pinot noir vs merlot

Pinot Noir vs Merlot Comparisons – What Are The Differences?

Wine sounds good these days, especially after a long day of work. But do you know what red wine to drink with what food? Or why one is more expensive than the other? 

Pinot noir and merlot are popular red wines, but they are not the same at all. Know exactly why to choose one of them and find out their characteristics in this article. 

What Is Pinot Noir?

This red wine is from the 10th most planted grape in the world. The grapes are extremely old and have been used for centuries. Pinot noir seems to encompass the flavors and aromas of the other two white wines pinot grigio and pinot blanc.

The largest producers of pinot noir include France, The United States, and Germany. Pinot Noir is also lighter than other red wines and has a lower tannin content than other reds.

Also, this wine should be served in a large, round bell-shaped wine glass that allows all the aromas to settle and come through. 

Nutrition Facts

Red wine is often considered to be heart-healthy. It also helps reduce blood sugar and cholesterol in moderation, and also contains macronutrients.

One glass (5oz) of pinot noir has the following (*):

  • 121 calories
  • 0.103g protein
  • 0g fat 
  • 3.4g carbohydrates

Which pinot noir is the best?

Because the pinot noir grape is stubborn, many experts don’t consider this wine to be satisfactory.

However, some of the most complex kinds of this wine are found in the Burgundy region of France or Oregon, USA. In California, pinot noir tends to be fruitier and sweeter.

Pinot noir can be made in many other regions of the world, including Switzerland, Italy, New Zealand, and Australia. Yet, the top pinot noir wines come from the U.S. and France. California brings out robust flavors, Burgundy creates delicate and complex wines, and Oregon is the newcomer.

Because pinot noir has lower tannin levels, it is less dry and has a medium-to-high acidity level. Young pinot noir has high notes of red fruit and tastes much sweeter. Older pinot noir mixes notes of earth and smoke, as it has been aged longer in barrels.

If you like complex flavors and aromas, the best kind can be found in the Burgundy region of France, where the wine has been made for centuries.

As for sweetness and floral components, we suggest you go with California pinot noir. Finally, if you aren’t sure yet, an Oregonian wine may be the right choice.

What Is Merlot?

Merlot is the second most popular kind of wine after cabernet sauvignon. Originally from the Bordeaux region of France, this wine is soft, elegant, and bold.

While winemakers traditionally mixed cabernet sauvignon grapes in France, once the U.S. began producing this wine, it did so using 100% merlot grapes. 

Like pinot noir, merlot has lower tannin levels, making it easy to pair with food and drink without the leftover hangover headache.

You can find merlot wine producers in California, Washington, New York, Australia, Chile, and Bordeaux. 

Nutrition Facts

As with other wines, merlot has several benefits when used in moderation. It also has macronutrients to take into account. One glass (5oz) of merlot has the following (*):

  • 122 calories
  • 0.103g protein
  • 0g fat
  • 3.69g carbohydrates 

Which merlot is the best?

As with pinot noir, your options for merlot are varied and unique depending on the age and region.

The expensive wines from the Bordeaux region in France are complex, while Californian Merlot wines tend to be fruitier. Italy also offers some of the most expensive merlot wines from the Tuscany region of the country. 

Other places in the world offer varieties of merlot, such as Washington state in the U.S., where the wine tends to be medium-acid and heavier bodied.

As for Chile, this South American country offers a lighter body and more fruity flavors. Finally, Australian merlots are a good mix of flavors and aromas, with rich fruit overtones.

In terms of quality, the Bordeaux and Tuscany region merlots are considered superior, as these are aged longer and offer more complexity of flavors and aromas. These wines, though, are very expensive compared to their counterparts.

If you like fruit and light sweetness, you can go for the California merlots, or try a Washington one for a midpoint. As for variety, you can try a Chilean merlot wine, as it is easy to drink and will almost always offer quality.

What Are The Key Differences Between Pinot Noir and Merlot?

While both pinot noir and merlot are popular and relatively expensive wines, there are key differences between the two.

For one, the grapes used in pinot noir are grown in cooler regions of the world, such as Burgundy in France, California, Oregon, New Zealand, and Australia.

Merlot grapes are much easier to grow, as the grape can be harvested in many climates, with Bordeaux, France being a primary growing region.

Another key point is the taste, as pinot noir is considered to have a stronger flavor, despite the lighter color. It also has a higher alcohol content, and a medium-to-high level acidity, with some notes of other berries, like blueberries.

As for merlot, the taste is mild and the aroma is warm and sweet. With a lower acidity level, it is smoother and softer. 

One key point to mention as well is that pinot noir is harder to find, which makes it sometimes more expensive than merlot. Although merlot can be extremely expensive when aged for long times, there are some rare brands out there.

Finally, pairing it with food depends on your taste, but experts do make some recommendations.

Pinot noir tends to be paired with grilled meats, such as steak or salmon, but due to its stronger body, it goes well with cheese too.

Merlot, on the other hand, is easier to pair due to its light flavor, but it usually accompanies steak, lamb, poultry, and red meat.

Main DifferencesPinot NoirMerlot
GrapePinot noir grapes are the oldest known to man, and only grows in cooler climates. Merlot grapes are red and can grow in various climates. 
Alcohol Content 13% – 14%13.5% – 14.5%
ColorPale red, almost translucent purple.Dark red, with a tint of cherry at the top.
Acidity Medium-HighMedium 
Taste and SmellThe taste is dry and earthy. The aroma is of black cherry, and smoke.The taste is light and fruity. The aroma is of cherry, vanilla, and cocoa. 
Food PairingsAsian cuisine, duck, salmon, pork, and tunaRoasted vegetables, red meats, and lean meats
Cost$25-$40 per bottle$15-$30 per bottle
Calories per 5 oz serving121 calories 122 calories 

Is Pinot Noir or Merlot Healthier? 

Both pinot noir and merlot have relatively similar sugar and caloric content, so they are a match in terms of nutrients.

However, pinot noir is a drier wine that contains resveratrol, a polyphenol that is an antioxidant and lowers inflammation. This polyphenol is the one that gives the wine its fame for being heart-healthy (*). 

Merlot also has resveratrol but in lower amounts, and it does have a bit more sugar, so it makes it less healthy. These two wines, though, are considered safe in moderation and can help your body lower inflammation, blood cholesterol, and blood sugar.

If given the choice, go for the pinot noir, which is also rarer. Otherwise, merlot is a second close option.


As you can see, pinot noir and merlot aren’t the same but they do share some qualities. Both wines are incredibly tasty and can be paired with food easily, but pinot noir is considered slightly healthier and more complex. Time to drink your daily glass of wine!

Up next: Merlot vs cabernet sauvignon

merlot pinot noir difference

*Photo by 5PH/depositphotos

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