What Are the Differences Between Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz?

If you’re a newbie to the world of wine and developing a taste for this amazing (some might say life-changing) tipple, there’s a good chance that a trip to your like bottle shop sends you into a spin – the dozens of red wine bottles that sit on the shelf might all look the same (apart from the confusing naming schemes, of course), but there are a lot of differences that can help you find the right wine for your unique tastes. Where to get started, though? Two of the most popular grape varieties available today are cabernet sauvignon and shiraz, so in this article we take a look at these popular varieties to give you a better idea what you should be going for. 

Cabernet sauvignon basics

Cabernet sauvignon, as evidenced in great examples like the Cullen Vanya cabernet sauvignon, is the most popular wine style in the world, and it’s not hard to see why. Although both shiraz and cabernet sauvignon are both full-bodied red wines, sporting rich, strong and complex fruit-forward  flavours, within these similar flavours lie some notable differences. The flavours in cabernet sauvignon can be highly varied – for instance, depending on where and how the wine is made, some may taste savoury and smoky, while others offer a much fruitier flavour profile. But regardless of any these differentiating points, cabernet sauvignon will usually always be dominated by dark-coloured fruits like black cherries and blackcurrant. the flavours that will set bottles apart include things like cedar, baking spices, graphite and tobacco. Generally, these flavours will depend on the growing climate – warm wine-growing areas create fruitier flavours, while cool climates create more savoury flavours. Both cabernet sauvignon and shiraz are also both medium-acidity wines, making them ideal for pairing with heavier, oilier food. 

Shiraz tasting basics

Although cabernet sauvignon might be considered the world’s most popular red due to the sheer amount grown and sold, this isn’t the case with Australia – in fact, shiraz accounts for 30% of all of our country’s wine production. In terms of taste, shiraz, like cabernet sauvignon, demonstrates heavy fruit flavours, with blueberries and black plums taking the spotlight. In addition to these primary flavours, shiraz will also demonstrate milk chocolate, tobacco and green peppercorn, but just like cabernet sauvignon, the final flavour profile will be different depending on where the wine is grown. Interestingly, “old world” Shiraz (these are shiraz grapes originally grown in Europe for hundreds of years) tend to be more acidic and have a stronger lingering flavour, while “new world” varieties (grapes grown in past couple of hundred years in Australia, the USA and South America) are more fruit-driven.

Start your red wine odyssey today!Although its often very hard to know which brand or vineyard is the greatest, having some understanding what the flavours and aromas these alcohol provide can help a great deal in helping you understand how to pair them with food and gives you a rough idea about how the red wine grape tastes. All shiraz and cabernet sauvignon don’t taste the same, of course, so it’ll be up to you to start trying as many options as possible and find what works for you!