Tempranillo vs. Merlot: The Untold Similarities, Differences & Selection Criteria

Last Updated on August 1st, 2023

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Tempranillo and Merlot are two different wines of two different origins, but are they the same? If not, what makes them different? Here you’ll find all your answers. First, let’s get into the specifics of the comparison of this duo!


Is Tempranillo The Same As Merlot?

Tempranillo is not the same as Merlot, although they do have their fair share of similarities. However, their differences set them apart from each other, the most important being their origin. 

A wine bottle with red label on it - Tempranillo vs. Merlot: Similarities, Differences & Selection Criteria

What Is Similar About Tempranillo And Merlot?

The similarities between these wines are lighter than their differences. However, there are a few similarities in style, alcohol content, notes, and meal pairings. 

Tempranillo and Merlot are both most commonly made into a dry-style wine, and both share similar alcohol content levels. In addition, the similar note of cherry that they share is said to complement cuisines with lamb. 


What Is The Difference Between Tempranillo And Merlot?

You’ll see that the differences between Tempranillo and Merlot are stronger than their similarities in origin, grape variety, notes other than cherry, and food pairings other than lamb. 

Tempranillo is a red wine made from a black grape variety that is native to Spain. Its savory notes of fig, cedar, tobacco, and dill are known to complement Mexican cuisine. The wine is also said to pair nicely with steak, burgers, corn, and baked pasta.

Merlot is also a red wine variety that is made from a dark blue wine grape variety originating in France. Its plum, chocolate, bay leaf, and vanilla notes are said to complement BBQ cuisines. 

The wine is also said to pair nicely with a variety of meats, including veal and filet mignon; Merlot is also known to go perfectly with aged goat cheese. 


Which One Is Sweeter Or Drier Than The Other?

Considering the comparison of notes between the two wines, it’s the Tempranillo that tends to have a more savory selection. 

Due to this, Tempranillo is also considered to be drier in flavor than Pinot Noir. As a result, the Pinot Noir’s notes of plum and vanilla overpower Tempranillo’s savory notes, ultimately giving Pinot Noir a sweeter taste between the duo.


Which One Has More Alcohol Content?

Once again, we have a duo that lines up with each other in alcohol content almost perfectly. 

However, the Tempranillo is more likely to be the one carrying the higher alcohol content. Tempranillo carries an average between 13.5-15% alcohol by volume, compared to Merlot’s 13-14% alcohol by volume. 

It’s important to keep in mind that when these wines are produced in warmer climates, their average alcohol content is more likely to be higher than those produced in regions with cooler climates.


How Do I Choose Between Tempranillo And Merlot?

If you prefer a dry red wine with savory notes of cedar and tobacco, you might prefer a Tempranillo. You also might consider serving this wine if you’re planning a Mexican cuisine or even a baked pasta. 

However, if that’s not what your preference lines up with, and you’d rather have a dry red wine with more versatile notes like vanilla and chocolate – try Merlot! Merlot is also a good choice if you’re planning a BBQ-based cuisine for your next gathering!

Final Thoughts On Tempranillo And Merlot

Although Tempranillo and Merlot are not the same wine, they do have their similarities in style, alcohol content, notes, and meal pairings. 

However, the two do have differences remaining stronger, including origin, grape variety, and notes! Although Merlot is considered to be sweeter in taste than Tempranillo, it’s the Tempranillo that will tend to carry a higher alcohol content.