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Pinot Noir vs. Merlot: What’s The Difference

There are many varying options for red wine available to us, making it difficult to choose just the right one.

When you are new to wine, all the choices can seem overwhelming.

However, red wine has been loved by many for generations. It is possible to find the perfect red wine for you.

It would be best if you had a little bit of information to find it.

While there are many different varieties of red wine, this article will focus on the differences between pinot noir and Merlot to help you find your favorite. 

It is essential to understand as you begin your wine journey that the grapes used for wine are grown all around the world.

Therefore, there are many factors that impact the flavor of the wine.

The region in which they grow, the soil, and the amount of water they receive all impact the taste, color, and texture of the grape and the wine.

What is Pinot Noir?

The grape that makes Pinot Noir is the only red wine grape found primarily in Burgundy, France. There are 16 unique grapes used for Pinot Noir.

They are the oldest grape for wine and were found back when the Romans conquered the area now known as France. Pinot Noir is the wine that is used for sacraments in the Catholic Church.

Pinot Noir is a French word that means black prune.

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The grapes grow in a cluster that resembles a pine cone. The skin of the grape is dark and requires the perfect amount of water.

Pinot Noir from California creates a wine that is more concentrated and darker than those you find from Europe.

The Pinot Noir grape is highly susceptible to disease, fungus, and rot because the skin is thin. They must stay dry, cool, and well drained.

There is often limited production of this type of grape because it requires such a specific environment and season.

What is Merlot?

Merlot tends to be a favorite among those that are new to wine. It is often the first one they try.

The Merlot grape is the second most popular in the US. It is the most planted grape in France, primarily Bordeaux.

Merlot is French, and it means the little blackbird. This grape adds a soft fruitiness to the wine. Initially, Merlot was blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to create a Bordeaux wine.

The Merlot grape came to the US in the middle 1800s and has been a favorite ever since. Merlot has increasing popularity in Washington State and New York.

The Merlot grape is a dark blue with thin skin, and they have more sugar but less acid and tannins. The Merlot grape grows best in limestone and clay soil. 

What are the Major Differences Between Pinot Noir and Merlot?

As you probably already know, both Pinot Noir and Merlot are red wines, but that is where the similarities end.

Pinot Noir has strong flavors of cherry and raspberry, but Merlot has a more mild flavor of plums, blueberries, and blackberries.

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Merlot is fruity and soft, but a Pinot Noir is earthy with smoky notes. Merlot is a whole body grape that is low in acid.

A Pinot Noir, on the other hand, is slightly acidic and a lighter body. Merlot is ideal for meat and sauce with an earthiness to them.

Pinot Noir is for more subtle cheese or spicy foods. 

A Pinot Noir offers you a much stronger flavor but has a lighter color than a Merlot. It is going to have a medium to a high amount of acidity.

The more acidity a wine has, the more tartness you will taste. The acidity also helps to balance out the sweetness of the wine.

Pinot Noir does have a fruity taste, with a hint of earthiness. It is smooth and has a texture like velvet with fewer tannins.

The tannins are what gives the wine its dry taste. A Pinot Noir is not going to be an overly dry wine.

A Pinot Noir is not typically blended with other varieties. The taste of a Pinot Noir depends on the climate and season in which the grapes were grown. 

Merlot has a mild taste, which is why it is a great first choice for those who are new to red wine. It has the aroma of plums, blueberries, blackberries, and some herbal flavors.

Merlot has fewer tannins and acid than other red wines. The color of Merlot is much deeper and red.

Merlot is soft and smooth. Its alcohol content is higher than what you will find in a Pinot Noir.

You can find it commonly blended with a Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon to create a more mild and soft wine that has even less tannin.

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A Merlot will not age in the bottle, and there is no impact on the taste if it is stored in the bottle for an extended amount of time. 

What Else Should I Know?

When you are looking for a wine, the cost is essential. You are going to pay more for a Pinot Noir because of its limited production.

In addition, it is rarer than a bottle of Merlot. Merlot is much less expensive, but if you are looking for one that has been blended, that will cost more. 

A Pinot Noir can pair well with just about any food type. It does not have a flavor that will clash with the taste of your food.

Some foods mesh better with it than others. These foods include sushi, salmon, lamb, and chicken.

Merlot can mix with most foods, but it is better with lamb and beef. It can mix with red meat, poultry, pork, and pasta.

It is not a good mix with strong cheeses. This type of food may overpower the taste of the wine. 

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