Log In / Join Now

Ask Dr. Vinny

Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...

Dear Dr. Vinny,

I just read your description about the difference between Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, but I wanted to ask you if it is possible that some Merlot—perhaps depending on the region—could be stronger than others? I recently created a tasting group, we are beginners, and we started with two grapes, Cabernet and Merlot, and I was worried because I could not identify the difference as they were supposed to be.

—Mario, Mexico

Dear Mario,

Absolutely! I imagine that by “stronger” you mean something like more concentrated or tannic, and that’s entirely possible. When I—or any wine lovers—talk about the differences between regions or types of wines, we have to speak in extremely broad generalities, and there are always exceptions to these generalities. That’s part of what makes wine so much fun—it's not always predictable. As you mention, regional differences and a myriad of other variables, from how the grapes were grown, picked and vinified to vintage variations, can all affect the final product.

Keep in mind, though, that these generalities are based on a lot of data points. Here at Wine Spectator, we try thousands of wines in our blind tastings every year, so our experience influences how we see the world of wine. If you’ve only tried a few Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignons so far, you might lean to different conclusions.

I understand that the world of wine is so expansive that it’s tempting to create some absolutes, but you should also leave yourself open to surprises. I’m happy to read that you’ve started a tasting group, and exploring different regions and/or varietal bottlings is a great way to learn and discover.

—Dr. Vinny

Wine Basics

We break down the basics—how to taste, serve, store and more. Plus:
» Maps of major wine regions
» Grape variety characteristics

How-to Videos

Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more

Wine Spectator School: All courses are FREE for WineSpectator.com Members

Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.

Browse our course catalog
Check out the professional wine sales and service courses
Learn Wine Forum: Got questions? Get answers

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.