Riesling vs Merlot

Last Updated on August 1st, 2023

Reader Disclosure Disclosure: We may earn commissions for purchases made through links on our site. Learn more on our about us page.

Riesling and Merlot are two very different but great wines that anyone might enjoy. Riesling is a traditional white German wine that is more of a category of wine than one type of wine. Merlot is a dry French red wine that has commercial success around the world, but especially in North America.

Is Riesling the Same As Merlot?

Riesling is quite different from Merlot. It’s a German white wine made in sweet and dry styles, whereas Merlot is a French red wine only made in a dry style. Riesling is never red, so being dry is the closest it can come to being Merlot. If you’re looking for a wine similar to Riesling, try Moscato, which is another sweet white wine.

Alternatively, you can try another German wine, such as Müller-Thurgau wine, which is made from Riesling grapes crossed with Madeleine Royale grapes. However, if you’re looking for a wine similar to Merlot, try Malbec or Pinot Noir.

2 glasses of wine - Riesling vs Merlot.

What Is Similar About Riesling And Merlot?

The most obvious similarity is that they’re both dry wines. Of course, Riesling can also be very sweet. But traditionally, it’s a dry wine, and it still is, especially when produced in its native country of Germany. The wines are also grown fewer than 500 miles apart.

This may seem like a great distance for Europeans, but we can sometimes drive 500 miles and barely make it across two states for Americans. Other than this, Riesling and Merlot have very few similarities. They’re different kinds of wines found in different aisles in the store. They have different amounts of alcohol, and they’re from different countries.

What Is The Difference Between Riesling and Merlot?

Riesling is a traditional German wine that can be sweet but is usually dry. Riesling grapes are grown all over Germany because the wine is a major staple for its citizens. Traditional Riesling can have an alcohol content as low as 7 percent ABV.

Cooler climates generally produce grapes with less sugar, which means the wines end up having less alcohol. Germany isn’t a particularly cold country, but it does have a few months that can linger in the 20s (Fahrenheit), which will certainly affect a crop. Wine grapes take two to four years to mature.

On the other hand, Merlot is a French wine with much higher alcohol content. While Riesling is all the rage in Germany, Merlot isn’t the same in France. The French are pickier about what they drink and when relying more on the season and what they’re eating to determine what to drink. Still, 11 percent of the world’s Merlot is grown in France.

Which One Is Sweeter Or Drier Than The Other?

Without a doubt, Riesling can be much sweeter than Merlot. Merlot is always a dry wine, whereas Riesling can sometimes be a sweet wine. What this means is that Riesling usually has much more residual sugar than Merlot. Residual sugar is sugar that wasn’t turned into alcohol during fermentation.

Which One Has More Alcohol Content?

Merlot will usually have more alcohol than Riesling. Even at its best, Riesling will usually have about 12 percent ABV, which is when it’s made in warm climates like Australia. But in general, it has about 8 to 10 percent ABV. On the other hand, you can expect a Merlot to have about 13 to 14 percent ABV.

How Do I Choose Between Riesling And Merlot?

This should be an easy choice if you have a preference between red and white, sweet and dry, or low and high alcohol content. If you have no preference at all, consider trying both. Or perhaps even trying both types of Riesling: dry and sweet. Either way, you can’t go wrong with any of these wines.


Riesling vs. Merlot is less of a battle over which is best and more about what you prefer. The wines could hardly be more different since neither are the same type, have the same amount of alcohol and don’t come from the same country.

They aren’t even treated the same way in their originating countries. These wines are surprisingly different, but they are great wines regardless.