Tannat vs Merlot


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

Tannat has a bolder body, much higher tannins, and dark fruits and spices compared to Merlot. Merlot has a medium body, medium aroma and flavor intensity, and soft red and black fruit.

TL;DR: If you like the soft drinking nature of Merlot, you probably won’t care for Tannat.

Tannat Basics: A Powerful Red

tannat vs merlot - tannat wine profile infographic - what does tannat taste like

Tannat, originally from southwestern France, is a powerful, tannic red wine grape that isn’t nearly as popular as some of the other big reds out there. Today, Tannat’s spiritual home is Uruguay, of all places, in a curious twist of wine fate. (Here’s a deep Tannat wines.)

You’ll find tiny pockets of Tannat grown outside of France and Uruguay from boutique producers. If you come across these wines, be sure to give them a try.

Wines made from tannat are deeply colored, almost an inky-black, thanks to thick skins and small berries. Those skins leach out tannins into the wine, making for an astringent drinking experience. Tannat showcases black fruit, licorice, spice, and a smokey note.

Fun Wine Fact: The name “Tannat” derives from tannin, giving you a clue as to just how tannic this wine can be.

Merlot Basics: A Soft Red

Merlot wine profile infographic - what does merlot taste like - merlot vs tannat

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.

Wine Comparison: Tannat vs. Merlot

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

HueDeep purple to inky blackMedium Ruby to Garnet
AromasDark fruit, chocolate, black teaPlum, blackberry, raspberry, herbal
TanninsVery HighMedium – soft
Alcohol (%)13-15%13-15%
BlendingBlended to softenUsed in Bordeaux blends
Key Growing RegionsUruguay (Madiran, Tursan in France)France (Bordeaux), Italy, California
Classic PairingsGrilled meats, hearty stewsRoast chicken, pasta, soft cheeses
Price Range$15-$40$10-$30+

Tannat Wine Profile

  • Sweetness: Tannat is a dry red wine.
  • Alcohol: Tannat wines generally have a moderate to high alcohol content, ranging from around 13% to 15% ABV.
  • Body: Known for its bold body, Tannat provides a powerful and complex drinking experience.
  • Tannins: Tannat has significantly higher tannin levels compared to Merlot.
  • Acid: Tannat has medium acid levels, similar to Merlot.
  • Flavor and Aroma Intensity: Tannat will be medium plus to pronounced on the nose and palate with dark fruits, like blackberry and black plum, dark chocolate, licorice, and smoke.

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, similar to Tannat.
  • 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 Tannat and Merlot often have oak used during winemaking. Here’s what oak contributes to wine.

Are Tannat and Merlot Similar?

Both Tannat and Merlot are rich red wines that have dark fruit flavors. Both wines are often oaked, with mocha, coffee, and chocolate notes. They both have medium acid and similar alcohol levels.

What Is the Difference Between Tannat and Merlot?

Tannat tends to have a bolder body with much stronger tannins, compared to Merlot’s medium body and medium tannins. Tannat leans into black fruit, licorice, spice, and smoke and is more savory than Merlot’s plummy character.

Tannat vs. Merlot: Food Pairings and Serving Temperature

tannat vs merlot - pizza

Tannat Food Pairing: Tannat’s savory 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 Tannat and Merlot are best enjoyed slightly below room temperature. Place them in a cool, dark place for a while before serving.

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, Tannat vs. Merlot?

merlot vs tannat - wine shelf

When comparing Tannat vs Merlot, it’s natural to wonder about their relative bottle costs.

Tannat Cost

Entry-level Tannat wines are typically affordable, ranging from $15 to $20 per bottle.

If you are looking for premium Tannat, there are higher-priced Tannat wines available. These bottles, priced around $25 to $40 or higher, offer a more complex and nuanced drinking experience.

Helpful Tip: Tannat is slightly more expensive than Merlot because it’s more labor-intensive to make and not as popular, so lower overall production volume.

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

Helpful Tip: Here’s how a bottle of wine gets priced. This post is a little nerdy, but it’s quite complicated and nuanced depending on where you are in the world and where you’re buying your wine.

Which Is Better Tannat or Merlot?

If you enjoy bold, robust red wine with more tannin, Tannat will be better for you. If you prefer a softer red wine with a plush mouthfeel, then Merlot is the better wine. If price is a key factor, you’ll find Merlot widely available and less expensive than Tannat.

Final Thoughts – Tannat or Merlot?

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

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 Tannat and Merlot. Invite over a few friends and enjoy an evening of swirling and sipping.

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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