Malbec vs Merlot: Comparing Great Wine Varieties

Malbec vs Merlot Wines - Paige on a white bed with red wine and her cat, Arwen. A camera is in the foreground

Ah, the age-old debate on the best wine – Malbec vs Merlot. The answer can be either, as both of these fine wines offer something truly unique and flavorful to spark conversations around supper tables all over. 

To explore further this tantalizing topic, we’ll take a look at what makes each type of wine special so that you can make an informed decision when choosing your next bottle of Malbec or Merlot from the shelves!

In this blog post, we’ll take a close look at the differences between Malbec and Merlot grapes. We’ll provide some information on their flavor profiles, as well as highlight some food pairings that go best with each one. With our help, you won’t feel overwhelmed by the seemingly complex decision anymore – let’s dive in!

bottles of merlot wines on a table with wine corks

What is Malbec Wine?

Malbec wine is a bold, full-bodied red wine that originated in France. 

It is known for its deep purple color, intense aroma and spiciness, medium acidity, and medium to high tannin structure. Malbec wines are an excellent option for long-term aging due to their sturdy nature and malleability when subjected to malolactic fermentation, oak aging, and blending with other varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Enjoyable Malbecs are common from Argentina. This environment allows Malbec to flourish due to the warm climate, helping it reach new heights of flavor complexity. Malbec is often enjoyed with roast beef, grilled lamb or any dishes with a strong spicy profile.

What is Merlot Wine?

Merlot is one of the great wines of the world. 

The grapes also trace their origins back to France, specifically the Bordeaux region. It’s a medium-bodied wine with soft, juicy tannins. Aside from its telltale aromas of blackberries and plums, it also features notes of chocolate, leather, and tobacco. 

Merlot has an often malleable character and this malleability makes it a great partner for Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in blends such as Bordeaux wines. 

Merlot is known for being fruity, mellow, and easy to drink – making it a favorite among many wine drinkers looking for an approachable flavor experience.

>> Suggested: Best Merlot Wines for Any Budget <<

Malbec vs Merlot Taste Comparisons

Merlot and Malbec are both popular red wines, but each one has a distinct flavor profile. Merlot leans towards silky, whereas Malbec is bold and spicy. Both are dry red wines that are common as single varietal wines, as well as blending grapes.

What does Malbec Wine Taste Like?

Malbec wines are full-bodied with a violet bouquet and dark, brooding fruit character – typically blackberry, cherry, and plum. These fruit flavors are accompanied by notes of spice and tobacco. Tannin is medium to high, while the acidity is low and takes well to oak aging. 


Depending on where the Malbec grapes are grown, they can have different characteristics. Argentinian Malbec tends to be softer and rounder with riper, richer fruit, whereas French Malbec tends to be firmer and earthier. 

What does Merlot Wine Taste Like?

Merlot is known for its soft, silky texture with red fruit flavors, such as strawberry, raspberry, and plum. These tasting notes can be accompanied by some vegetal notes in cooler climates. What it lacks in complexity, it makes up for in sensuality, which wine lovers rave about.

It’s important to pay attention to what climate your Merlot comes from, as it can make a big difference in the resulting wine! Cooler climate Merlot leads to wine grapes with high tannin and acidity and a resulting wine that dominates on strawberry, raspberry, plum, and vegetal notes. In hot climates, it’s more full-bodied with black fruit flavors of blackberry and black cherry; if very ripe, it can even develop additional notes of chocolate and fruitcake.

Merlot vs Malbec Food Pairings

Merlot and Malbec wines are both bold reds with many similarities, but also a few distinct differences. Merlots tend to be softer than Malbecs, exhibiting notes of cherry, raspberry, plum, and velvet on the palate. On the other hand, Malbecs often have higher tannins and complexity like dark chocolate and smokey undertones. 

As far as food pairings go, Merlot typically pairs well with beef dishes and rich pastas, while the structure of Malbec makes it the perfect complement for steaks or spicy beef dishes. 

Both wines can pair nicely with grilled vegetables or lightly-seasoned stews — Malbec needing some acid to balance its tannins, whereas Merlot only needs something simple to enhance its softer flavor profile.

Malbec Food Pairings

Pair Malbec with barbecued meats or hearty red meat dishes and stews. Because of its big, bold flavor, it’s a great option with more substantial everyday meals. For cheeses, pair with semi-hard and hard cheeses, such as cheddar, asiago, and Monterey Jack.

Merlot Food Pairings

Merlot is surprisingly versatile with food and pairs well with beef, pork, stronger poultry dishes, and pasta. Some favorite Merlot food pairings are meatloaf, BBQ chicken, pork dumplings, and semi-hard and hard cheeses.

Malbec vs Merlot: Where do They Come From? 

When it comes to origin, both Malbec and Merlot have different stories to tell. While both grape varieties are French in origin—Malbec is from Cahors in southwest France while Merlot is from Bordeaux—they now thrive in different parts of the world. 

Malbec is most commonly associated with Argentina where it has gained much popularity over recent years for its bold flavor profile and excellent value for money; this variety also grows well in California and Chile’s Central Valley. 

Meanwhile, although still found in France, Merlot has become more widely available with vineyards all over Europe, North America, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Argentina, and beyond producing high-quality examples of this popular variety.


After comparing and contrasting Malbec vs Merlot, it’s clear that these delicious red wines are fairly similar yet remarkably distinct. 

Of course, the best way to get a sense of what each has to offer is to try them for yourself. When you do, you’ll appreciate why both Merlot and Malbec wines have had such staying power throughout the years. 

First embraced by the French, then adopted by sommeliers everywhere—these classic grapes seem here to stay. So don’t miss out on the opportunity to enjoy what they have to offer: savor every sip!

Suggested: Best Merlot Wines for Every Budget

For all you Merlot lovers out there, this guide has all the best Merlot wines at every budget — perfect for your next wine night!

>> Read the post here << 


Is Malbec sweet?

No, typically Malbec is a dry wine. Because it’s a fruity style wine, however, some people may mistake it as “sweet”. 

What does Merlot taste like?

Merlot is beloved for its soft, silky texture with flavors of strawberry, raspberry,a nd plum, sometimes accompanied by vegetal notes or chocolate and fruitcake.

What color is Malbec?

Malbec is a red grape that produces red wine.

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