Malbec vs Merlot: Flavor Profiles, Food Pairings, and Alcohol Levels

Malbec vs Merlot

Deciding between Malbec vs Merlot wines is easy when you know two things: flavor profiles and wine pairings. Merlot will work with nearly anything, while Malbec is a little less flexible in food pairings.

Malbec Vs Merlot: What Do These Wines Taste Like?

To understand these two red wine grapes, let’s compare the flavor profiles.

Malbec Wine Flavor Profile

Malbec wine is dry and full-bodied.

  • Fruit. The flavor profiles of Malbecs usually include blackberry and red plum.
  • Oak. Oak barrels typically added dark chocolate, vanilla, and tobacco flavors to the wine.
  • Level of Tannins. Malbec wines have moderate tannins.
  • Alcohol Content. The typical alcohol content is 13-14%.

Merlot Wines Flavor Profile

  • Fruit. The flavor profiles of Merlot wines include plum, blackberry, and raspberry. The secondary flavors are vanilla and mocha.
  • Oak. Aging Merlot wine in oak barrels increases the level of tannins.
  • Level of Tannins. Merlot wines are relatively low in terms of the level of tannins.
  • Alcohol Content. The typical alcohol content is relatively high: 13.5% to 15%.

The primary taste difference between Malbec vs Merlot is fruit emphasis. In general, Merlot wine emphasizes fruit flavors to a more substantial degree. The relatively lower level of tannins in Merlot wines makes Merlot more approachable for some people. Both Malbec wines and Merlot wines have a similar level of alcohol.

As an average wine drinker, you might wonder why you rarely see “Merlot wines” from France. There’s a simple explanation. In French wines, Merlot is commonly used as part of a blend with several wine grape varieties. In Note that French wines ma

Malbec Vs Merlot: The Wine Regions You Need To Know

The average price you pay for Malbec vs Merlot and the flavor profile varies significantly based on geography. That’s why it is essential to spend a few minutes on wine regions. You can enjoy these wines more than the average wine drinker when you can tell the difference between a French wine region like Bordeaux and a wine region in Argentina. These differences are also helpful when you head to the wine shop.

Malbec Wine Regions

  • Argentina. Argentina is the King of Malbec, with 84% of global production. Specifically, look for Malbec wines from the Mendoza wine region. The Salta province wine region is notable for its altitude. These wines are grown at an elevation of about 10,000 feet (i.e., 3000 meters) above sea level.
  • France. French Malbecs account for 8% of global production. Malbec wines are mainly grown in the southwest region. In the past, French Malbecs were also grown in the Bordeaux wine region.
  • Chile. Chile accounts for 4% of the world’s Malbec production. At the wine shop, look for the valleys of Colchagua and Maule.

Merlot Wine Regions

  • The USA. The USA produces 51% of the world’s Merlot wine production. Look for Merlot wines from the Napa Valley and New York State (e.g., Long Island).
  • Italy. Italy is home to 15% of the world’s Merlot wine production. In Italy, Merlot is typically produced in the Friuli wine region. Like France, Italy typically blends Merlot with other red wine varieties.
  • France. France produces 11% of the world’s wine region. Within France, Merlot is the most popular red wine variety in the country. For instance, Merlot is a popular wine grape in the Bordeaux wine region.

Now you know more than enough to impress your wine enthusiast friends at the next wine tasting event you attend.

Malbec Vs Merlot: Food Pairings

Choosing the right food pairings is an excellent way to take your wine tasting experience from average to exceptional.

Malbec Grape Variety: Food Pairing Ideas

  • Meats. Malbec wine goes well with lamb, pork, and steak. You can also have success with game meat like venison and bison.
  • Cheeses. Blue cheese is a classic choice for Malbec wines. Other options for your cheese board include provolone and melted Swiss cheese.
  • Vegetable Options. Try potatoes, roasted peppers, and mushroom

Merlot Grape Variety: Food Pairing Ideas

The Merlot grape variety is a star player in wine blends for a good reason. It works well with many different food pairings. As you pour Merlot into your wine glass, try the following wine pairings.

  • Meat Dishes. Red meat is a traditional choice, but Merlot wine also works well with roast turkey, burgers, and sausages.  
  • Cheeses. As you plan your cheese board, focus on mild and medium-hard cheeses.
  • Vegetables. Choose dishes the feature mushrooms and truffles.
  • Pasta. Pasta dishes with tomato sauce, including spaghetti with meatballs, go well with Merlot.

In general, Merlot is a crowd pleaser. If you are looking to appeal to casual wine drinkers, Merlot is a good choice.

Malbec Vs Merlot: Average Price

Finding the average price between Malbec vs Merlot is a bit tricky. For example, if you compare a Malbec from Chile to a Merlot from France, the average price will be quite different. That said, it is valuable to have examples to guide your approach at the wine shop.

Malbec Average Price

If tracking down a cheaper price variety is your priority, look for an Argentina Malbec. They tend to have slightly lower prices than French Malbecs.

  • Argentina Malbec: According to Wine Library, most Argentina Malbec sells in the $10 to $20 avg price range. There are wines over $50 as well.
  • French Malbecs: According to Wine-Searcher, multiple French Malbecs under $30 like the 2016 Chateau du Cedre ‘Led Cedre’ with an avg price of $22.49 as of July 2021.

Merlot Average Price

Merlot wine is made worldwide, and those differences in geography play a significant role in shaping price. You can easily find French Merlots from Pomerol that cost over $3000.

Instead of focusing on average price, there is a better way to determine what Merlot wines usually cost. I looked at the 25 “best value Merlot wines” from Wine-Searcher. The median price was $28. You can easily spend $100 or $200 per bottle of Merlot. As a casual wine drinker, I recommend starting with a more affordable bottle of wine. As you get more comfortable with the wine, you can treat yourself to a higher-priced bottle of wine.

Malbec Vs Merlot: What About Alcohol Levels?

Moderating your alcohol intake as a wine drinker is essential. That’s why we will take a closer look at the typical alcohol levels in both of these wine grape varieties. As a believer in wine education, knowing a bit about alcohol levels (e.g. this guide to Moet alcohol percentage)  is one way to make better wine decisions.

  • Malbec Alcohol Levels: Malbec wines typically have relatively high alcohol levels in the 13.5-14.5% range.
  • Merlot Wine Alcohol Levels: Climate is an essential factor. In a cooler climate like France, Merlot wine usually has alcohol levels in the 13-14% alcohol level area. In sunny climates like Australia or California, Merlot alcohol levels may trend higher, like 14.5%.

Want To Learn A Bit of Wine History?

Are you looking to deepen your knowledge of wine history further? I recommend reading “The Billionaire’s Vinegar” (click here to read my full review of the book). It is an excellent book that explores the world of wine collecting and the mystery of Thomas Jefferson’s wines. Alternatively, you might be looking for an escape with your bottle of wine? In that case, I recommend trying one of these 13 wine fiction recommendations. You will find mysteries, historical fiction, and other kinds of wine novels to enjoy with your next wine glass.

Malbec vs Merlot: Flavor Profiles, Food Pairings, and Alcohol Levels
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