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Merlot vs. Shiraz: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on March 27, 2024
Merlot is a soft, fruity red wine, while Shiraz is bold and spicy. Both are popular grape varieties with distinct flavors.

Key Differences

Merlot is known for its soft, velvety texture and fruity flavors, often featuring notes of plum, cherry, and berries. It's a red wine grape originating from the Bordeaux region of France and has gained worldwide popularity for its accessibility and versatility in pairing with foods. Merlot wines are typically medium-bodied with moderate tannins, making them smoother on the palate.
Shiraz, also known as Syrah in some parts of the world, presents a stark contrast with its bold, robust flavors and a higher tannin content. This grape variety thrives in warmer climates and is most associated with regions like Australia's Barossa Valley. Shiraz wines are full-bodied with spicy, dark fruit flavors and often a hint of pepper, which can stand up to richer, more flavorful dishes.
Merlot appeals to those who prefer a softer, more approachable red wine, while Shiraz caters to wine enthusiasts seeking intensity and complexity. The difference in taste profiles between Merlot and Shiraz reflects their distinct terroirs and winemaking techniques, with Merlot often being fermented and aged to emphasize its fruitiness and Shiraz crafted to highlight its powerful structure and spice.
In terms of food pairings, Merlot's milder flavor profile makes it a versatile choice for a wide range of dishes, from poultry to light meats and even some fish. On the other hand, Shiraz, with its bold flavors, pairs excellently with game, red meats, and dishes with hearty sauces or spicy components, complementing the wine's inherent spice notes.
Understanding the difference between Merlot and Shiraz is essential for any wine lover, as it allows for more informed choices based on personal preference and the nature of the dining occasion. While both wines offer distinct qualities, their diversity illustrates the rich variety found within the world of red wines.

Comparison Chart


Bordeaux, France
Rhône Valley, France; popular in Australia

Flavor Profile

Soft, fruity (plum, cherry, berries)
Bold, spicy (blackberry, pepper)



Tannin Level


Food Pairing

Light meats, poultry, some fish
Red meats, game, spicy dishes

Merlot and Shiraz Definitions


A medium-bodied red wine known for its soft, velvety texture and fruity notes.
The merlot paired beautifully with the roasted chicken.


A full-bodied red wine noted for its bold flavors and spicy, peppery notes.
The shiraz’s peppery finish complemented the grilled steak perfectly.


A popular grape variety originating from Bordeaux, France, used in blends and single-varietal wines.
We chose a Bordeaux blend with a high percentage of merlot for its smoothness.


Features high tannin levels and dark fruit flavors, often with a hint of chocolate or tobacco.
This shiraz has a complex profile with layers of blackberry and a touch of tobacco.


Characterized by moderate tannins and a range of flavors from plums to blackberries.
This merlot exhibits a splendid plum flavor that's quite approachable.


Can be aged for many years, developing greater complexity and smoothness over time.
The aged shiraz from my cellar has mellowed beautifully, revealing subtle earthy undertones.


Often aged in oak to introduce complexity and additional flavors like vanilla.
The oak-aged merlot offered hints of vanilla and spice.


Excellent with hearty dishes, matching the wine’s robust character.
Tonight’s spicy lamb dish calls for a robust shiraz to match the intensity.


A versatile wine that pairs well with a variety of foods.
For dinner, let’s open a bottle of merlot; it goes well with almost everything on the table.


Primarily grown in Australia, where it produces some of the country’s most renowned wines.
The Australian shiraz we tasted was intensely flavorful and rich.


A variety of grape originally grown in the Bordeaux region of France that is used to make red wine.


The Syrah grape, especially when grown in Australia.


A dry red wine made from this grape.


A red wine made from this grape.


Black wine grape originally from the region of Bordeaux


Alternative case form of Shiraz


Dry red wine made from a grape grown widely in Bordeaux and California


A kind of Persian wine; - so called from the place whence it is brought.


A city in central southwestern Iran; ruins of ancient Persepolis are nearby


What are typical flavors in Merlot?

Plum, cherry, and berries.

What food should I pair with Shiraz?

Red meats, game, and spicy dishes.

Where is Shiraz most famously produced?

Australia and Rhône Valley in France.

Is Merlot easy to drink for beginners?

Yes, its smoothness makes it accessible.

Does Shiraz age well?

Absolutely, it can develop more complexity over time.

What is Merlot?

A medium-bodied, soft, and fruity red wine.

What is Shiraz?

A full-bodied, bold, and spicy red wine.

Where does Merlot originate?

Bordeaux, France.

What food pairs well with Merlot?

Poultry, light meats, and some fish.

What flavors characterize Shiraz?

Blackberry, pepper, and sometimes chocolate.

Can Merlot be aged?

Yes, though many are best enjoyed young.

What's the best temperature to serve Shiraz?

Room temperature to highlight its robust flavors.

How should Merlot be served?

Slightly below room temperature.

Is Shiraz always dry?

Mostly, though it carries a ripe fruitiness that may seem sweet.

What about Shiraz?

Similar, but can be higher due to its fuller body and riper grapes.

What distinguishes Shiraz from Syrah?

Primarily the style and region; they are the same grape.

Why is Shiraz considered bold?

Its intense flavors and high tannins.

Are there sweet versions of Merlot?

Merlot is typically dry but can have a fruity sweetness.

Is Merlot used in blends?

Yes, frequently in Bordeaux blends.

What's the alcohol content in Merlot?

Usually between 13-14.5%.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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