Is Merlot drier than Cabernet?

Answered by Rodney Landry

As a sommelier and brewer, I can confidently say that Cabernet Sauvignon generally has more tannins compared to Merlot, making it the drier of the two. Tannins are naturally occurring compounds found in grape skins, seeds, and stems, and they contribute to the overall mouthfeel and structure of a wine. They can create a drying sensation in the mouth, often described as astringency.

When tasting wines, I often pay close attention to the tannin levels, as they can greatly influence the perceived dryness or sweetness of a wine. In the case of Cabernet Sauvignon, the thick skins of the grapes used in its production result in higher tannin levels. This characteristic gives the wine a more pronounced dryness, which can be particularly noticeable in young Cabernet Sauvignon wines.

On the other hand, Merlot tends to have lower tannin levels compared to Cabernet Sauvignon. The thinner skins of the Merlot grapes contribute to a softer and smoother mouthfeel. While Merlot can still exhibit some dryness, it is generally considered to be less tannic and therefore less drying than Cabernet Sauvignon.

Of course, it's important to note that winemaking techniques and individual vineyard practices can also affect the tannin levels in a wine. Factors such as grape ripeness, fermentation time, and aging in oak can impact the final tannin profile of both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

In my personal experiences, I have found that Cabernet Sauvignon often presents itself with a more noticeable drying sensation on the palate. The tannins can sometimes be quite grippy and leave a lasting impression, especially in young or heavily oaked examples. On the other hand, Merlot tends to offer a smoother and more approachable mouthfeel, with less emphasis on dryness.

It's worth mentioning that taste preferences can vary greatly among individuals. Some people may prefer the drier, more tannic characteristics of Cabernet Sauvignon, while others may lean towards the softer and less tannic nature of Merlot. Ultimately, the perceived dryness of a wine is subjective and can be influenced by personal taste and the overall balance of the wine.

To summarize, Cabernet Sauvignon generally has more tannins than Merlot, making it the drier wine. However, it's important to consider that individual winemaking techniques and personal taste preferences can also play a role in determining the perceived dryness of a wine.