Cabernet vs Shiraz – How Do They Compare?

Cabernet and Shiraz are both red wines and they are probably two of the best known and popular red wines out there. However, are they similar wines or are there differences between them? Should you choose one over the other? The answer is subjective. What one person likes, another might not.  In this article we will take a look at the two wines and tell you what the differences are, their flavours, the tannins, what food to pair them with and much more. It is highly likely that if you like red wine you may be more inclined to like both so your choice might be based on what food you want to pair the food with. 

The Major Differences Between Cabernet vs Shiraz

  1. Cabernet is dry, but it is still a little sweeter than Shiraz. It is fruity, tasting of blackberries, raspberries, and redcurrants. You might also get hints of cassis and mint. Cassis is a sweet red liqueur made from blackcurrants. Shiraz has jammy notes and tastes of blueberries and blackcurrants. There are also smoky notes of bacon and beef jerky, together with black pepper spices.
  2. Cabernet is found in many countries. The grapes were originally grown in France, but are now found all over the world, in particular British Columbia, Canada, and Australia. Shiraz originally came from France, but the grapes are now grown in the Barossa Valley in Australia as well as other countries all over the world.
  3. Cabernet has a dull mild plate, while Shiraz has a rich mild plate.

Cabernet vs Shiraz- The Background Behind Both Wines

Cabernet, also called Cabernet Sauvignon, is probably more widely known than Shiraz. It is often found at the top of the wine list at restaurants. It is also easier to find in supermarkets although off licences and specialised wine shops will probably stock Shiraz. If you like Cabernet Sauvignon, it’s worth you experimenting and trying Shiraz. You may be pleasantly surprised. Let’s take a look at both of their backgrounds.

Cabernet

The grapes for Cabernet Sauvignon are amongst the most widely grown in the world which straight away tells you that the wines produced are very popular. In fact, Cabernet is actually called the King of Red Wine. 

The grapes originated in France, but until 1996 it was unclear how they came about. It is now thought that the grapes came about due to an accidental breeding between a Cabernet Franc grape and a Sauvignon Blanc. This probably happened at some time during the 17th century. 

Shiraz

Perhaps you have seen Shiraz in the shops or maybe you have seen Syrah. In fact, they are one and the same. The only difference is that Syrah originated in France and was given this name. However, the grapes were transported to Australia where they were given the name Shiraz. There are a few differences in the wines mainly because of the climate they are produced in. Syrah is lighter and leaner than Shiraz. It has distinct tastes of smokey bacon, black and red fruits, pepper, and herbs. The alcohol content is lower than Shiraz, typically 13 – 13.5 ABV compared to 14 – 15.5 ABV. Shiraz is richer and fruitier. Both, however, are dry red wines and have medium acidity. 

Cabernet vs Shiraz – How Do the Grapes Differ?

Cabernet

The grapes used to produce Cabernet Sauvignon have thick and strong skins, and are purple in colour. The vines are also strong and can resist extreme weather conditions. The reason that it is grown all over the world now is because it is easy to transport the vines due to their durability.   

The grapes have been developed by crossing the red Cabernet Franc and the white Sauvignon grape. However, although these grapes are popular and famous, Cabernet Sauvignon has become famous in its own right.

Shiraz

Shiraz is also the product of crossing two grapes. A red grape, Dureza, was crossed with a white grape, Monduese  Blanc. Neither of these grapes are that well-known, but Shiraz is more common and is becoming popular. 

The shape of the Shiraz grape is small and ranges from round to egg-shaped. The colour is very dark and could be almost called black. They are not as sturdy as the grapes used to make Cabernet and can succumb to extremes in weather. They are also susceptible to mildew which can destroy the vines. 

Main Differences

  • Both grapes are small, but Shiraz grapes are a little larger.
  • Both grapes are dark, but Shiraz is darker.
  • Cabernet grapes are more durable than Shiraz grapes.

Cabernet vs Shiraz – Where Are The Grapes Grown?

Cabernet

Cabernet grapes were originally grown in Bordeaux, France. The winemakers were very keen to grow these grapes because the vines are so strong and the grapes durable. They knew that they could make a good profit from this wine as the grapes survived while others didn’t. In the 20th century, the vines were exported to Napa, California and the wine really took off.  In fact, the Cabernet Sauvignon grape has tbeen he most planted red grape in the world until it was overtaken by Merlot in the 1990s.

There are other regions where this wine is produced and the wine is equally as good. The grapes are now also grown in Chile, Australia, and Sonoma Valley near San Francisco in California as well as in New Zealand, South Africa, and Israel. 

Cabernet is less expensive than Shiraz, but that doesn’t mean that it is inferior. It is cheaper because there are more vineyards growing Cabernet grapes than Shiraz and therefore there is more wine produced.

Popular Regions For Growing Cabernet Grapes:

  • Bordeaux, France
  • Coomawama, Australia
  • Aconcagua, Chile
  • Tuscany, Italy
  • Napa Valley, California, US

Shiraz

Like Cabernet grapes, Shiraz grapes were first cultivated in France, in particular the Northern Rhone area. At this time, the grapes were called Syrah and still are if they are produced in France. Later, the vines were transported to Australia and were widely planted. The coastal regions have the ideal climate to grow these grapes.  Now, 40% of the wine-growing grapes in Australia are Shiraz. It is also popular in Chile and South Africa. 

The best areas to grow these grapes are on steep and rocky hillsides with sandy soils as well as gravel, limestone, and granite. 

Popular Regions For Growing Shiraz Grapes:

  • Colchagua Valley, Chile
  • Rhone Valley, France
  • Barossa, Australia
  • Stellenbosch, South Africa
  • Paso Robles, US

The grapes used for producing Cabernet and Shiraz can be found all over the world. They both require similar growing conditions. They like moderate temperatures and sunny climates with warm summers that have little rain or clouds. 

Cabernet vs Shiraz – What Are Their Main Characteristics?

Cabernet

  • Dry or sweet; Dry
  • Body: Full
  • Acidity: Medium
  • Tannins: Medium to high
  • Flavours: Dark fruits such as black cherries, blackcurrants, blueberries, and raspberries, vegetal notes of green pepper, baking spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg, tobacco, and vanilla if it has been oak-aged
  • ABV: 13.5 – 14

Cabernet Sauvignon is deep red in colour although it is not quite as dark as Shiraz. It is a full-bodied red wine and has more tannins than Shiraz. This means that it could make your mouth feel a little dry after sipping it. It can also have high acidity depending on where it has been grown.

Shiraz

  • Dry or sweet: Dry
  • Body: Full
  • Acidity: Medium
  • Tannins: Medium to high
  • Flavours: It is smokey and meaty. There is also a taste of black plums, black pepper, and tobacco. You may also taste milk chocolate
  • ABV: 13.5 – 15

Shiraz is deep violet in colour, verging on black. It is full-bodied, dry, and is packed with flavour. It is front-loaded in style, meaning that the first sip packs a punch, but this lessens the more you drink it.

Like many wines, the flavour can vary if the Shiraz grapes are grown and fermented in different regions but you will usually get a taste of spice and dark fruit. This is also true of Cabernet. Some Cabernets can be savoury while others might be fruity. 

Cabernet is generally paired more often with food than Shiraz because it is more subtle than Shiraz and doesn’t overpower the food. However, don’t think that you can’t pair Shiraz with food. It will just be better paired with bold food flavours.We’ll now take a look at the different food pairings which will hopefully help you to decide which wine to pick for your dinner party.

Cabernet vs Shiraz – What Foods Do They Pair With?

Of course, you don’t have to follow specific guidelines when it comes to pairing wines with food. It is a matter of taste. However, there are foods that pair better with the wines than others and if you are hosting a dinner party, you may want some guidelines. 

Cabernet

The savoury and herbaceous flavours of the wine go well with red meat dishes. Because one of the grapes used to create this wine, namely Cabernet Franc, is peppery, the wine will go well with peppery dishes such as peppered steak, moussaka, and Hungarian pork goulash. It also goes well with vegetarian dishes with roasted peppers. Lamb and spare ribs are also good choices, as is a mushroom stroganoff and pizza. 

If you go to a steak restaurant, you will inevitably see Cabernet Sauvignon on the wine list as it is a perfect wine to pair with steak. If you aren’t sure about the tannin levels in Cabernet, remember that they are broken down by protein and steak has a lot of protein in it. In addition, the fattiness of the meat is cut in half by the acidity of the wine. To sum up, steak and Cabernet are a match made in heaven.

Cabernet can also pair well with cheeses. You won’t go wrong with a semi-hard cheese that has been aged. Cheddar and Gouda are the top choices. You will want to avoid soft or semi-soft cheeses like Feta and Chevre. They are best avoided as they can make the wine taste bitter or metallic. Very hard cheeses such as Provolone and Pecorino should also be avoided as they can enhance the tannins in the wine and make your mouth too dry.

Shiraz

When it comes to Shiraz, it also pairs well with peppery meat. It would go well with barbecued meat such as steak, burgers, and spicy sausages.  It can also pair well with soft cheeses like Camembert and Tallegio. Because Shiraz is a bold wine, you don’t want to serve it with mild food as it would overpower the meal. Don;t drink it with poultry or fish or pasta in a cheese sauce. However, pasta with a rich tomato sauce and meatballs may be a good match. It does go well with foods that have been cooked in exotic spices so try it with a lamb madras curry or Mexican fajitas. 

When it comes down to when pairing food with these two wines, it is really a matter of preference. Both wines go with red meat, but a Cabernet probably pairs well with steak while Shiraz matches well with peppery barbecued pork. Both are good with a cheese board although, as we have said, they match different cheeses.

Cabernet vs Shiraz – How Should They Be Served?

To truly enjoy wine, you should serve it correctly. The great thing is that both Cabernet and Shiraz can be served in the same way. They should be served at room temperature, but only if it is between 15C – 18C. If you are experiencing  heatwave, the best way to get around this is by putting the wine in the fridge for about 25 minutes before serving. If you enjoy wine and drink regularly, it might be a good idea to invest in a wine fridge. There are some that have dual temperature areas and then you can place your red wine in one and your white in another. White wine should always be served colder than red wine, usually between 10C – 13C. 

Don’t drink your Shiraz or Cabernet out of a plastic cup. Wine is a refined drink and should be enjoyed in glasses. For red wine, the glasses should be oversized. This is because it has a larger surface area allowing the wine to come into contact with the air and breathe. It draws oxygen into the wine which enhances the aromas and allows it to breathe. The reason that white wines don’t need such a big glass is because smaller glasses can preserve the fruity flavours by maintaining a cooler temperature.

Cabernet vs Shiraz – Which Wine Should You Choose?

Both wines are popular and you can’t really go wrong in choosing one or the other. In fact, you might like to have a Cabernet one day and a Shiraz another. Of course, it is a good idea to choose the wine most suitable with the food you are pairing it with. We have given our suggestions for food pairings, but you may be more interested in the taste of the wine. In that case, choose one or the other. They are both red wines and will pair well with red meat and certain cheeses. It is a good idea to experiment with the wine paired with food before a dinner party as you will then be able to tell which wine goes best with the food you will be serving.

Cabernet vs Shiraz – How Do You Find the Best?

You may go into your supermarket, off-licence, or wine shop and be confronted with lots of different bottles of Cabernet and Shiraz. So, how do you choose? We’ll give you a few pointers here.

  • The bottle may have a pretty label, but don’t get distracted by that. Look on the back of the bottle to see what information they give about the wine. Ideally, you should find information about the wine, in particular, where it was produced, the flavour and aroma notes, and the temperature it should be served at. It is also useful if they give you notes about the characteristics of the wine and what temperature it should be served at.
  • It is handy if a friend or colleague has recommended the wine. However, if you haven’t got anybody who has had this wine, ask the person in the store to recommend the best brand. An assistant in a supermarket mcy not know, but if you go to a specialist wine shop you should get useful information.
  • Don’t choose a bottle based on price. Even if one is more expensive than the other, it doesn’t mean that it’s better. It can have a lot to do with importing the wine at a higher cost. Perhaps try a cheaper brand and a more expensive brand and then decide which is better. 
  • This point is carrying on from the last. A Cabernet from one vineyard may taste different compared to a Cabernet from another and the same goes for Shiraz. Try wine from different regions before you make your mind up. 
  • Look on different apps and see how the wine has been rated. We suggest Vivino, Wine Spectator, Delectable, and Wine Searcher.
  • Look up the wines online and see if there are any wineries close to you that produce it. The best way to choose a wine is by tasting, but, of course, you can’t do this in a supermarket or off-licence. However, some wine shops do have tastings so you might be able to try this out. 
  • Go online. There are so many online wine retailers that sell wine and have it delivered to your door. You can browse the wines on these sites at your leisure and then place an order. If you see a wine you think you might like, you can look it up on the internet to see if there are any more details about the wine. Just remember that you have to be at home to sign for your wine as they won’t leave it on the doorstep. In addition, there has to be someone over legal drinking age to sign for the wine and that not all states in the US allow wine deliveries. It is also important to remember that not all wines do well in the heat, particularly white wines, so you might not be able to purchase some of the wines on the website all year long. Wine can taste like vinegar if left out in the heat. Some online wine shops that we recommend are Martha Stewart, Majestic, Astor Wines and Spirits, Wine.com, K & L wines, Domestique, Last Bottle, Bottlerocket, Plonk Wine, Accidental Wine Company, and Compass Wines.

Summery

It is always useful to remember that some people like one wine and another a different wine. However, when it comes to Shiraz and Cabernet, if you like one you will probably like the other. Both are full-bodied red wines with medium to high tannins. However, Shiraz has a smokey, meaty and peppery taste, while Cabernet has a fruity taste of blackberry with mint and cassis. It all really rests on what food you want to pair the wine with. Shiraz pairs well with peppery barbecued meats. Cabernet is an excellent match to ribs and pizza. Why not try both of them to see which you prefer.

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