Merlot vs Shiraz: What Are The 8 Important Differences To Know?

Merlot vs Shiraz
This is our comparison of Merlot vs Shiraz wine. Do you know what are the important differences? Enjoy!

This is our comparison of Merlot vs Shiraz wine. We’ve extensively researched these two popular wines to help you pick the best for you.

Merlot is a very versatile grape, often blended with other grapes since it softens higher-tannins grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, for example.

It’s used to produce light and fruity wines for immediate consumption, as well as more sophisticated wines that improve with bottle maturation and oak. 

Syrah/Shiraz is a popular red wine known for its dark ruby color, full body and black fruit flavors.

The two main styles are Syrah from the “Old World” and Shiraz from the “New World”.

Our recommendation for Best Value Merlot is Duckhorn Napa Valley Merlot 2018 and for Best Overall is Château La Fleur-Pétrus Pomerol 2011.

Our recommendation for Best Value Shiraz/Syrah is Mollydooker The Boxer Shiraz 2018 and for Best Overall is Shafer Napa Valley Relentless.

You’ll find below other wine recommendations for you.

Let’s begin with the review!

Wine Selection Overview

Find below our Merlot vs Shiraz wine selection for you where you’ll find our recommendation for you.

Merlot Selection

Lohr Vineyards & Wines Los Osos Merlot

Red fruit aromas of plum and pomegranate are integrated with a barrel signature of dark chocolate and baking spice.

Whole berry fermentation with a generous use of Malbec as a blender accentuates the brighter fruit tones of Merlot and leaves ripe, soft tannins on the palate.

Duckhorn Napa Valley Merlot 2018

Aromatic, with vibrant red fruit layers of Rainier cherry and spiced plum, as well as notes of liquorice, tobacco leaf, cardamom and thyme.

This wine has smooth velvety texture and a sophisticated finish.

Château La Fleur-Pétrus Pomerol 2011

On the nose a tight core of black fruits, blackcurrants and dark cherries.

Beautifully textured on the palate, sweet and quite fleshy, supple and flattering.

Lots of ripe tannins but they are very well hidden by this layer of fruit, with a lovely sense of grip coming in.

Great acidity at the core. Wonderful structure and balance here, and an elegant substance to the finish.

Shiraz Selection

19 Crimes Red Blend

It’s not just a very nice Syrah, it offers as well great values for money.

Seriously, what else do you need to know?😄

Expect it to be fruitful, and persistent.

Some of main flavors you’ll experience are plum, dark fruit, cherry, vanilla, oak, chocolate, and licorice.

Mollydooker The Boxer Shiraz 2018

It is astounding, so rich and so smooth and so powerful. Succulent berry flavors with luscious chocolate layers as well as licorice and spice.

The deep dark color of the wine matches the deep flavors of the wine.

Here is an extract from the Vivino Editor’s note: “Get Ready To Get “Pure Deliciousness” TKO’d By This HUGE Fan Favorite “The Boxer” Shiraz From a Wine Spectator Top 100 Winery—Now 44% Off While Our Allocation Lasts!”

Shafer Napa Valley Relentless

The 2012 vintage featured in Vivino’s 2019 Wine Style Awards: Californian Syrah.

This is one of the best Syrah you can find.

Aromas of meatiness along with black plum, black pepper, black fig.

Smoke, forest floor and subtle black truffle the mouthfeel is seamless and round from the front of the through the finish.


Let’s now take a closer look at the difference between Merlot vs Shiraz so that you’ll have enough details to make an informed decision.

Merlot vs Shiraz: Where are they produced?

Here you’ll find a brief overview of Merlot vs Shiraz from regions and wine styles points of view.

Merlot is planted all over the world given its versatility. Merlot gives it best in moderate to warm climates. Climates will have a direct effect on the Merlot taste profile.

Here is a quick overview:

In cool climates, like Bordeaux in France, expect ruby color, light-medium body, higher acidity, red fruit (raspberry, cherry) flavors.

Common tertiary notes are spice, leather, coffee, and licorice.

In warm climates, like California, expect deep ruby color, medium-full body, pronounced black fruit (blackberry, blueberry, plum) flavors, velvety tannins.

Tertiary notes are usually vanilla, coconut, and smoke.

Find more about Merlot here.

Shiraz/Syrah gives its best in a moderate to cool climate, eg France: Rhône Valley. It is though as well cultivated in warm climates too, e.g. Australia.

Whilst for New World wine varietal labeling is used, e.g. Shiraz, for the French wines, under AOC rules [1], the name of the place is used, e.g. Hermitage.

To know which Syrah/Shiraz style you are about the drink, just look at the name on the label. Syrah will be the Old World style whilst Shiraz will be the New World style.

Find more about Shiraz/Syrah here.

Merlot vs Shiraz: Which grapes are used to produce them?

Here you’ll find a brief overview of Merlot vs Shiraz from a grape point of view.

Merlot is produced from Merlot grapes.

Shiraz is produced from Shiraz/Syrah grapes.

Both are red-wine grape varieties of the species Vitis vinifera.

Merlot vs Shiraz: What's their alcohol content?

Here you’ll find a brief overview of Merlot vs Shiraz from an alcohol content point of view.

Alcohol content or more precisely Alcohol By Volume, i.e. ABV, measures the alcoholic strength of a drink.

There is a direct relationship between the sugar left in the wine after the alcoholic fermentation has taken place, i.e. Residual Sugar or RS, and ABV.

During the alcoholic fermentation, the yeast transforms the sugar in the grape juice into alcohol. Grapes with high residual sugar will therefore produce dry wine with a high ABV.

Depending on the styles Merlot’s ABV ranges between 13% to 14.5%, whereas Shiraz’s ABV ranges between 13% to 15.5%. 

Merlot vs Shiraz: What's their taste profile?

Here you’ll find a brief overview of Merlot vs Shiraz from a taste profile point of view.

Merlot is a dry wine with a medium to deep ruby color, typically velvety, as tannins are generally medium-low.

You can find both wines with red fruit, like raspberry, and herbaceous flavors, as well as wines with pronounced black fruit flavors, like black cherry and plum.

Chocolate, cocoa, mocha, graphite are typical Merlot tertiary flavors. 

Shiraz/Syrah is a dry to off-dry red wine with a deep ruby to purple color. Shiraz/Syrah is generally less velvety than Merlot as it has medium-high tannins. 

You will usually find full-body Shiraz/Syrah.

Black fruit like blackberry and blueberry are very dominant and typical flavors. Depending on the style you’ll find pepper (Shiraz) or smoked flavor (Syrah). 

Chocolate and licorice are other typical notes.

Oak maturation is common for Syrah/Shiraz and it is used to reduce tannins and add tertiary flavors.

Merlot vs Shiraz: Are they sweet or dry?

Here you’ll find a brief overview of Merlot vs Shiraz in terms of sweetness level or residual sugar.

The sweetness level of a wine is expressed in grams of sugar per liter, aka g/L, or as a percentage.

10 g/L equals 1% which, if you are interested, represents 6 calories per 5 oz serving. 

You will usually find Merlot as a dry wine, whereas Shiraz sweetness level ranges from dry to off-dry.

  • A dry wine contains less than 15 g/L.
  • An off dry wine contains between 15-30 g/l.

Learn more about wine sweetness level here.

Merlot vs Shiraz: Which are the recommended food pairings?

Here you’ll find a brief overview of Merlot vs Shiraz from a food pairings point of view.

Merlot pairs easily with many foods compared to Cabernet Sauvignon thanks to its versatility. Ratatouille, beans dishes, pasta, and pizza with mushrooms are generally a very good fit. 

You have an ample selection of meat dishes too from turkey, roast veal, braised pork, venison, duck, or a juicy burger. 

Cheeses that pair very well with Merlot are Camembert, Gorgonzola, and Parmigiano Reggiano for example.

Shiraz/Syrah pairs well with bold flavors dishes like grilled vegetables, mushroom, pasta with veal ragu. 

Syrah tends to pair slightly better with game, duck, stews, veals. Shiraz, on the other hand, is more indicated for BBQ ribs, burgers, grilled beef, and lamb.

Cheese-wise, your safest bets are always Cheddar, Gorgonzola, and the likes.

Merlot vs Shiraz: How should you serve and store them?

Here you’ll find a brief overview of Merlot vs Shiraz in terms of serving and storing the wine.

Merlot should be decanted for 30 minutes and served at 59 – 64 °F (15 – 18 °C) in a Bordeaux glass.[1]

The recommended storing period is between 3 to 5 years for normal bottles and 10+ years for the finest bottles.

Shiraz/Syrah should be decanted for 1hr-2hrs and served at 59 – 64 °F (15 – 18 °C) in a Bordeaux glass. 

The recommended storing period is up to 5 years for normal bottles and 10+ years for the finest bottles.

Merlot vs Shiraz: How much do they cost?

Here you’ll find a brief overview of Merlot vs Shiraz from a price comparison point of view.

For Merlot, the finest bottles are primarily from Bordeaux in France. In those cases, the prices quickly reach and pass the $1,000.

Good entry-level bottles are generally from Chile, California (Sonoma), France, and Italy. 

Great quality bottles can be found for up to $100 usually from California, France, and Italy. Outstanding bottles over $100+ are usually from Italy and France.

Shiraz/Syrah is generally more affordable than Merlot. If you are after a splurge, don’t worry you can still find bottles passing the $1,000, especially from France.

You’ll easily find good entry-level bottled from Chile, South Africa, Australia, Cali, France between $10-$20.

Great quality bottles can be found usually up to $50 and outstanding and luxury bottles over $100+.

Our Verdict

If you have been through the guide, by now you are a Merlot vs Shiraz expert!

Both Merlot and Shiraz/Syrah are great wines and in some cases, they do resemble a bit.

Our recommendation is therefore based on what you’d fancy the most at a particular given moment or event.

You cannot resist the softness of a Merlot, can you?

Well then Duckhorn Napa Valley Merlot is exactly what’s needed for you. It’s a fantastic bottle of Merlot at an extremely reasonable price. 

If of course you are after something absolutely exceptional, Château La Fleur-Pétrus Pomerol 2011 is our recommendation for you.

If you prefer a wine with bolder flavors and pronounced black fruit and tertiary notes, then go for Shiraz/Syrah.

Our recommendation for Best Value Shiraz/Syrah is Mollydooker The Boxer Shiraz 2018

If you are after something truly special, then treat yourself with Shafer Napa Valley Relentless.

As always make sure to serve them at the right temperature to enjoy them at their best.

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