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Cabernet Sauvignon Versus Merlot

Let's start with the basics of each varietal so you can finally pick a side in the battle: Cabernet Sauvignon versus Merlot.

Characteristics of Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is grown in a wide of locations and can have quite a few different flavor profiles.

Keenan Cabernet Sauvignon

In general, however, California Cabernet Sauvignon:

  • is dark and full-bodied.
  • has fruity and peppery flavors.
  • has strong tannins.
  • has a slight acidity that tends to linger on the tongue.

A great example of this would be our 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Mountain.

Learn more about this extraordinary 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Wine from 's Wine Notes Guide.


Cabernet Sauvignon is quite a complex wine that's often served with highly-fatty foods rich in savory “umami” flavors. It's often paired with red meat such as burgers and steaks, or hearty grilled mushrooms such as portobellos.

Characteristics of Merlot

While Merlot has traditionally been considered a bit of an “underdog” , its long tally of positive attributes makes it a delicious and affordable choice for any dinner party or special occasion.

Merlot is known to:

  • have a deep aroma, reminiscent of chocolate and coffee.
  • boast fruity top-notes of black cherry and blackberry.
  • have a lower level of tannins (compared to Cabernet Sauvignon).
  • be aged in French and American oak barrels for up to 18 months.
  • have a smooth, yet complex taste.

In case you missed it, a prime example is Keenan Winery's 2018 Mailbox Reserve Merlot.

Learn more with Keenan Winery's 2018 Merlot Reserve Wine Notes.


Merlot is well-known for its “chameleon-like” ability to pair with a wide variety of foods – one of the reasons it's so popular.

Takeaways: Cabernet Sauvignon Versus Merlot

If you want a “softer”, less acidic wine with fewer tannins and a slightly fruitier flavor profile, choose Merlot.

But if you're a fan of a bolder, rich and robust flavor, choose Cabernet Sauvignon.

Fun Facts

We hope that with these tips you feel more confident choosing between these two popular reds! And if you still have questions or just want to geek out over all things wine, reach out!

Once you've picked a side in the Cabernet Sauvignon versus Merlot battle, it's time to get your party ready!