Chardonnay vs. Merlot
We may earn commissions for purchases made through links on our site. Learn more on our about us page.
Chardonnay and Merlot are two of the most famous wines globally, so how do they stack up against each other? Merlot is potentially a newer wine with heavier ties to Italy, although it’s likely from France. It tastes like chocolate and can have oaky flavors when aged. Chardonnay is nearing a millennium old and tastes like mango and pineapples.
What Is Similar About Chardonnay and Merlot?
Both Chardonnay and Merlot are often aged in oak barrels, imparting similar flavors. However, Merlot is a decidedly medium-bodied wine, and Chardonnay is medium to heavy-bodied. This means Chardonnay can feel heavier in the mouth, and Merlot is more delicate. But this difference varies quite a bit, and the wines can feel very similar depending on the bottles you’re comparing.
Chardonnay and Merlot enjoy massive commercial success outside of France. Almost 20 percent of wine drinkers say Merlot is their favorite wine out of red and white wines. Unfortunately, when mass-produced, Merlot grapes can create a neutral, forgettable wine that lacks the delicacy and flavors Merlot wine usually exhibits.
What Is The Difference Between Chardonnay vs. Merlot?
Chardonnay is a white wine, and Merlot is red wine. Merlot has flavors like strawberry, cedar, and tobacco when grown in cool climates. Moderate to hot temperatures produce chocolate, blackberry, and cherry flavors. These flavors are vastly different than Chardonnay, which tastes like honey and tropical fruit.
Of course, since Merlot is red wine, it’s produced using the skin of its grapes. This addition adds complexity that white wine often lacks. It also creates the most obvious difference between the wines: Chardonnay is a pale yellow to gold in color, whereas Merlot is intense violet to brick red. Some researchers also believe the extra tannins in red wine have health benefits, but more studies are needed to say for sure.
Furthermore, Chardonnay might be an older wine than Merlot. The earliest mention of Merlot is in the 1700s, but we know Chardonnay existed in the 12th century. Both wines originate from France, although the first evidence of Merlot comes from Venice, Italy.
Which One Is Sweeter Or Drier Than The Other?
Chardonnay and Merlot tend to be equally dry. If you’re looking for a sweet wine, you might be able to find one on the sweeter side, but in general, these wines are meant for wine drinkers who prefer dry over sweet. They both have somewhat fruity flavors, so they might taste a little sweeter than they are. On the bright side, their dryness means they’re relatively low calorie compared to a very sweet wine.
Which One Has More Alcohol Content?
This is another area where Chardonnay and Merlot are similar. Both wines usually have about 12 to 14 p percent ABV, give or take. When creating sweet wines, winemakers stop the fermentation process early to ensure more residual sugar. But Chardonnay and Merlot are dry wines, so their fermentation process is equal, which means their alcohol content is similar. Remember, the fermentation process turns sugar into alcohol.
How Do I Choose Between Chardonnay and Merlot?
Besides their alcohol content and dryness, Chardonnay and Merlot don’t have much in common. Their flavors are very different, and they can feel different in the mouth. Would you like your wine to taste more like tropical fruit or chocolate?
In addition, if you’d prefer not to deal with aerating wine before drinking, Merlot isn’t the wine for you. Red wines benefit from at least a little aeration.
Chardonnay and Merlot are quite the opposites in flavor, but their alcohol content and country of origin are the same. They’ve also both achieved commercial success in many countries, which means you’ll find a large selection of both anywhere wine is sold. The downside is that sometimes wineries can over-produce and end up offering an unimpressive wine.