Merlot vs Moscato: Top Differences & Food Pairing Tips

Merlot vs Moscato wine grapes make very different wines. Due to these differences, wine lovers can easily tell these two popular wine varieties apart. 

Merlot vs Moscato

Flavor Profile Comparison

These popular wines have enjoyable fruity flavors that balance the amounts of alcohol and acid content in each varietal.


Merlot is a red wine made from the Merlot grape. It is known for its medium to full-bodied characteristics. The fruity notes include flavors of plum, cherry, red berries, and sometimes notes of herbs and spices. Merlot wines typically have a smooth and velvety texture with moderate tannins.


Moscato is a white or sparkling wine made from Muscat grapes. It is known for its intensely fruity and floral aromas. The fruity wine usually includes peach, apricot, orange blossom, and musk flavors. Moscato wines are often sweet and have a light and refreshing character, making them particularly appealing to those who prefer sweet wine types.

Sweetness Levels Differences: Merlot vs Moscato

The sweet flavor in wine is shaped primarily by the residual sugar content in the wine. The winemaking process – including the fermentation process – also significantly influences your perception of sweetness and whether you get a dry or a sweeter wine. Your taste buds will also be influenced by whatever you’re eating with the wine. For example, there is a big difference between a dessert with sweet fruit flavors (i.e., apple pie) vs a wine chocolate pairing.


Merlot wines are usually dry to off-dry, meaning they contain minimal residual sugar and have a less sweet taste. The fruity taste in Merlot helps to balance the bitter taste of tannins. To confirm sugar levels in a bottle of wine, check the producer’s website for sugar per liter information.


Moscato wines are notably sweet, making them a popular choice for those who prefer a sweeter taste in their wine. The natural sweetness comes from the Muscat grapes, and some Moscato wines may have varying degrees of sweetness, ranging from slightly sweet to dessert-level sweetness. This Italian wine is trendy in smaller wine collections because it is affordable.

In terms of grams of sugar, Merlot wines usually have 0 to 5 grams per serving (5-ounce glass). Some off-dry Merlot wines may have slightly higher sugar levels, ranging from 5 to 15 grams per serving, but this is still relatively low compared to sweet wines.

Grams of Sugar Comparison

Moscato wines are known for their sweetness, and their sugar content is significantly higher than Merlot wines. A typical serving of Moscato wine (5-ounce glass) may contain around 20 to 40 grams of sugar. If you like a sweet dessert wine, look out for a dessert Moscato with more than 40 grams per serving.

Merlot wines generally have very low sugar content in terms of grams of sugar per liter. Dry Merlot wines may have sugar levels ranging from 0 to 5 grams per liter, while off-dry Merlot wines might have up to 15 grams per liter. However, it is worth noting that most Merlot wines are on the drier side and will be closer to the lower end of this range.

Alcohol Levels Comparison: Moscato Is The Low Alcohol Choice

Of the two wine varietals, Moscato has a lower alcohol content. However, each producer has their style of wine, which may include higher levels of alcohol.

Merlot Alcohol by Volume

Merlot wines typically have moderate to moderately high alcohol levels, typical for many red wines. The alcohol content in Merlot can range from around 13% to 15% or higher, depending on the winemaking style and region. Always check the wine label (or ask your wine-aficionado friend) to confirm the alcohol content before you take a sip.

Moscato Alcohol Content

Moscato wines generally have lower alcohol content compared to many other wines. They typically have alcohol levels in the range of 5.5% to 7.5% by volume, making them lighter and more refreshing, especially when served chilled.

Primary Wine Regions

The wine region climate also shapes the fruit notes you enjoy in a beautiful wine. Thankfully, comparing wine regions is not a daunting task. 


Merlot is produced in various wine regions worldwide but has robust ties to Bordeaux, France, where it originated. For more insights on Bordeaux wine, see my post on the best Bordeaux wine. It is a crucial component of Bordeaux blends, often paired with Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot is also grown extensively in regions like California, Italy, Chile, and Australia.


Moscato is widely cultivated in several regions, with Italy being one of the primary producers of Moscato wines. The Italian regions of Piedmont and Sicily are renowned for their Moscato wines, including Moscato d’Asti and Moscato di Pantelleria. Other notable Moscato-producing countries include Spain, France, Greece, and Australia.

Color and Style Differences


Merlot exhibits a rich, ruby-red to deep-purple color as a red wine. It is typically fermented on the grape skins to extract color, tannins, and flavors. Merlot can be enjoyed in various styles, from young and fruit-forward to oak-aged, which adds complexity and additional flavors to the wine.


Moscato wines can vary in style, but they are generally light-bodied and can be still, semi-sparkling (frizzante), or fully sparkling (spumante). Moscato wines are light golden to pale straw in color, reflecting their white grape origin. They are meant to be enjoyed while young and fresh, emphasizing the primary fruit and floral aromas.

Merlot and Moscato’s wines differ significantly regarding grape variety, flavor profile, sweetness levels, alcohol content, and primary wine regions. Merlot is a dry to off-dry red wine known for its plum and berry flavors, while Moscato is a sweet white or sparkling wine with intense fruity and floral aromas, often associated with peach and apricot notes. Merlot is typically higher in alcohol, while Moscato has lower alcohol levels, and both wines hail from different wine-producing regions globally.

Food Pairings

Moscato and Merlot, two distinct yet delightful wine styles, offer a unique range of food pairings catering to diverse palates. The culinary world is enriched by the versatility they bring to the table.

Top Moscato Food Pairings

Moscato, known for its light and effervescent character, boasts a wide range of food pairing possibilities. Its sweetness and refreshing acidity make it a splendid match for spicy foods. Whether it’s Thai curry or Indian vindaloo, the gentle nature of Moscato balances the fiery spices, providing a harmonious contrast. Moreover, its vibrant fruitiness pairs wonderfully with dishes like fruit salads, light pastries, and even sushi, creating a symphony of flavors on the palate.

Top Merlot Food Pairings

On the other hand, Merlot, with its velvety texture and medium body, offers a different style of wine that complements rich flavors and diverse cuisines. This red wine is particularly well-suited for pasta dishes, effortlessly complementing tomato-based sauces and creamy Alfredos alike. The soft tannins and ripe fruit notes in Merlot also make it a fantastic partner for a range of meats, from roasted chicken to succulent lamb chops. The wine’s elegant profile finds an ideal match in milk chocolate, accentuating the chocolate’s sweetness without overwhelming the palate. For those who prefer a bolder pairing, Merlot’s structure holds up well against the intensity of dark chocolate, creating a luxurious and indulgent experience.

Merlot Vs Moscato Final Thoughts

The best way to find out what you like in the Merlot vs Moscato wine debate (and become an advanced wine taster) and is to try many different wines. Fortunately, you have many wine options at an affordable piece in the Merlot and Moscato categories.

For $100, you can pick up several bottles and share them with friends. Whether you want to host a cheese night with wine or a full dinner, sharing a bottle of Ruffino Moscato and a bottle of Merlot is a great way to get started. Serving Moscato at the start of the meal is a wonderful way to get started.

Merlot vs Moscato: Top Differences & Food Pairing Tips
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