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Cabernet Sauvignon vs. Merlot

Cabernet Sauvignon vs. Merlot

The Battle of the Bold Reds

In our humble opinion, there’s almost nothing better than savoring the dark, delectable flavors and aromas of a bold glass of red wine. Of course, we love our whites, rosés, and bubblies, but there’s something about an unapologetic red that just speaks to the soul. Can you tell that we think about red wine on a pretty regular basis? #sorrynotsorry

When it comes to choosing a tasty glass of red wine, there are a lot of worthy options out there! However, there are two varietals that reign supreme in the world of bold reds – Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. While similar, these two wines offer their own unique set of delicious nuances. So, what are the differences between them? Which one is more suited for your palette? Let’s get into it! It’s time to talk about all things Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

History of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot

The origin of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot can both be traced back to Southwest France where they share the same parent grape – Cabernet Franc. Merlot originates specifically from the Cabernet region of France. These two grapes are quite the popular duo, as they are the first and second most grown grape varietals in the world with Cabernet Sauvignon edging out Merlot for the number one spot. Often, you will find these two blended together in Bordeaux blends, as the tasting notes for each of these grapes tend to balance and complement each other very well. 

History of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot Wines

Speaking of tasting notes, let’s get into the unique flavor profiles for each of these varietals and find out what exactly it is that keeps wine lovers worldwide coming back for more!

Tasting Notes

While Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot can both be classified as bold reds, there are distinctions in their tasting profiles that differentiate the two. Let’s take a closer look at those little differences that give each one its own unique tasting experience!

Tastings Notes of Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot

Cabernet Sauvignon

Overall, Cabernet Sauvignon is the bolder of the two reds. Typically, you can expect to experience rich, complex notes of black currant, tobacco, spice, vanilla, and pepper in a good Cab. Cabernet is also more acidic, higher in tannins, and higher in alcohol content than Merlot, giving it a fuller body and heavier mouthfeel. If you’re looking for a bottle of bold red with aging ability, Cab is the way to go! While both Cabernet and Merlot are considered dry wines, most wine drinkers will perceive Cabernet as being “less sweet”, as its tasting notes are not quite as fruit-forward as Merlot. 

Tasting Notes of Cabernet Sauvignon


Although Merlot is not quite as bold as Cabernet Sauvignon, it still offers a plethora of delicious flavor complexities! Merlot is typically lighter-bodied than Cabernet, having less acidity, a lower ABV, and lower tannins. When drinking a glass of Merlot, you can expect to encounter notes of black cherry, plum, herbs, and cocoa. Although Merlot is considered a dry wine, it can be perceived as being sweeter because of its fruit-forward flavors. However, it has no more residual sugar than a Cab. Pretty sneaky, wouldn’t you say? Merlot is best enjoyed young, so don’t be afraid to pop open that bottle soon after you get it!

Tasting Notes of Merlot

Growing Regions

When choosing a bottle of Cab or Merlot, keep in mind that where the wine is produced impacts the flavor. Cab and Merlot from the Old World (traditional wine-producing regions like France, Italy, and Spain) take on a lighter, more savory flavor. These regions are typically colder, meaning that the grapes are not fully ripe when they are harvested, so they have lower sugar content. This results in a wine with a lighter body, more structure, and lower alcohol content. 

Growing Regions of Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot

On the other hand, the New World (North and South America, Australia, New Zealand) versions of these wines are where you’ll find those bold, complex flavors. The quintessential California Cab is an excellent example of this. The New World is also where you’ll find a greater distinction between Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. While the Old World varieties of these wines can taste almost identical at times, there’s no mistaking the delicious differences between the two when served with glasses from New World producers. 

Food Pairings

Both Cab and Merlot make excellent food companions when paired with the right cuisine. Cabernet is right at home with a fatty, juicy steak, decadent chocolate cake, burger, bratwurst, or hearty portobello mushrooms. The key with Cab is to pair it with flavorful foods that won’t be overpowered by the rich, bold notes of the wine. 

Food Pairings for Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot

Because Merlot is lighter-bodied and not quite as bold, it’s a bit more of a food-friendly wine. It pairs beautifully with tomato-based pasta dishes, pizza, and a variety of meat entrees including steak, pork, and chicken. Old World Merlot also makes a delicious complement to salmon, bacon, and mushrooms. 

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, deciding on which red to enjoy will depend on your own flavor preferences or maybe the meal that you’re about to enjoy. There’s no right or wrong answer when deciding which bottle is best! If you’re looking for something bold and age-worthy that can hold its own when paired with a ribeye steak, Cab is probably your best bet. On the other hand, if you enjoy lighter wines that have a bit more flexibility when being paired with a meal, then Merlot is easily your go-to. Still can’t decide which one to pick? Well, luckily for you, you don’t have to! Bordeaux blends typically use both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes to create a tasty wine that marries the best characteristics of each. It’s a win-win!

Cabernet Sauvignon vs Merlot

So, which bold red will you choose for your next wine night? Clearly, you can’t go wrong with a Cabernet or a Merlot. Or, if you’re feeling extra adventurous, you could even get a bottle of each! There’s no such thing as too much wine, right? However you indulge in that need for classic, red wine, you know that you’ve got some excellent options to choose from.

Rosé of Sangiovese


Sangiovese can be found in both the Chianti and Montalcino regions of Tuscany (it all sounds so romantic, right?) and is known for producing classic medium-bodied wines. Rosé wine is actually made from red grapes, and this is where the Rosé of Sangiovese comes to play. Crisp, fruit-forward, and easy-to-drink, it's everything you want in your bottle of Rosé and more.



Big, bold, and full of flavor—exactly what you’d expect an Italian wine to be! This classic Italian grape produces some of Italy’s most straightforward red wines and is often used as a blending grape. Not here, though. We let Montepulciano do the heavy lifting as a heavy red wine and shine on its own. If you enjoy the smell of leather bound books, nibbling on dried fruit, and complementary notes of bitter, dark chocolate and sweet plums, you will love this Italian wine. No need to pair it with any certain dish—Montepulciano tastes great with all the Italian classics.

Cabernet Sauvignon


If Pinot Noir is the light and juicy queen of reds, Cabernet Sauvignon is her bolder, heavier, meatier sister. Often referred to as just “cab,” it’s the wine of France’s Bordeaux and California’s Napa Valley. There’s nothing subtle about Cabernet Sauvignon—high in alcohol, full-bodied and robust, you can usually find this red served with a ribeye, New York Strip, or filet mignon (re: carnivores love cab). Classic cabs usually offer tasting notes of chocolate, coffee, and darker fruits like prunes and plums. The Unprecedented Cabernet Sauvignon is as classic as they come, and we highly recommend letting the bottle sit and mellow until your next red meat and potatoes dinner!

Pinot Grigio

La Pluma

If you’re looking for more zest in your life, a bottle of Pinot Grigio can provide that. We included a classic Pinot Grigio in the La Pluma collection because we’re all about light and easy here, which is exactly what this grape from Italy is. It has that dry sense of humor that seems so effortless with a punchy acidity to keep you on your toes, all while offering notes of lemon, limes, green apples, and honeysuckle. Long story short; when it’s been a heavy day and your soul is seeking light things only, you’ll be happy to have this bottle on hand.

Pinot Noir


We couldn’t create the In Good Taste Unprecedented collection without the Golden Retriever of wines: Pinot Noir. Pinot is likable, it’s easy, and its natural state of being is simply charming. It’s an incredibly easy red wine to love, which is why so many people do. The grape itself is from the Burgundy region of France, but has made its way to California, Oregon, Australia, Italy, Argentina, and Germany since. Our Pinot Noir has no surprise twists—it’s a classic light red with just the right amount of sweetness to keep you coming back for another glass (or two).

Coteaux Bourguignons


The Burgundy region of France is home to their best Pinot Noirs, but we took the grapes into our own hands to create something extra special with our Coteaux Bourguignons. It’s a blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay, which results in a French red that’s light in body but full in flavor. The ripest blueberries and freshest herbs can be easily detected in this French burgundy blend. May we suggest pairing it with some creamy brie and freshly baked bread? It’s a oui-ning combo.



A little sweet. A little tart. A little salty? You truly get it all with this white Italian wine. If you're into that biting acidity, Verdicchio will probably be high on your list of most-loved wines from our Andiamo collection. Citrus fruits like mandarin, lemon, and grapefruit are at the forefront, but what really sets this Italian wine apart is its distinct notes of almond. While our Verdicchio can start out tasting a bit tart, the more you sip, the smoother it becomes. In fact, we suggest approaching it as an aperitif (Italian for an alcoholic drink sipped before a meal to stimulate the appetite) to experience its full effect.


Côtes du Rhône White


This was one of our first French wines to join the Passport collection and one sip will explain why. Some background on the Rhône Valley in France: While this region is known for its dark, juicy reds, a very small amount of special white wines are made in the Rhône Valley. Our Côtes du Rhône is packed with French-perfected, floral flavor and Old-World charm. Its natural tang paired with the weighty Marsanne grape and aromatic Roussanne grape results in a crisp, savory sip that’ll transport you to a sunbathing chair by the Rhône itself.


Bordeaux Rouge


When you picture medieval folk sitting around a feast with goblets of wine, chances are they were drinking Bordeaux. This wine has been made in France since forever and is arguably the most classic French wine out there. Bordeaux is known for its full body, smoky notes, and rich, oaky taste. If you love cabs, chances are you will adore Bordeaux. For our Passport wines, we had to include this classic French red for you to sip and enjoy to your heart’s content. Best savored over a rich meal like lamb ragu, ratatouille, or BBQ.


Ventoux Rosé


You probably know that the Tour de France is held on Ventoux Mountain in France, but did you know that the same area is known for its high-altitude rosé? This is the kind of quintessential French rosé that you don’t need to spin your wheels over—it’s simply delicious, crisp, and perfect for warm weather. Despite its delicate, pale pink color, each sip is lush with flavor, from tropical passionfruit and zesty citrus to refreshing melon. This has the potential to be your new summer go-to, so we’d suggest stocking up.



Wild Child

Say “¡Hola!” to Spain’s main grape: Tempranillo. This red grape put Rioja wine on the map and is un vino tinto classico. It’s best compared to a classic cab, but with a bit more unique magic that’s hard to put your finger on, which is why it’s a part of our Wild Child line. This medium- to full-bodied wine with its relatively higher tannins usually offers complex notes of cherry, fig, cedar, tobacco, and dill. This is the type of red wine you want to buy and pour for a Latin-infused meal; think carne asada, tacos al carbon, or just perfectly cooked steak fajita meat.


La Pluma

We knew the only red in the La Pluma collection had to be exceptionally good and exceptionally light. That’s why including a Grenache was a no-brainer. If smooth, fruit-forward, light-bodied reds appeal to your tastebuds, this could be your new favorite. The grape itself is tricky; depending on the climate of where its grown, Grenache wines could be light, dense, or somewhere in the middle. La Pluma’s version has all the airiness and flavor notes we wanted in our Grenache, which is how we know you’ll love it. Get the most of this red by pairing it with roasted meats, spice-heavy vegetables, and Mexican-inspired dishes with lots of cumin.




This grape goes by different names in most European countries, but what remains the same is its fruity floral nature. Delicate in every way and extremely quaffable, this wine is as dainty as they come.



We really try not to play favorites at In Good Taste, but there is just something about an Italian Barbera that hits different in the best way. Barberas are the perfect wine for pizza night; they're low in alcohol, and medium-bodied but taste super light, and their berry and plum flavors pair incredibly well with savory tomato sauce and cheese! Another fun thing about Barberas? They actually taste great when chilled, which is not something we're in the habit of suggesting for our red wines. Our Italian Barbera lies somewhere between the body of a cab and a pinot and is the ideal choice for a "ladies who lunch" kind of afternoon.


Wild Child

We couldn't not have a weird white in the mix, right?! The Vermentino grape is native along the coast of Italy on the island of Sardinia (yeah, like the fish). Because of its origin, this grape offers a salty, crisp flavor that's incredibly easy to drink and enjoy. We say it's "weird" only because it's not widely known by name, but chances are you've probably had it before if you've ever ordered white wine in an Italian restaurant. If you love peaches and lemons and get a kick out of anything that reminds you of the sea, our Vermentino is the perfect Italian white to experience on a sunny day outside.



For the Chardonnay lovers who are looking to dig a bit deeper in the world of bold whites, a Viognier (pronounced vee-own-yay) could be your next big adventure. Viogniers tend to have more range; while they can be creamy with hints of vanilla like their Chardonnay counterpart, they also offer lighter, fruitier flavors like tangerine, mango, and honeysuckle. It’s still a more full-bodied white wine, but unlike Chardonnay, it’s softer on acidity and more perfumed. Spend an afternoon with a glass of Viognier amongst the flowers and it’ll all make sense.


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