Cabernet Sauvignon vs. Chianti: differences, sweet vs. dry, and food pairing

Cabernet Sauvignon vs. Chianti - find out the key differences in taste
Cabernet Sauvignon vs Chianti: Discover the key differences between these popular red wine grapes

When see Cabernet-Sauvignon-vs-Chianti in the store, how do you choose between these popular types of red wine? Use this wine comparison guide to learn about the differences and similarities.

Cabernet Sauvignon vs Chianti: Key Differences

Choosing between cabernet sauvignon vs. Chianti can be tricky for red wine lovers. While both are great, Chianti has an advantage in terms of pairing with many different foods. On the other hand, Cabernet Sauvignon is grown worldwide, so there are many different styles to enjoy. Chianti is sweeter than Cabernet Sauvignon, but both wines are still considered dry wines. Now, let’s look at a few other key differences between these grapes so you can choose the right wine for you.

Cabernet Sauvignon vs Chianti: How Do They Taste?

These two red wines can taste quite different. Let’s take a look at a few of the common differences between these wines including the flavor profile. 

Cabernet Sauvignon taste: expect to taste black fruit flavors like black currant and black cherry. The aroma of cherries will probably strike you when you first open the bottle. and pour your first glass. Flavor wise, you might taste vanilla and pepper flavors if the wine has been aged in oak barrels. If the wine is older, you may find that the fruit flavors have faded to a degree.

Chianti taste: expect to taste tart cherries in the glass. Some people also pick up different flavors like red fruits, balsamic vinegar, and dried herbs in Chianti Classico. You might even compare Chianti to roasted or sun-dried tomatoes. The Chianti grape variety goes well with any tomato-focused meal like pasta and pizza.

Cabernet Sauvignon vs. Chianti: Where Are These Wines Grown And Produced?

Geography is the most significant difference for Cabernet Sauvignon vs. Chianti. Don’t worry – the difference is easy to keep straight, even for wine novices.

Cabernet Sauvignon originally comes from France, it is now grown all over the world. According to Wine Economics, the top five countries for Cabernet Sauvignon volume are France, Chile, the US, Australia, and Spain. In addition, Cabernet Sauvignon is commonly used in many wine blends in Bordeaux wines (discover more about how Cab Sauv compares to other grapes in this post: Grenache vs Cabernet Sauvignon). This full-bodied wine has become one of the most popular wine types among wine drinkers in America and other countries today.

Chianti wine is different. Rather than a specific grape, Chianti comes from a specific wine region in the Tuscany region of Italy. Typically, Chianti wine is made from the Sangiovese grape (a minimum of 80% of the wine must be made from this grape). If you plant Sangiovese grapes outside of this region of Italy, it cannot be called Chianti. Historically, Chianti wine was formally recognized as a wine appellation in 1932. Look for Chianti wine labelled “DOCG (i.e. Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) to get the best possible experience. Personally, I look for Chianti Classico DOCG on the wine bottle label most of the time when I browse the Italian wines section in wine stores.

Tip: Did you know that there are Chianti sub-zones and even a Chianti Classico Sub-Zone? Finding your way around each Chianti Classico subregion goes beyond the scope of this post. It is a common misconception that all Chianti wine are the same. As a wine enthusiast, the best way to learn the differences between your favorite wine and other varieties of Chianti DOCG is to keep tasting new wines (and check out the taste of Chianti).

Cabernet Sauvignon vs Chianti: Dry Wine or Sweet Wine?

Neither Cabernet Sauvignon nor Chianti is considered to be sweet wines. Instead, both are considered to be dry wines which is the favorite type of wine today for most people. That said, both of these wine grapes have appealing fruity flavors which offset their tannic wine aspects.

Since Chianti is made in a specific region of Italy from particular grapes, we can generalize to a degree. Chianti is considered to be a very dry, medium-bodied wine in most cases. Likewise, Cabernet Sauvignon is usually considered to be a dry wine.

Now you might come across a Cabernet Sauvignon wine that is sweet, and you might start to feel a bit confused. There are a few reasons why you may encounter a relatively sweet wine like Grand Moscato. . First, new world wines (i.e., wine made anywhere outside of Europe) sometimes emphasize the wine’s fruit characteristics. As a result, you may have a sweeter taste. Further, Individual wine-making processes can change the wine.

To find out a wine’s sweetness level, look up the residual sugar level in the bottle and compare what you find with the chart below.

Use the following list to understand how sugar levels translate into dry or sweet wines.

  • Bone Dry. Less than 1 gram of residual sugar per liter. (I don’t think I have ever encountered a wine like this, so consider this category rare).
  • Dry. 1-10 grams of residual sugar per liter. (Most Cabernet Sauvignon and Chianti wine will fit in this category).
  • Off-Dry. 10-35 grams of residual sugar per liter.
  • Sweet. 36-120 grams of residual sugar per liter.
  • Very Sweet, 120-220 grams of residual sugar per liter.

Keep in mind that you probably will not find the sugar content listed on the wine label in every case. To find out the answer, I recommend looking up the wine on the winery website. You will need to track down a “wine data sheet” as a guide. Alternatively, ask your wine store for tips. Better stores will have a resident wine expert who can help you find a fruity wine, a wine blend or a complex wines with notes of cherries – whatever you are most interested in drinking.

Cabernet Sauvignon vs. Chianti: Which Has The Most Alcohol?

Comparing alcohol levels in cabernet sauvignon vs. Chianti is one way to decide which wine you want to have. To answer this question, I looked at a few sources. The comparison is challenging because Cabernet Sauvignon is made in many countries with different producers, while Chianti is made in one area alone.

Cabernet Sauvignon Alcohol Levels

Cabernet Sauvignon wine generally has a relatively high alcohol level. Expect to see this wine with a 13.5% alcohol level. However, there are some examples of cabernet sauvignon with up to 15% alcohol. Some wine producers are pushing back against these high alcohol levels, however.

Chianti Alcohol Levels

According to the Alcohol Professor, the minimum alcohol percentages for chianti range from 12% to 13%. That is relatively close to what we see in a typical cabernet sauvignon wine.

Cabernet Sauvignon vs. Chianti: Which Wine Pairs Well With Pizza?

Pairing wine with pizza is an exciting challenge because there are many different ways to make a pizza. For example, a “meat lovers” pizza can be a good pairing with cabernet sauvignon. However, Cabernet Sauvignon would not pair well with a more straightforward pizza like a Margherita pizza.

In general, Chianti is considered one of the world’s most “food friendly” wines (one of the reasons it is a personal favorite). Specifically, Chianti pairs well with the tomato sauce in pizza.

Cabernet Sauvignon vs. Chianti: Which Is More Expensive?

You can make Cabernet Sauvignon wine in many countries and quality levels. Therefore, you can find bargain Cabernet Sauvignon wine for under $20. In contrast, Chianti wine must come from a specific region of Italy. Therefore, if you buy this wine outside of Italy, the price reflects that the wine has been transported a long distance.

That all said, you can easily spend a lot of money on the world’s best cabernet sauvignon. Wine searcher has found two Cabernet Sauvignon priced at more than $4000 as of June 2021 (i.e., Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon and Ghost Horse Vineyard ‘Spectre’ Cabernet Sauvignon – both from the Napa Valley). Fortunately, plenty of good cabernet sauvignon wines are priced at less than $100, like the 2012 Howard Park Abercrombie Cabernet Sauvignon from Australia.

If you have a limited budget, there’s good news. You can find both of these wines easily. If I had to choose one of them for affordability, I would have to pick cabernet sauvignon because it can be grown everywhere in many different styles.

Your Next Red Wine Comparison Answered

Now that you know the similarities between Cabernet Sauvignon vs. Chianti, you probably have other wine questions. For example, what’s the deal with Merlot? To answer that question, dive into my exploration of these two well-regarded red wines: Cabernet Sauvignon vs. Merlot: 6 Things Every Wine Beginner Needs To Know.

Cabernet Sauvignon vs. Chianti: differences, sweet vs. dry, and food pairing

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