Cabernet Sauvignon versus Merlot Wine Drinking Party Guide – Keenan Winery
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Cabernet Sauvignon versus Merlot Wine Drinking Party Guide

When you’re hosting a dinner party, it can be difficult to determine what wine to serve. There are so many choices, and selecting the right wine is certainly a challenge if you’re choosing between Cabernet Sauvignon versus Merlot. Get excited to learn with this wine drinking party guide, where we will take you through the basics of selecting wines, and give you some easy-to-understand advice for choosing the right wine for your dinner party.

Best Cabernet Sauvignon Versus Merlot Wine Drinking Party Guide

Characteristics of Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is grown in a wide variety of locations, and can have quite a few different flavor profiles. In general, however, California Cabernet Sauvignon is dark and full-bodied, with fruity and peppery flavors.

The color is typically quite dark, and the wine has strong tannins and a slight acidity that tends to linger on the tongue. A great example of this would be our 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Spring Mountain.

Get access to this extraordinary 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Wine by downloading Keenan Winery’s Wine Notes Guide Here:

Cabernet Sauvignon is a quite complex wine, and is often served with foods that are high in fat and savory “umami” flavors. It’s common to pair Cabernet Sauvignon with red meat such as burgers and steaks, or hearty grilled mushrooms such as portobellos.

Characteristics of Merlot

Merlot has traditionally been considered as a bit of an “underdog” compared to Cabernet Sauvignon. However, Merlot has a variety of positive attributes that make it a delicious, affordable choice for serving at a dinner party, or another special occasion.

Merlot is known for having a deep aroma, reminiscent of chocolate and coffee, with fruity top-notes of black cherry and blackberry. Typically, Merlot is aged in French and American oak barrels for up to 18 months. This results in a smooth, yet complex taste with a relatively lower level of tannins compared to Cabernet Sauvignon.  With this wine party guide, you’ll be able to decide whether or not if Cabernet Sauvignon Versus Merlot is the best for you.

Get ready for your next dinner party with Keenan Winery’s 2013 Merlot Reserve Wine Notes

The 2013 Merlot Reserve is made up of 95% Merlot from our Mailbox Vineyard. 5% Cabernet Franc from our Upper Bowl Vineyard has been added to brighten and deepen the unique characteristics of these high elevation vineyards. Hints of violets and a signature earthy spiciness show in the nose, a chocolaty creaminess combines with the rich dark full fruit on the palette, the finish is beautifully layered, deep, elegant and very, very long. Drink now or decades from now.

Merlot is well-known for its “chameleon-like” ability to pair with an enormous variety of foods, which is one of the reasons for its popularity.

Cabernet Sauvignon Versus Merlot

At first glance, many people have difficulty distinguishing between Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. This is not surprising, as these are two of the most common red wine varietals in the US, according to Grape Collective.

However, there are some big differences between Cabernet Sauvignon versus Merlot. Let’s discuss these differences now, so that you can make an informed decision when buying your next bottle.

Merlot tends to have a “softer” flavor, with fewer tannins and a slightly less acidic profile. Cabernet Sauvignon is very rich and robust, while Merlot is a bit more delicate, and serves up a slightly fruitier flavor.

And while both wines are considered “dry”, Merlot tends to be balanced towards a slightly sweeter flavor profile, making it easier to drink.

This is reflected in how these wines are blended. Merlot grapes are typically added to wines that need a bit more lightness, whereas Cabernet Sauvignon grapes help reinforce a more bold, brash flavor profile.

Wine Party Checklist

Whether you’re a large company entertaining clients, organizing a small business event, or just at home entertaining friends and guest, you can use Keenan Winery’s wine drinking party guide to plan and organize your party.  Create your own wine parties for private events, in-house gatherings just like the professionals.

Select the Wine:

With this guide, you will now know the differences between Cabernet Sauvignon versus Merlot wines.  You’ll now be able to answer the question, is cabernet sauvignon sweet? And how does Merlot taste? Overall, the biggest decision as the wine party organizer that you have to make is your wine selection.

  1. Select a variety of 8 to 10 wines for your guest to taste and drink. Prepare a table just for tasting the wines. Place the wines side-by-side, providing two rounds at a time, allowing for your guests to compare and contrasts the various flavors.
  2. Each guest should have two wine glasses.
  3. For a guest list of 12, one bottle of wine is sufficient. Each guest will have the opportunity to taste 8 to 10 different wines.
  4. Vary the wine selections between white, red, sparkling, aged and new to provide a variety of taste combinations

Set Your Cabernet Sauvignon Versus Merlot Party Theme

A great party should be based on a theme.  Whether it’s a wedding, a corporate hiring event, pre-game for a girls night out, setting a theme and notifying your guests will allow your attendees to prepare as well as builds the excitement to ensure the party goers get in the mood.

Prepare Supplies

Ever bring home a bottle of wine and didn’t have a wine opener to open it? Then you’re stuck with a fork or a knife trying to pop the cork?  Well, here are a list of supplies to ensure you get your wine party popping off to the right start.

  • Wine
  • Wine Opener
  • Wine glasses (2 for each person)
  • Water
  • Napkins
  • Water Crackers
  • Plastic Red Cups (use as a Spitton)
  • Decanter
  • Placemats
  • Pen & Paper
  • Music

Wine Party Food Pairing

When choosing food for your wine party, select food that not only goes with your theme, but also, that will go well with the type of wine being served. For small wine party gatherings, ensure to provide a range of appetizers.  Appetizers can include:

  • Chocolate strawberries
  • Cheese
  • Prepare Meats
  • Crackers
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables

Preparation Tips:

  • Put white wines on ice before and during the party.
  • Stimulate that appetite with a cocktail (also known as Apéritif) before a large meal and also to relax your guests.
  • Provide wine notes like Keenan Winery’s 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve notes you can download the wine notes here.
  • Ensure that you have enough place settings for your guests.

Serving Cabernet Sauvignon at Parties

Cabernet Sauvignon is a wonderful choice for serving at a party. It’s best to serve Cabernet Sauvignon alongside a wide variety of bold, flavorful dishes and hors d’oeuvres.

Cabernet Sauvignon can be served both before the meal and alongside dinner, and the ideal serving temperature is around 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Cabernet Sauvignon should be allowed to breathe for at least 30 minutes, though an hour is more ideal.

The robust, complex flavor of Cabernet Sauvignon can accent the deep umami flavor of beef and heavily-seasoned meats and vegetables perfectly. Typically, it’s best to avoid pairing Cabernet Sauvignon with a more delicate meal or dish, such as oily fish and lightly seasoned chicken dishes.

Tips to Serve Merlot at Parties

Merlot is a very flexible wine, and this is one of the best reasons to serve it at your party. The light attributes of Merlot make it very easy to drink, and allow it to be served in a variety of situations.

Due to its lighter, more flexible flavor profile, Merlot can be chilled slightly more heavily than Cabernet Sauvignon, to a temperature of 55-60 °F.  The wine should be allowed to breathe for at least 20 minutes.  Keenan Winery has a featured wine, the 2013 Keenan Merlot Napa Valley.  Twenty percent of the wine is Merlot fruit harvested from the Napa Carneros region. After hand harvesting, the grapes were de-stemmed, then inoculated with Montrachet yeast. Fermentation ranged from ten to fourteen days. Check out this Merlot’s wine tasting notes when you order a bottle of Keenan.

As touched upon above, Merlot is a very flexible wine. It pairs well with lighter dishes, such as Italian dishes with sweet, tomato-based sauces, as well as chicken, and most varieties of whitefish.  But now, with this guide you should be able to distinguish Cabernet Sauvignon Versus Merlot.

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