Within the contemporary wine industry, there have never been so many choices for consumers to choose from – with even the most obscure and inaccessible wines becoming more affordable and easy to come by.
Two popular brands are Merlot and Shiraz – both somewhat staples in the industry.
However, as with anything, it is still important to learn about the products you are consuming, as this is the best way to avoid disappointment and dissatisfaction.
So what is the difference between Merlot and Shiraz, and which wine is the sweeter of the two?
What Is Merlot?
Merlot is a variety of red wine, produced from the winemaking grapes of the same name – once grown solely throughout France, but which have since become located all around the world.
Named after the French word merle, meaning ‘blackbird’, Merlot is characterized by softness and fleshiness of the grapes – something that makes them quicker and easier to ripen, and generally fruitier once processed.
What Is Shiraz?
The term ‘Shiraz’ actually refers to different varieties of wine – an ancient variety of wine that was produced in (and named for) the city of Shiraz in present day Iran, as well as a common, alternative name for wine produced from Syrah grapes.
The latter is the definition applicable to this wine, and Syrah grapes are also a dark skinned winemaking grape commonly grown throughout France – specifically in the northern Rhone Valley, where much of Shiraz wine has been produced throughout history.
Characterized by high tannin levels, as well as medium to full bodies, Shiraz wines are also notable for their notes of blackberries, black pepper, and mint.
What Are Tannins?
While somewhat complex, tannins are a product found in plants and fruit, and are responsible for binding proteins, and establishing the complex flavors, aromas, and colors that we have come to associate with certain wines.
What Are The Differences Between The Two?
When it comes to the actual differences between the two varieties of wine, there are several things that people should be aware of.
Firstly, the alcohol content of the two wines are notably different – with each wine possessing different strengths.
Generally speaking, Merlot tends to have an alcohol content of roughly 13.5 to 14.5% – making it the stronger wine of the two in terms of alcohol.
Meanwhile, Shiraz wines tend to range from 10 to 14% – making it notably weaker than Merlot in terms of alcohol content.
There are also some differences in terms of their suitability – for example, who they would benefit the most, and any pairings they require to unlock their potential.
Merlot is generally considered the more accessible wine of the two, and is aimed at newer palettes who perhaps aren’t used to intense wines.
Conversely, Shiraz is designed for more adapted palettes – something that is due to the intensity of the flavors and aromas therein.
Shiraz also does better with food – such as beef and roasted meats – as this helps to bring out the character of the wine.
There are also differences in the taste of the two wines -despite them both being red.
Merlot is known for being fruitier – something that really shines through when you first take a sip.
However, on the flip side, Shiraz is thought to be more full-bodied and intense – something that can make it off-putting for those who aren’t used to strong tasting wines.
As mentioned above, Shiraz has higher tannin levels – something that affects the flavor palette of the wine, the complexity therein, and also the different aromas that are present.
As such, it is a much more pungent wine than Merlot – and is characterized by the herbal, minty, peppery aromas that are mentioned above.
So, Which Is The Sweetest?
As mentioned above, Merlot does have the fruitier flavor – something that is created due to the specific grapes used, as well as ingredients that are added during the production process.
While Merlot also has very limited sugar, and is usually produced as a dry wine, it does present itself as the lighter and fruitier choice.
Meanwhile, Shiraz also boasts a fruity flavor palette – but it is also laden with more complex aromas and flavors, which can often overpower the fruit content of the wine.
This means that, in our humble opinion, Merlot wine is the sweeter of the two – something that undoubtedly adds to the accessibility and wide appeal of the wine.
The Difference Between Shiraz & Syrah
While both names refer to the same style of wine – and even the same winemaking grape that is used – both names have distinctly different meanings, and denote the historical changes that the wine has undergone.
Old World Vs New World
Originally known as Syrah, the winemaking grape grown throughout France throughout history, this name has become synonymous with France – known as an ‘old world’ name, and there are distinct differences to taste and color.
However, when winemaking was taken to the new world – namely the Americas – the name became changed to ‘Shiraz’, and the wine took on new flavors, smells, and colors due to the differences in the soil and climate of this new and somewhat more exotic world.
And there we have it, everything you need to know about Merlot and Shiraz, and which wine variety is considered the sweeter of the two.
It is certainly true that, within the contemporary wine industry, there have never been so many choices available to the masses – with countless wines from all corners of the world now being available and accessible to consume.
However, as this article shows, each variety has its own attributes.
So if you are looking for a sweeter wine, or likewise, you want to avoid one, then be sure to check out this handy guide!
Frequently Asked Questions
Now that we know a little more about Merlot and Shiraz, and which variety of wine is considered the sweeter of the two, it is now time for us to answer some frequently asked questions that you might be interested in.
While both varieties of wine have cheaper and more expensive variants, it is widely considered that Shiraz wine is the more prestigious of the two.
This is obviously a difficult question to answer – and one that is dependent on personal preference – however, Shiraz is the most prestigious of the two, making it, at least amongst critics, be considered as the better wine.