Carignan vs Cabernet Sauvignon: What’s the Difference


Carignan vs Cabernet Sauvignon is a logical question – these are both robust red wines with grip.

Both Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon are red wines. Cabernet Sauvignon has more body and acid, with firmer tannins and herbal aromas. Carignan has red fruits, Cab has black fruit.

Carignan Basics: The Common Man’s Wine

carignan wine profile infographic - carignan vs cabernet sauvignon

Carignan has a reputation for being a robust, everyday drinking wine. Plantings surged post-WWII to slake the thirst of France. Quality, however, has never been one of Carignan’s key features. Today closely linked to regions like Languedoc and Catalonia, Carignan presents a rich flavor profile with dark fruit notes and hints of earthiness thanks to better viticulture and winemaking science. It is renowned for its full body, offering a rustic drinking experience. (Here’s a deep-dive into Carignan wines.)

Fun Wine Fact: Carignan is often used in blends, adding depth and structure to many wines.

Cabernet Sauvignon: A Big Red Wine

Carignan vs Cabernet Sauvignon - Cabernet Sauvignon wine profile infographic

Fun Wine Fact: Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the main grapes that goes into Bordeaux wines.

Cabernet Sauvignon, originating from the Bordeaux region in France, has gained global recognition for its bold and full-bodied nature. It is known for its deep color, firm tannins, and complex flavor profile. Cabernet Sauvignon often exhibits notes of blackcurrant, blackberry, cedar, and hints of vanilla. It ages well and can develop more complexity over time. (Here’s a deep-dive into Cabernet Sauvignon wines.)

Wine Comparison: Carignan vs Cabernet Sauvignon

Here’s a quick side-by-side that covers the most common styles of Carignan vs Cabernet Sauvignon.

Characteristics Carignan Cabernet Sauvignon
Hue Deep purple to ruby red Deep red to purple
Color Red Red
Aromas Red berries, spice, earth, meat Blackcurrant, plum, bell pepper
Tannins Moderate to high High
Acid Moderate Moderate to high
Alcohol (%) 13-15% 13-15%
Body Medium to full Full
Intensity Pronounced Pronounced
Key Growing Regions France, Spain, Italy France, USA, Chile
Classic Pairings Grilled meats, stews, hard cheeses Steak, lamb, mature cheeses
Price Range $15-$40 $20-$100

Carignan Wine Profile

  • Sweetness: Carignan is usually made in a dry style.
  • Alcohol: Carignan wines generally have a moderate to high alcohol content, ranging from around 13% to 15% ABV.
  • Acid: Carignan tends to have medium acid, a little lower than Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Body: Known for its medium (+) to full body, similar to bigger red wines
  • Tannins: Carignan tends to have firm, stalky tannins, not as refined as Cabernet Sauvignon, but they do contribute to its structure and aging potential.
  • Flavors: The flavor profile often includes red berries, licorice, and meat, or leather.

Cabernet Sauvignon Wine Profile

  • Sweetness: Cabernet Sauvignon wines are typically produced in a dry style, offering minimal residual sugar.
  • Alcohol: Cabernet Sauvignon wines generally have a moderate to high alcohol content, ranging from around 13% to 15% ABV.
  • Body: Known for its full-bodied nature, Cabernet Sauvignon provides a rich and powerful drinking experience.
  • Tannins: Cabernet Sauvignon wines often have firm tannins that contribute to their structure and aging potential.
  • Flavor and Aroma Intensity: Cabernet Sauvignon exhibits intense flavors and aromas of black fruits, such as blackcurrant and blackberry, with underlying notes of cedar and vanilla.
  • Flavors: The flavor profile often includes blackcurrant, blackberry, dark chocolate, tobacco, and hints of vanilla and cedar.

Helpful Tip: If you’re unsure about serving temperatures, here’s a breakdown of wine serving temperatures for different wine styles and occasions.

Are Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon Similar?

Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon are both red wines crafted in a dry style. Both wines are fuller bodied with noticeable tannins.

What Is the Difference Between Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon?

Carignan showcases red fruit, like raspberry. Cabernet Sauvignon is driven by black fruit, like black currant. Cabernet Sauvignon has a signature green profile, like mint, sage, or bell pepper. Carignan has a meaty quality to it. Carignan often lacks the intensity of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Carignan vs Cabernet Sauvignon Food Pairings and Serving Temperature

Cabernet sauvignon vs carignan - tacos

Carignan is a big red wine that demands big flavors – think roasted chicken, turkey, pork chops, smoked cheeses.

Cabernet Sauvignon’s higher acid and more structured tannins will do well with fatty red meats, like steak and tacos.

Both Carignan and Cabernets Sauvignon are best enjoyed at a slightly cool temperature. Place them in the refrigerator for about 10-15 minutes before serving.

Note: You may need to decant both Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon if they are made in a fuller-bodied style. If your wine seems closed when you first take a sip, give it a good swirl or let it sit for about 10 minutes to see if it opens up.

Discover More:
Cabernet Sauvignon vs Cabernet Franc
Cabernet Sauvignon vs Merlot
Cabernet Sauvignon vs Malbec

Which Is More Expensive, Carignan vs Cabernet Sauvignon?

Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon do have an overlapping price-point, but Carignan wines won’t be as widely available depending on where you live in the world, they just don’t share Cab’s popularity. Hence, you’ll find extreme value Cab Sav ($5), but you probably won’t find the same for Carignan.

Carignan Cost

Carignan wines from Languedoc come from a region in France that produces a variety of Carignan wines in large volumes, this can reduce per-bottle cost.

Entry-level Carignan wines are generally affordable, ranging from $15 to $20 per bottle. Premium Carignan wines can reach higher price points, around $30 to $40, offering more complexity and depth.

Cabernet Sauvignon Cost

  • Entry-level Cabernet Sauvignon wines are often priced between $10 and $20 per bottle, offering accessible options for everyday enjoyment.
  • If you’re looking for premium selections from renowned producers or specific regions, prices can range from $30 to $100 or more.

Helpful Tip: Here’s how a bottle of wine gets priced. This post is a little nerdy, but it’s quite complicated and nuanced depending on where you are in the world and where you’re buying your wine.

Which Is Better, Carignan or Cabernet Sauvignon?

Cabernet Sauvignon tends to be predictable at all price points. Carignan can be hit-or-miss in terms of quality. I think of Carignan as the rustic cousin of Cabernet Sauvignon, which may be exactly the style of wine you enjoy.

Final Thoughts – Carignan or Cabernet Sauvignon?

carignan vs cabernet sauvignon

Both Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon present distinctive red wine options with their own unique characteristics.

Personal Note: I’m not a huge Carignan drinker and don’t seek these wines out, but when a good one crosses my path, it makes my day.

I always recommend doing a side-by-side tasting to fully untangle the differences between these two wines. Grab two bottles of similarly priced Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon, invite a few friends over, and enjoy an evening of swirling and sipping.

Thirsty for More?

believe in enhancing your wine knowledge through side-by-side tastings. Here’s a guide on how to host your own wine tasting for beginners.

Check out this post on Malbec vs Pinot Noir another popular strong red wine, along with Cabernet Sauvignon vs. Merlot.

You can discover delicious wines at every price point. Explore this post on finding great red wines under $50.

What Grape Is Barolo?

What Grape Is Barolo?

Dolcetto vs Barbera: Comparison Chart

Dolcetto vs Barbera: Comparison Chart

Dolcetto Wine Guide

Dolcetto Wine Guide