Pinot Noir vs Merlot: Comparing Great Wine Varieties

Pinot Noir vs Merlot: Comparing Great Wine Varieties

When it comes time for you to order wine at a restaurant, or uncork a bottle at a dinner party, I want you to be able to make your selections with confidence! If you’re in the market for a red wine, but can’t decide between Pinot Noir vs Merlot, keep reading!

They’re both fruity, dry wines, but there’s a few things you’ll want to keep in mind when making your selection! In this blog post, you’ll read all about the subtle and not so subtle differences between Merlot vs Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir vs Merlot Taste Comparisons 

It’s no secret that I love Pinot Noir! It’s a complex and fascinating wine, and I have plenty of recommendations for every budget

This light-bodied red wine carries fruity and earthy qualities. Some of the more fruity notes at play in glass include cherry, strawberry, and cranberry. You might also be able to pick up aromas of violet, mushroom, and spice! 

When it comes to appearance, Pinot Noir is usually more pale or translucent in color. If you’re enjoying a really dark glass, it’s likely been blended with a darker varietal. 

Similar to Pinot Noir, Merlot is also known for its fruitiness. Dominant flavors in Merlot include raspberry, black cherry, and sugar plumb. Other notes you might be able to pick up include dark chocolate and cedar!  

Apart from both being known for their fruitiness, the similarities between these two wines stop there. Whereas Pinot Noir is known for being a light-bodied red wine, Merlot is a heavier, medium-body wine. Merlot also has more tannins, and a higher alcohol content than Pinot Noir – but it doesn’t carry as much acidity! 

It’s known for being an easy grape, and it matures quickly, so when you pop into the wine shop, you’ll be able to find Merlots from all over the globe! And don’t believe the myth that all Merlots are expensive – I’ve got plenty of great recommendations that won’t break the bank

Paige Enjoying a Glass of Red Wine with Pasta

Pinot Noir vs Merlot Food Pairings

Thankfully, Pinot Noir and Merlot are both food friendly wines, and pair nicely with a wide variety of dishes! You’ll have lots of options when planning a dinner menu, or ordering out, especially when it comes to meats and cheeses! 

Best Pinot Noir Food Pairings

This light-bodied red wine is fruity and acidic, making it a great combo of a number of different dishes! It goes well with red meats, as well as cured meats. Personally, my favorite Pinot Noir pairing is bacon! It’s absolutely delicious. 

It’s also a great compliment to delicate and nutty cheeses like brie, havarti, mozzarella, and ricotta – making it the perfect complement of a nice charcuterie board, or even pizza! Fresh, salty, and sour cheeses like feta, paneer, and even sour cream make it a great option for Mexican food pairings!

Another really great Pinot Noir pairing is roasted turkey! No matter what cut you get at Thanksgiving – dark or light –  it’ll be a fantastic compliment. 

Best Merlot Food Pairings

This medium-bodied red wine pairs well with red meats like beef, lamb, and even venison. But it also pairs nicely with white meats like poultry and pork chops. 

You’ll have lots of options with a Merlot when it comes to building a charcuterie board, too! Like Pinot Noir, Merlot can be served with delicate and nutty cheeses, but it’s also excellently paired with strong, firm, and pungent cheeses like smoked gouda, parmesan, and gorgonzola. 

And even though starches don’t help to mellow the harsh tannins, Merlot is an excellent compliment to tomato-based Italian dishes. 

Suggested: Malbec vs Merlot: Comparing 

If you’re looking compare and contrast more great read wines, check out this guide to all the differences between Malbec vs Merlot!

>> Read the post here << 


It’s hard to go wrong between Merlot vs Pinot Noir if you’re a fan of dry, fruity wines. Personally, I’m a huge fan of Pinot Noir and it’s one of my frequent go-tos, but if you’re looking for a red wine that’s a touch fruitier and has a little more body to it, Merlot is an excellent pick! 

The best advice I can give you is use this guide when you’re in a time crunch, but then do some tastings for yourself and learn more about your preferences! 

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is fruitier Merlot vs Pinot Noir?

Both Merlot and Pinot Noir are known for their fruitiness, but you’ll likely have an easier time picking up on Merlot’s notes of raspberry, black cherry, and sugar plumb. Despite Merlot being fruitier, it’s actually a dryer wine.

Is Pinot Noir milder than Merlot?

Pinot Noir is a lighter bodied wine, and has less tannins than Merlot, but it also packs a lot more acidity! 

Is Pinot Noir better than Merlot?

That all depends on your palate and taste preferences! If you’re looking for a lighter-bodied red with a bit of acidity and some fruity notes, I would say Pinot Noir is a great option. If you’re in the mood for something that’s also fruity, but has a little more body, Merlot is a great option! Keep in mind, just because they’re fruity, doesn’t mean they’re sweet! Both Pinot Noir and Merlot are dry wines.

Is Pinot Noir Sweet?

Although it’s known for its fruity and acidic notes, Pinot Noir isn’t a sweet wine. While it’s not as dry as Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, Pinot Noir has very little residual sugar. 

Other Wine Education Posts You’ll Love

Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon: Comparing Great Wine Varieties

Cabernet Sauvignon vs Merlot: Comparing Great Wine Varieties

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Best Merlot Wines for Any Budget