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Cabernet Sauvignon vs. Shiraz: What’s the Difference?

A Syrah sign on a post in front of rows of grapes at a vineyard.
A Syrah vineyard. Photo by Natalia Sedova on Unsplash.

Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz are two of the most well-known red wines on the market. They have many similar characteristics as well as a number of key differences that differentiate them. Once you understand their traits, you’ll be able to clearly distinguish them without any problem. Keep reading to discover the difference between Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is a Eurasian grape variety often known simply as Cabernet. The fruit spikes are small and conical in shape while the fruit features a medium density. Originally from the Bordeaux region of France, Cabernet Sauvignon is easy to grow, suitable for many different climates and is commonly grown throughout the world.

The red wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon are very full-bodied and often have aromas of green pepper, mint, cassis, plum and other fruits when young, and with cedar, tobacco, leather and mushroom notes emerging from aged ones. It is dark in color, with cassis, black cherry flavors, rich fruitiness, high tannins and high acidity. Cabernet Sauvignon wine can also be aged for 15 years or more.

Pair it with: The youngest and freshest wines go well with cured and seasoned meats or pasta dishes with meat sauces, while the aged wines pair best with grilled or roasted meats and even small game.

Shiraz

Shiraz, also known as Syrah, is an ancient wine grape variety whose origins are somewhat mysterious. Many possible origins for this grape were theorized, but recent research indicates. that it is originally from France and is a natural cross between two ancient grapes, Mondeuse Blanche and Dureza. These two grapes originated in eastern France, near the Northern Rhone Valley, a region now famous for Syrah. Syrah is an extremely old variety that is estimated to have been around since before the common era. The wines made from Syrah are dark, tannic, full-bodied and powerful with aromas of cassis, blackberries, blueberries, violets, black pepper, dried herbs and cloves. The vine grains are dense and highly resistant to disease.

The wines made from Shiraz vary greatly depending on the region in which they are grown, and are characterized by intense aromas of black fruit and pepper. Ideal for maturing in oak barrels, it is best known in France and Australia. The dry reds made from Syrah in France’s Rhone Valley often have aromas of black berries, black pepper and spice, and some of the best Syrahs have powerful tannins, complex aromas, are well balanced and attractive, and have an amazing ability to age. Australia’s Syrah, with its hot and dry climate, produces a fruity, full-bodied and sweet wine with sweet notes of dark chocolate, rich and supple tannins and a heavy body.

Pair it with: This spicy wine is the perfect match for grilled meat, fillet with mushrooms, roast chicken, game, lamb, smoked and herb cheeses and meat dishes in general. For combinations with fish, the preparations must be very flavorful.

What’s the difference between Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz?

Both Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz or Syrah are thick-skinned varieties and therefore both have a dark color. Both come from cooler climates, both are medium in color, and the hotter the climate, the darker the color will become. The color of Syrah is sometimes more purplish, but the two varieties are really not very different.

However, Cabernet Sauvignon has a high acidity and is very refreshing, while Syrah will generally have relatively low acidity. Also, despite the large number of tannins they contain, both offer very different sensations to the taster. Cabernet Sauvignon feels full of character and more pronounced on the palate, while Syrah is smooth, elegant and harmonious. Cabernet Sauvignon is also characterized by prominent black fruit flavors, particularly black cherry. Shiraz, on the other hand, has a more floral flavor and is often blended with other varieties.

In summary, wines made from Shiraz are fruity, sweet and full-bodied, with a high alcohol content and powerful tannins. Cabernet Sauvignon, on the other hand, are wines with a complex and attractive aroma, full-bodied and balanced wines with great aging potential.

Final Notes

Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz wines have some different structures, so it very much comes down to personal choice. Cabernet is often stronger in taste, whereas Shiraz often has a more smooth and fine texture. By no means is one better than the other, it’s really just a matter of choosing the right one for the occasion.

To decide which one is better with a certain type of food, it is better to try and continue trying. Remember that practice makes perfect; so the more you try, the better you’ll become at wine tasting.

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