohol: Shiraz wines generally have a moderate to high alcohol content, ranging from around 13% to 15% ABV.
- Body: Known for its bold body, Shiraz provides a powerful and complex drinking experience.
- Tannins: Shiraz often has higher tannin levels compared to Merlot, meaning it will taste grippier in your mouth, and more drying.
- Acid: Shiraz has medium acid, similar to Merlot.
- Flavor and Aroma Intensity: Shiraz exhibits robust flavors and aromas, with intense dark fruit notes and hints of spice.
- Flavors: The flavor profile often includes blackberry, black pepper, dark chocolate, and sometimes a touch of smoked meat or leather.
Merlot Wine Profile
- Sweetness: Merlot wines lean towards dryness, offering a range of dry to off-dry styles.
- Alcohol: Merlot wines typically have a moderate to high alcohol content, similar to Shiraz, ranging from around 13% to 14.5% ABV, but not usually quite as a high as Shiraz.
- Body: Merlot is known for its medium to full body.
- Acid: Merlot has medium acid, similar to Shiraz
- Tannins: Merlot showcases moderate tannin levels.
- Flavor and Aroma Intensity: Merlot boasts intense dark fruit notes with a touch of herbal and earthy aromas.
- Flavors: The flavor profile often includes plum, red cherry, and subtle herbal 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 Shiraz and Merlot Similar?
Both Shiraz and Merlot are similar and share dark fruit flavors with medium acid. Both are often used in blends, and both red grapes originated in France.
The Difference Between Shiraz and Merlot
Shiraz tends to have a bolder body and peppery flavors, whereas Merlot offers a smoother, medium to full-bodied experience with ripe dark fruit notes. Additionally, Shiraz generally has higher tannin levels compared to Merlot.
Shiraz vs. Merlot: Food Pairings and Serving Temperature
Shiraz Food Pairing: Shiraz’s bold dark fruit flavors and spice make it a versatile companion for a variety of dishes, including grilled meats, stews, and spicy cuisine.
Merlot Food Pairing: Merlot, with its medium to full body and balanced fruit flavors, pairs exceptionally well with roasted chicken, pasta, and grilled vegetables.
Personal Note: I love both Shiraz and Merlot wines with taco salad.
Both Shiraz and Merlot are best enjoyed at slightly below room temperature. Place them in a cool, dark place for a while before serving.
Which Is More Expensive, Shiraz vs. Merlot?
When comparing Shiraz vs Merlot, it’s natural to think about costs.
Shiraz Cost: Entry-level Shiraz wines are typically affordable, ranging from $10 to $15 per bottle. If wine affordability is a concern, Shiraz is an accessible choice.
Personal Note: You’ll also find exceptional value Shiraz wines from Australia under $5 USD. These wines tend to have a slightly off-dry profile and are perfect for casual sipping or pairing with take-out burgers.
If you are looking for premium Shiraz, there are higher-priced options available. Look for bottles priced around $25 to $50 or higher, offering a more complex and nuanced drinking experience.
Helpful Tip: Look for quality Shiraz wines from Australia’s Barossa Valley. They’re a treat!
Merlot Cost: Similar to Shiraz, 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, approachable character.
More expensive Merlots will have more intense fruit flavors. You’ll immediately notice just how pronounced they can be.
Premium Merlot wines sourced from renowned regions can have prices ranging from $25 to $40 or more.
Fun Wine Fact: Merlot is often considered an excellent value for its quality, offering premium taste without the hefty price tag.
Which Is Better, Shiraz or Merlot?
If you enjoy a bold, robust red wine with higher tannin levels and spicier notes, Shiraz may be the better choice for you. On the other hand, if you prefer a medium to full-bodied wine with a smoother, fruit-forward character, Merlot is likely the better fit. Both wines offer a delightful experience, and the choice ultimately depends on your personal preferences and the occasion.
Final Thoughts – Merlot or Shiraz?
Both Shiraz and Merlot present excellent red 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 Shiraz and Merlot. Invite over a few friends and enjoy an evening of swirling and sipping.
Shiraz showcases a bold and complex nature at a price point that makes the wine a great choice for various occasions. If you’re looking for a silkier, more approachable red wine that’s fruit-forward, then Merlot 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.
You should be able to find delicious wines at every price point. Check out this post on how to find great wines under $50.