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Choosing Between Syrah vs Cabernet: A Simple Guide In Understanding The Differences

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Last Updated: February 12, 2024

You don’t need to be a connoisseur to have the confidence to shop for wine or decide what to drink in restaurants. All you need are some powerful concepts and a handful of simplified pointers to help you understand a wine’s dramatic style variations. 

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When you learn about the different wine flavors and how to focus on the styles that match your taste, you’ll feel more in control when buying. Taking the guesswork about a wine's different characteristics will allow you more time to relax and savor what's on your glass instead of being stumped in a wine aisle. 


If you enjoy wine, but find it confusing to choose between two different varietals like syrah vs. cabernet sauvignon, then this article is for you. Let’s get more adventurous as we explore two of the most outstanding grape varieties in the wine world. 

Main Differences Between Syrah vs Cabernet Sauvignon

The main differences between Syrah vs Cabernet Sauvignon are:

  • Syrah can sustain its elegant style despite the heat, whereas Cabernet Sauvignon loses its fragrance in hot climates.
  • Syrah has a flavor coming from the spiced-fruit family, whereas Cabernet Sauvignon has a flavor coming from the black-fruit family.
  • Syrah's fruity profile makes it an exceptional pair for spicier foods, whereas Cabernet Sauvignon pairs well with meat or anything fatty.


Rhône Valley, France, is the prominent grape Syrah’s place of origin. 

It was a discovery through 1999’s DNA typing that people became aware that Syrah was initially the offspring of the Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche grape varieties. There were claims that Iran is the real homeland for Syrah and the Romans brought it back to France only in the twelfth century.

Before Merlot's rise to fame in the 1990s, the Cabernet Sauvignon is renowned for being the most produced premium red grape variety. Its origin started with Cabernet Franc’s accidental breeding with the Sauvignon Blanc variety around the seventeenth century. The unintentional field cross between these two varieties gave birth to the world’s most revered red wine grape.

Grape Variety

Syrah is Northern Rhône's primary grape that grows in small bunches. It resembles an egg’s round shape and has a dark shade of black and blue that gets more intense as it ages. 

Vine-growers yield the grapes by the hillside because an upward position can help water to drain more efficiently. Consequently, it produces a grape with a bolder flavor.

Another striking difference between Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah is that the cab's leaves have a darker green shade, while Syrah's leaves have a lighter green color. A Cab is a distinctive grape variety that thrives well in various soil and climate conditions with incomparably thick skin and highly-resistant durable vines. Moreover, it also has a higher production volume.

Wine Producing Regions

Syrah and Shiraz came from the same red grape; they only vary in growing condition and production style depending on their region of origin. Syrah is how they call this grape variety in France, and in Australia, they call it Shiraz. Additionally, Syrah has vast wine production worldwide, including France, South Africa, New Zealand, Washington, Argentina, and Chile.

The Cabernet Sauvignon is more productive in regions with more warmth and sunshine. Winemakers have no trouble cultivating them due to their remarkable resilience. This grape grows well in the following areas: California and Washington in the USA, Maipo Valley in Chile, Tuscany in Italy, Australia, and South Africa’s Coastal Region.


When comparing Syrah vs. Cabernet, one thing worth noting is that while they both have a fruity character, Syrah has a prominent spiced-fruit flavor. It has a distinct aroma reminiscent of pepper, floral notes, and coffee, a unique smoky and earthy scent.

Syrah has a full body; it is rich in tannins, dry with moderate acidity and alcohol levels, and remarkable aging potential.

Contrarily, Cabernet Sauvignon has a healthy tannin level and gives a dry mouthfeel. It has a powerful imprint on the black-fruit family. The wine also resembles the fragrance of berries, herbs, and tobacco. Also, a vintage cabernet wine has more noticeable notes of wood and vanilla.

Taste Test: Cabernet is one of many popular liquors that wine connoisseurs choose as a complement to their favorite cuisine. We have written an article that compares Cabernet with another well-praised wine and you can read it here -- Cabernet Franc vs Cabernet Sauvignon.

red wine food pairing

Best Food Matches

Comparing Petite Sirah vs Cabernet in terms of flavor profile, you'll notice that Syrah has a more intense character that enhances a meat's natural taste exceptionally well.

It is a rockstar for grilled meat and barbecue parties, but if you want a red for seafood you are better off comparing Syrah vs Pinot Noir to learn why.

Some of its best pairing suggestions are the following:

  • Beef rib with barbecue sauce
  • Prime rib
  • Fillet with mushrooms
  • Grilled hibachi chicken
  • Tender pork chops
  • Korean galbi
  • Rack of lamb

Pairing wine with food doesn’t need to be a painfully daunting process. Cabernet Sauvignon makes an excellent match for fatty foods and the following:

  • Fillet steak 
  • Dark red meat
  • Beef
  • Dairy products
  • Duck breast
  • Strong cheeses like Stilton and Gruyère
  • Lebanese fried mushrooms with garlic and spices

Frequently Asked Questions When Comparing Syrah Vs. Cabernet

Is Syrah heavier than Cabernet?

Both wines have full-body structure and high tannin levels, explaining the boldness in flavor and the mouth-drying texture. They also have thick skins, dark pigmentation, and high alcoholic strength. Petite Sirah and Syrah’s most intense wines came from Barossa and McLaren Vale in Australia, while heavier Cabernet wines came from California.

Which is sweeter -- Syrah or Cabernet?

You can determine a wine’s sweetness with its sugar content and its acid, tannin, and alcohol levels. There’s a low volume of excess sugar in Syrah wine sometimes, whereas Cabernet Sauvignon almost has none. Syrah also has a less bitter tannin, which means that of the two, Syrah is a slightly sweeter wine than Cabernet.

Which is better -- Cabernet or Syrah?

Several wine enthusiasts like Syrah more than Cabernet since the former offers a wide variety and value. On the other hand, Cabernet is more popular and has high availability but since it has a higher demand, the finest of its bottles come with steep price tags.

Choosing the better wine between Syrah vs. Cabernet Sauvignon will depend on your needs and preference as both of these are excellent wines. If you like dry wines but with a fruity side and match well with fatty meals, then you should go for a Cab. Further, when you’re having doubts about pairing with your meat dishes, you seriously can’t go wrong with Cab.

However, if you fancy wines with some spice that goes with their fruity profile, you can try Syrah instead. It is a must-have option if you have anything that’s grilled in your meals and if you wish for a more affordable choice.

cabernet food pairing

Final Thoughts

Trying to learn more about wines can be confounding at times, especially for beginners. Hopefully, by the time you finish reading this article, you now have a more precise understanding of these two exceptional red wines’ core concepts. 

With that in mind, you will now have the confidence to trust your taste buds. Do not be limited by complex standards and preferences because the only choice that matters is yours nonetheless. Be fearless in exploring new options since most wine lovers start with a personal favorite until they discover the full range of wine styles available out there.

May your recently attained wine familiarity help you become more comfortable with wine shopping and get the most out of every drinking experience.

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