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Shiraz vs Cabernet: The Right Path To Making The Right Choice

pouring red wine - shiraz cabernet featured image

Last Updated: October 10, 2022

So you’re not a sommelier. But that doesn’t mean you have to keep pretending to know more about that drink you’re swirling in your glass for almost half an hour now. You can even say goodbye to those days when you thought that the cool calligraphy in your wine label meant that it’s fancy. 


You no longer have to wonder which wine is better between Shiraz vs Cabernet.

If you’re looking for ways to make the wine selection process a less tedious one for you, then congratulations! 

You just landed on the right page.

Together let’s explore the wonderful world of wines as we learn more about the striking resemblance or differences between syrah vs. Cabernet. Which one of these two should you pick for New Year’s eve? Let’s find out!

Main Differences Between Shiraz vs Cabernet Sauvignon

So what’s the difference between Shiraz and Cabernet?

  • Shiraz has that aroma of pepper, spice, meat, and smoke, whereas Cabernet Sauvignon has the fragrance of leather, mint, cassis, and blackberry.
  • Shiraz has a larger fruit with light green leaves, whereas Cabernet Sauvignon has a smaller fruit with dark green foliage.
  • Shiraz has a deep and succulent mid-palate, whereas Cabernet Sauvignon has a soft mid-palate, with a more dominant front and finish.

All That You Need To Know About Shiraz

The Origin

The first crucial thing we need to know is that Shiraz and Syrah are precisely the same! Although depending on the origin, the wines they produce can have different styles. Lighter wines come from the old-world Syrah, while decadent, full-bodied wines come from the new world.

Rhône Valley, France, is the home to the great grape variety Syrah, which now grows in different countries, including Australia, California, Washington, Italy, and Spain. The grape variety coming from France is what most people refer to as the old-world Syrah. On the other hand, the one coming from Australia is what people know as Shiraz.

It was a discovery through 1999’s DNA typing where people found out that Syrah was initially the offspring of the Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche grape varieties. Some consider it an extraordinary pairing since these two ancient varieties were never prevalent on their own, and there was no genetic connection between them.

Grape Production And Characteristics

Full-bodied, bold, with black fruit and pepper spice, and a tinge of smoky fragrance are the characteristics that define Shiraz aside from being famous for its dark color. It is flavorful in the opening palate, but it ends with a softer finish.

Regardless of the common perceptions on this grape variety's varying taste profile, the truth is, it is dependent on the region and climates where they grow. Those that grow in warm climates yield lush, juicier, and fruit-forward characteristics with soft tannins. The grapes coming from cooler climates have more acidity, bolder tannins, and spices with earthy elements. 

Vintage wines have vanilla and baking spice flavors. They are naturally leaner and tastier than the non-vintage wines. Since these grapes have thicker skins, one of the processes that winemakers do is cold soaking them from days to weeks at the longest. This process is also known as maceration, which enhances the wine’s color and softens the tannins.

Nutritional Facts: Alcohol, Calorie, and Carb Content

It is no secret how wine drinkers will use any excuse just to have that glass of wine. But here are some nutritional facts you need to be aware of for those fond of or planning to binge on a few glasses of Shiraz: 

Shiraz has 14.5% alcohol content, 84 calories per serving, and 3.79 grams of carbs.

Generally, fortified wines or those that taste naturally sweet have higher residual sugar and, therefore, have higher carbohydrates.

Best Food Matches

In wine-food pairing, you should keep in mind that it's all about domination and intensity. Foods generally have more components than wine depending on the ingredients and cooking method, so the rule of thumb is to consider the most dominant food element when matching it with wine.

A mature beef brings out the fruitiness in a vintage Syrah, and the gentle spices in Moroccan dishes also work well with it. Shiraz is an excellent bottle to have with earthier red meat dishes, and it will complement the following meals:

  • Baked beans
  • Red beans with rice
  • Barbecued brisket
  • Beef bourguignon
  • Prime rib
  • Roast
  • Short ribs
  • Burgers
  • Chops
  • Curry

When drinking Shiraz, it is best to avoid seafood like sole, shrimp, or lobster, delicate, and too sour dishes.

Shiraz Alternatives

If you like Shiraz/Syrah, you will also enjoy the following wines:

  • Châteauneuf-du-Pape
  • Nero d’Avola
  • Priorat
  • Toro
  • Zinfandel

Blending Shiraz

Most of the wines we know nowadays are blends of some kind. Blending different grape varieties is common among winemakers and consumers because it results in more affluent, tastier wines. 

Cabernet and Shiraz are two varieties that complement each other beautifully, which is why they are usually blended. In Southern Rhône, Shiraz is often part of a blended wine with Grenache and different varieties. 

Sangiovese wine's savory nature also results in a complex, spicier, and richer wine once you blend it with a robust wine like Shiraz. You will also end up with a bolder and lusher California Pinot Noir once you add Syrah to the mix.

How To Store And Serve Shiraz

To enjoy your Shiraz wine, make sure that you store it at 14°C, while its drinking temperature should be 18°C. Minimize exposure to oxygen, so do not forget to re-cork it after a glass pour. Storing it upright can also help minimize oxygen exposure. Keeping and serving Shiraz at optimal temperature will ensure that your wine is luscious and with more balanced acidity.

pouring shiraz

What You Need To Know About Cabernet

The Origin

Before Merlot's rise to fame in the 1990s, the Cabernet Sauvignon was the most planted premium red grape variety. Its origin started with the red Cabernet’s accidental breeding with the white Sauvignon Blanc grape plant in the seventeenth century.

It is a distinctive grape variety that can grow well in various soil and climate conditions. Cabernet Sauvignon grape is preeminent for its thick skin and durable vines that are highly resistant to elements. Its wine is tannic, has a deep blue color, ages, and blends well with other grape varieties.

Cabernet’s Global Production

The Cabernet Sauvignon grows in warmer climates with plenty of sunshine, such as Chile, Romania, Australia, Italy, South Africa, and Argentina. Winemakers have no trouble cultivating them due to their remarkable resilience, which is why it also grows well in the following:

  • Tuscany
  • California
  • Washington

Taste Profile

If you’re still confused about the merlot vs. Cabernet sauvignon taste profile, it is worth noting that Cab has a healthier tannin level and gives a dry mouthfeel. 

It has a powerful imprint of black currants, cherries, cedar, and mint. The wine also has prominent notes of leather, dried herbs, and tobacco as it ages, giving way to more subtle flavors. A vintage cab, on the other hand, has more pronounced notes of wood and vanilla.

Best Food Matches

Pairing wine with food doesn’t need to be a complicated process. The perfect food pairing for Cabernet Sauvignon is the following:

  • High protein, fatty food
  • Fillet steak 
  • Red meat (such as prime rib, steaks, sausages, and even a hearty beef burger) 
  • Strong cheeses like Stilton and Gruyère
  • Traditional Korean-style beef stir-fried in garlic, soy, and sesame
  • Lebanese fried mushrooms with garlic and spices

Blending Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon has the adaptability of being a stand-alone wine while also being a popular blend for the following grape varieties:

  • Malbec
  • Petit Verdot
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Sangiovese
  • Tempranillo
  • Carménère
  • Shiraz

How To Store And Serve Cabernet Sauvignon

Storing Cabernet Sauvignon at a proper temperature is vital because it is a wine that ages so well. Keeping it at a temperature that's too warm would cause it to lose flavor prematurely. The ideal storing condition, especially for an age-worthy Cab, would be between 50 to 55 degrees, away from warm temperature, light, humidity, and vibration.

Serve your Cab cooler than the average room temperature, at least 55 to 60 degrees, to avoid compromising its flavors. Allow it to sit in the refrigerator for twenty minutes, remove the cork, and let the air mix with the drink for an hour before serving.

Cabernet Sauvignon Alternatives

If you like Cabernet Sauvignon and you think about shaking your wine picks a bit, here are some great alternatives that you could try:

  • Merlot
  • Tempranillo
  • Malbec
  • Tannat
  • Aglianico
  • Mourvèdre
  • Carmenere
  • Nero D’Avola

Nutritional Facts: Alcohol, Calories, And Carb Content

Although wines came from grape juice, yeast fermentation converts the sugar content into alcohol. So if you’re health-conscious or merely trying to manage your weight,  there is no need for you to worry. Cabernet Sauvignon is an excellent low-carb wine with only 3.82 grams of carbs for every 5-ounce serving and 11% ABV.

Taste Test: Enough of Cabernet for now! We want you to try Merlot instead and compare this with Shiraz. What would you choose among the three wines? Read our wine comparison post between Shiraz and Merlot here -- Shiraz vs Merlot: A Comprehensive Guide For An Effortless Wine Selection.

Frequently Asked Questions

shiraz and cabernet lined up

Understanding The Difference Between Shiraz And Cabernet

Is Shiraz Stronger Than Cabernet Sauvignon?

Yes, Shiraz has a more robust flavor than Cabernet. It bursts with fruity sensations complemented by warm alcohol and intense tannins.

Is Shiraz More Dry Than Cabernet?

Both Shiraz and Cabernet have the same medium dryness level.

Which Is Better -- Shiraz Or Cabernet?

Shiraz has this excellent dark fruit taste, but the French ones can be very costly. On the other hand, Cabernet can be a brilliant choice if you plan to serve heavy dishes like pasta with creamy sauce or beef.

Key Takeaways

Both of these grape varieties are famous for yielding great wines. However, Cab is more accessible in the marketplace nowadays than Syrah. Having a wide range of selections also means you will have more chances of ending up with a good bottle. But either way, you can’t go wrong in choosing any of these two wines. 

Knowing their fundamental differences, taste profiles, alcohol levels, and more can enhance your overall dining experience. A more profound understanding of these wines will give you a better idea of what specific wine is more appropriate for different occasions. 

Never be afraid of experimenting, especially with wines you haven’t tried yet. Aside from learning the basics, trying out wines with different food is one effective way to figure out the best one to choose.

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