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Wines Similar To Merlot – 5 Great Alternatives To Try!

As a wine enthusiast, you may have encountered Merlot, a popular red wine known for its smooth and luscious taste.

However, if you are looking to explore new horizons and expand your wine palette, there are plenty of alternatives to Merlot that offer unique flavors and characteristics.

In this post, we will delve into five such wines that are similar to Merlot in taste, body, and texture.

My favorite alternative wines to Merlot include:

1. Carménère
2. Malbec
3. Cabernet Franc
4. Sangiovese
5. Tempranillo

Grab a glass and join us on a journey through these five fantastic Merlot alternatives!

1. Carménère

Taste and Origin

Carménère is a red wine grape variety originally from the Bordeaux region of France. However, it is now predominantly grown in Chile, where it has become the country’s signature grape.

Carménère is often compared to Merlot due to its similar medium-bodied profile and velvety texture.

The wine’s taste profile includes rich flavors of blackberry, dark chocolate, green pepper, and subtle smoky notes, making it a complex and enticing alternative to Merlot.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Rich and complex flavor profile
  • Smooth and velvety texture
  • Unique Chilean wine experience

Cons:

  • Can be difficult to find outside of Chile
  • May have a stronger green pepper flavor than some Merlot drinkers prefer

2. Malbec

Taste and Origin

Malbec is another red wine grape variety with origins in France, specifically the Cahors region. However, it has gained immense popularity in Argentina, where it is now the flagship grape.

Malbec is often compared to Merlot due to its plush, medium-bodied texture and fruit-forward flavor profile. This wine boasts flavors of black cherry, plum, blackberry, and mocha, with a hint of spice and earthiness that sets it apart from Merlot.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Fruit-forward and smooth
  • Unique Argentine wine experience
  • Generally affordable and widely available

Cons:

  • Can vary in flavor and quality depending on the producer
  • Might lack some of the complexity found in other Merlot alternatives

3. Cabernet Franc

Taste and Origin

Cabernet Franc is a red wine grape variety that is closely related to both Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Hailing from the Bordeaux region of France, it is now grown worldwide, with notable production in the Loire Valley, California, and Canada. Cabernet Franc shares Merlot’s medium-bodied nature and smooth texture but offers a distinct flavor profile of red fruit, bell pepper, and herbaceous notes.

This wine is perfect for those seeking a Merlot alternative with a slightly lighter and more refreshing taste.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Lighter and more refreshing than Merlot
  • Unique flavor profile with herbaceous notes
  • Grown in a variety of regions, providing diverse options

Cons:

  • Can be more tannic than Merlot, which may not appeal to all palates
  • Not as fruit-forward as some other alternatives

4. Sangiovese

Taste and Origin

Sangiovese is a red wine grape variety native to Italy, where it is the main component of famous wines such as Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino. Like Merlot, Sangiovese produces medium-bodied wines with a smooth texture.

However, it sets itself apart with a flavor profile that highlights sour cherry, red plum, tomato, and earthy, savory notes. If you’re looking for a Merlot alternative with a more rustic and Old-World character, Sangiovese is an excellent choice.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Rich and rustic flavor profile
  • Unique Italian wine experience
  • Wide range of styles and price points

Cons:

  • Can be more acidic than Merlot, which may not suit all tastes
  • Some styles can be quite tannic, especially when young

5. Tempranillo

Taste and Origin

Tempranillo is a red wine grape variety native to Spain, where it is the primary grape in the renowned Rioja and Ribera del Duero wines.

Tempranillo shares Merlot’s medium-bodied nature and smooth texture, but offers a unique flavor profile featuring red fruit, leather, tobacco, and spice.

This gives it a distinctly Spanish character that sets it apart from other Merlot alternatives.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Distinctly Spanish flavor profile
  • Smooth and medium-bodied
  • Often aged in oak, adding complexity and depth

Cons:

  • Can be more tannic than Merlot, especially in younger wines
  • Flavors may be less fruit-forward than some Merlot drinkers prefer

Conclusion and My Personal Recommendation

In conclusion, if you love Merlot but are looking to explore new wines, there is a world of exciting alternatives waiting for you. Each of the five wines discussed in this post offers something unique, from the rich and complex flavors of Carménère to the refreshing and herbaceous notes of Cabernet Franc.

As for my personal recommendation, I would suggest trying a Malbec from Argentina. This wine offers a fruit-forward and smooth experience that is sure to please Merlot lovers while introducing them to the unique flavors of Argentine wine.

However, don’t stop there – be sure to explore each of these delightful alternatives and find your new favorite wine. Cheers!

FAQs

What wine is Merlot similar to?

Merlot is often compared to Cabernet Sauvignon due to their similar characteristics. Both wines are known for their medium to full body, smooth tannins, and flavors of dark fruits. However, Merlot tends to be softer, less tannic, and more approachable than Cabernet Sauvignon.

Which red wine is closest to Merlot?

A red wine that is closest to Merlot in terms of flavor profile and characteristics would be a red Bordeaux blend. These blends often include Merlot as one of the primary grape varieties, along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and sometimes Petit Verdot. This combination results in a wine that shares similar fruitiness and smoothness to Merlot, while also offering additional complexity and structure.

Is Merlot similar to Cabernet Sauvignon?

Yes, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are similar in some ways as they are both red wine grape varieties. They share similarities in terms of appearance, as both produce wines with deep red color. However, they differ in terms of flavor profiles and characteristics.

Merlot tends to be softer, fruitier, and less tannic compared to Cabernet Sauvignon, which is typically more full-bodied, intense, and structured. While they can be blended together, they also shine on their own, offering distinct experiences to wine enthusiasts.

What’s a good red wine for beginners?

A good red wine for beginners is a medium-bodied and fruit-forward wine such as a Merlot or a Pinot Noir. These wines tend to have softer tannins and more approachable flavors, making them enjoyable for those new to red wine.

Is Pinot Noir close to Merlot?

No, Pinot Noir is not close to Merlot in terms of their genetic origins or flavor profiles. While both are red wine grape varieties, they have distinct characteristics. Pinot Noir is known for its light to medium body, delicate flavors, and high acidity, often displaying notes of red fruits, earthiness, and floral aromas.

On the other hand, Merlot tends to be fuller-bodied with softer tannins, offering flavors of black fruits, chocolate, and sometimes herbal or spicy notes. Despite being different, both Pinot Noir and Merlot are popular and widely enjoyed wines.

Are Pinot Noir and Merlot similar?

Pinot Noir and Merlot are both red wine grape varietals, but they have distinct characteristics. Pinot Noir is known for its lighter body, delicate flavors, and high acidity. It often exhibits notes of red fruits, earthiness, and floral aromas.

Merlot, on the other hand, tends to have a fuller body, softer tannins, and a broader range of flavors. It can display ripe red and black fruit flavors, along with herbal and chocolate notes. While they are both red wines, Pinot Noir and Merlot have different profiles and appeal to different palates.

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