Wondering how Shiraz vs Cabernet Sauvignon compared? These popular red wines are popular in many restaurants and bars. Understanding the difference between these varieties is easy when you use this post. You’ll discover the physical differences, color differences, and – most importantly – how these famous grape varieties taste in your wine glass.
Shiraz vs Cabernet Sauvignon: What do they have in common?
These two popular red wine grapes have a few points in common. Understand these points before you explore the physical differences between these varietal wines.
Red Wine Grape
Both of these grape varietals are considered red wines. Both wines will share similar common ground in terms of fruity flavors and tannin. Both wine grapes are more than capable of making fantastic wines – there is simply a difference in taste between them.
Shiraz wine usually has a black fruit taste like blackberry. Shiraz is an excellent choice for wine lovers who love a fruity taste because it emphasizes fruity flavors. In comparison, cabernet sauvignon also tends to have a dark fruit flavor (e.g., blackberry, blackcurrant, and black cherry). Sometimes, you see Cabernet Sauvignon with baking spices. This type of flavor comes from aging the wine in an oak barrel.
In summary, if you like dark-colored fruits, you’re probably going to like both of these red wines.
If you find it tough to distinguish the wine grape varieties based on their fruity flavors, the level of tannins might give you a hint.
Levels of Tannins
As red wine grapes, both these wine grapes have significant tannin content. Of the two wine grapes, the cabernet sauvignon had the highest tannin content of any wine grape. Syrah also has a relatively high level of tannins.
Strong tannins mean that the wine may come across as bitter. To counter a high level of tannins, wine producers develop stronger flavors like black cherry flavors to balance the wine. Not everybody likes powerful tannins, though. If you don’t like tannic wines, you might find white wines more to your liking.
You can find Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon in many of the best-known wine regions. For example, you can find both grape types in the Napa Valley. Likewise, you can also find wines grown in France and other areas. Generally speaking, these wine grapes are most common in sunny climates. These wine grapes are both grown in a variety of regions – however, the Cabernet Sauvignon wine grape might be the more popular in terms of total wine production.
Dry vs Sweet
Most Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon wines are made in a dry wine style. In addition, both of these wines have a comparable level of acidity.
In terms of levels of alcohol, each grape variety has a similar range. You can expect to find wines with about 13 to 15 percent alcohol content. If you prefer wine with lower alcohol content, try white wines instead. If high alcohol content concerns you from a weight gain perspective, look at this guide to low sugar wines.
Shiraz vs Cabernet Sauvignon: What are the differences?
The actual differences between Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon are outlined below.
Shiraz wine grapes are generally much more significant than Cabernet Sauvignon wine grapes. This difference matters to wine lovers in a few ways. Shiraz tends to have lower tannin content. In comparison, Cabernet Sauvignon has the potential to be aged for longer periods. That is why Cabernet Sauvignon is so prevalent in Bordeaux style blended red wine – learn more about the best red blend wine made in France and California.
Further, there are differences in terms of grape skins. Both of these wine grapes are considered to have thicker grape skins.
Cabernet Sauvignon wine grapes tend to be more resistant to challenging weather than Shiraz (keep learning more about Cab Sauv in this grape comparison post – Grenache vs Cabernet Sauvignon). That’s why Cabernet Sauvignon can be grown in various climates, including cool climate regions and sunny climates. For example, you can find the Cabernet Sauvignon grape in the Barossa Valley, Washington State, and Clare Valley. In comparison, Shiraz tends to grow better in hot climates like Australia.
As a wine consumer visiting online wine shops or traditional stores, knowing the difference between warm weather wines and those made in cooler climates is helpful. To discover the biggest difference that climate makes in wine, pick up two bottles (one from a cool climate and one from a warm climate) and have a wine tasting at home.
Shiraz wine generally has a darker color compared to Cabernet Sauvignon. Wine students often hold a wine glass against a plain white background to detect the differences. Appearance can also change due to the age of the wine. Aged wines tend to lose color if they are red (white wines tend to develop an amber color). In comparison, most young red wines have a ruby red color.
As a wine drinker, do yourself a favor. Before drinking, take a few moments to look at the wine. Check whether it has a dark color and smell it. You’ll be asked to take your time with each glass at a nicer tasting. If you rush to drink, it is easier to miss the difference between Pinot Noir and the varieties covered in this post.
True wine students always take a moment to smell their wine and enjoy the aromas. Shiraz wine typically has a jammy style aroma. In terms of fruity, Shiraz offers blueberry and blackberry notes. Learning the distinct aromas of each grape takes some practice.
The aromatic profile of Cabernet Sauvignon usually includes blackberry, black pepper, black cherry, and plum. Wine drinkers who like black fruit character will probably enjoy a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. If the wine has been aged in oak barrels, you might also notice leather and tobacco notes.
Food Pairings For Wine Lovers
There are many kinds of foods that work with these red wines. There are several books on food-wine pairings available. For a fun, beginner-friendly guide, check out Big Macs & Burgundy (see my full review of Big Macs & Burgundy).
The following popular choices for food pairings are some of the best ways to make drinking wine a great experience.
Cheese is the most famous wine pairing for a good reason. Cheese comes in many different varieties and textures, so it’s easy to come up with a match. Please don’t make a mistake I made growing up (i.e., cheese = cheddar)!
Shiraz wine – also known as Syrah in Europe – goes well with a few types of cheese, including aged cheddar, pecorino, gouda, and blue cheeses.
Cabernet Sauvignon goes well with many of these cheeses. A plate of gorgonzola, gouda, or aged cheddar works well with Cabernet Sauvignon. However, there is one rule of thumb to keep in mind – avoid soft cheeses. Cabernet Sauvignon also goes well with blue cheese.
Shiraz wine is an excellent choice for grilled meats, including spare rib and barbecue. Shiraz is an excellent pick if you invite friends over for a summer cookout! Grilled lamb, hamburgers, and chicken all go well with this type of red wine. Beef wellington also goes well with Shiraz wine (remember Shiraz is also known as Syrah).
On the other hand, Cabernet Sauvignon is a classic pairing for more decadent meat dishes such as steak. Whether you like the New York strip or prime rib, Cabernet Sauvignon is excellent. To make a great impression at the next steak dinner you have, use this guide to the best wine with steak.
Vegetarian Food Pairings
If you ask a wine enthusiast for food pairings, you might hear the typical advice “red meat goes with red wine.” While red meat and red wine go well together, that is not your only choice. There are also excellent vegetarian choices to try.
With a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, make some Portobello mushrooms. You can also make a vegetarian burger with pinto beans, shitake mushrooms, and oil. Rus the patty, and you’ve got the foundation of a memorable meal.
Shiraz wine also works well with several vegetarian stables. Start with a meal that features lentils or beans. In addition, grilled vegetables go well with Shiraz wine.
Dessert Food Pairings
There are dessert options to try when you have a final glass of red wine with dessert. For wine lovers who prefer Shiraz, focus your effort on chocolate-based desserts (ideally featuring high-quality dark chocolate, but some prefer milk chocolate). Fortunately, the pairing suggestion for Cabernet Sauvignon is the same – go for chocolate.
Tip: Bringing chocolate and wine together can be difficult because high sugar levels in chocolate can overwhelm many wines. To discover more, check out my seven-step guide to wine chocolate pairing.
Spicy Food Pairing
Are you ordering up some spicy food? The perfect match for spicy food is a Shiraz, like a Barossa Shiraz. Of course, wine pairings are a matter of taste, so feel free to try another type of wine.
Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon: The Best Wine Regions
Since these wine grapes are grown in various regions, it can be confusing to know where exactly to start as a wine beginner. Pick up a few bottles of each wine variety for a tasting, and you’ll find it much easier to learn about their complex aromas and taste.
I’ve chosen to focus on three regions which means that some areas like South America and South Africa are not covered. If there is interest in wine brands from these areas, I may cover them in a future post. For now, international wine enthusiasts will have plenty to discover with this introduction.
Syrah Shiraz Wine Regions
In Europe, Syrah is commonly used, while Australian vineyards and other New World producers use Shiraz. Technically speaking, Syrah and Shiraz are the same grape.
The French make some of the best Syrah wine in the world. Start your wine search in the following areas: Côtes du Rhône: Cornas, and Hermitage. You’ll also find great Syrah wine made in the Rhone Valley.
The following French Syrah wine bottles offer a good starting point.
- Château Paul Mas “Clos de Mûres” (85% Syrah)
- Gérard Bertrand Réserve Spéciale Grenache ( a blend of Syrah and Grenache)
- Château Terre Fauve L’Eté Fauve Syrah de Sables Rouges
In Australia, you have plenty of choices to find a great bottle of Shiraz. Search for the following wine regions in online wine shops: Barossa Valley and McLaren Valley. Australian vineyards are famous for the fantastic Shiraz they produce, so it is hard to go wrong.
Look for these Australian bottles to see what down under has to offer for Cabernet Sauvignon:
- Elderton Command Single Vineyard Shiraz (Editor’s Pick on Vivino)
- Katnook Prodigy Shiraz
- Jim Barry The Armagh Shiraz (save up for this one – it sells for over $200)
In the United States, the best-known region for Shiraz is on the west coast. In the north, check out the Columbia Valley in Washington State. In California, look for wines from Paso Robles and Santa Barbara.
Start your journey through American Syrah with these wines.
- Charles Smith K Vintners The Cattle King Syrah
- Betz Family Winery La Cote Patriarche Syrah
- Force Majeure Vineyards Estate Syrah
Cabernet Sauvignon Wine Regions
As one of the most popular international varieties globally, Cabernet Sauvignon is grown in many countries. Let’s look at the same three wine-producing countries to find the best regions for this ancient grape variety.
Most wine experts agree that France is the original home of Cabernet Sauvignon. Specifically, pick up a bottle of Bordeaux red wine and see why the French are so well known for this wine grape.
Before you buy, keep in mind one fact. The Bordeaux wine region traditionally favors blends of several grapes. Some wine bottles are made with a focus on Merlot, while others emphasize Cabernet Sauvignon. Ask for Cabernet Sauvignon dominant blend to see how this grape performs in France.
Here are a few recommended bottles of French Cabernet Sauvignon to taste.
- Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste Pauillac
- Les Jamelles Cabernet Sauvignon
- Chateau Leoville Poyferre
When you seek out Australian wines in a restaurant or wine store, start by looking at three regions. The country’s most famous Cabernet Sauvignon wine regions include Coonawarra, Margaret River valley, and the Yarra Valley.
Look for the following quality wines to introduce yourself to the world of Australian Cabernets.
- Purple Hands Wines ‘Planta Circa’ Ancestor Vine Cabernet Sauvignon (Barossa, South Australia)
- Peccavi Cabernet Sauvignon (Margaret River)
- Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon (Coonawarra, South Australia)
The Napa Valley of California is considered the very best wine region for Cabernet Sauvignon in the United States. You can also find an excellent bottle of wine in other areas like Sonoma Valley.
A few well regarded Cabernet Sauvignon wines to order from your favorite online wine shop include:
- Clos du Val Hirondelle Vineyard Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
- Forman Cabernet Sauvignon
- Patria ‘Oakville Ranch” Cabernet Sauvignon
Shiraz Vs Cabernet Sauvignon In Review
In your wine appreciation journey, knowing the main differences between Shiraz vs Cabernet Sauvignon is helpful. You’ve learned that Shiraz tends to thrive in warm climates while Cabernet Sauvignon can be grown in a wider variety of climates. You’ve also learned that Cabernet Sauvignon is commonly featured in Bordeaux style blends.
With this information, you’re ready to try a blind tasting comparing Cabernet Sauvignon vs Shiraz.