What’s the Difference Between Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon

difference between shiraz and cabernet sauvignon - infographic

These two big red wines have much in common, so you’re definitely asking the right question.

Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon are both are full-bodied red wines. Shiraz has more red fruit, black pepper and olive notes; Cabernet Sauvignon has black currant, tobacco, mint, and herbal aromas. Both Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz pair well with heavier dishes, like stews and grilled meats.

Here’s what you need to know about the difference between Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Cabernet Sauvignon Basics: The Original Big Red Wine

cabernet sauvignon wine infographic - difference between shiraz and cabernet

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.)

Fun Wine Fact: Cabernet Sauvignon is often blended with other grape varieties, such as Merlot and Cabernet Franc, to create Bordeaux-style blends.

Being one of the most widely planted and recognized red wine grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon is produced in numerous regions around the world, including California, Australia, and Chile.

Each region imparts its unique characteristics to the wine, resulting in diverse expressions of this noble grape.

Helpful Tip: If you’re new to wine tasting, here’s a quick guide to help you navigate unfamiliar wines.

Shiraz Basics: Bold and Spicy

Fun Wine Fact: Shiraz is what they call Syrah in Australia, but they’re the same wine grape.

shiraz wine profile - difference between shiraz and cabernet sauvignon

Shiraz, or Syrah, is originally from France and today you’ll find wines made from Shiraz made around the world, to include Australia, France, Chile, Argentina, Italy, and California. Known for its spiciness, Shiraz is a full-bodied red wine. (Check out this comprehensive guide to Shiraz wine.)

Fun Wine Fact: Shiraz is often blended with other grape varieties, such as Grenache and Mourvedre. Shiraz brings color, body, tannin, and alcohol to the mix. You’ll see these wines labeled with the letters: GSM.

Wine Comparison: Difference Between Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon

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

Characteristics Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon
Hue Deep Ruby to black Deep Ruby
Color Red Red
Aromas Blackberry, plum, peppery Blackcurrant, cedar, mint
Tannins Medium to high High
Acid Medium to High Medium + to High
Alcohol (%) 14-16% 13.5-15%
Body Full Full
Intensity Pronounced Pronounced
Key Growing Regions Australia, California France, California, Australia, Chile
Classic Pairings Grilled meats, barbecue Grilled steak, BBQ, rich stews
Price Range $10-$40 $10-$60

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.

Shiraz Wine Profile

  • Sweetness: Shiraz is almost always made in a dry style unless it is an inexpensive bulk wine
  • Alcohol: Shiraz wines typically feature a moderate to high alcohol content, sometimes a little higher than Cabernet Sauvignon, ranging from around 13% to 15.5% ABV.
  • Acid: Shiraz tends to have medium to medium (+) acid, maybe a little less than Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Body: Shiraz boasts a bold and full-bodied profile, accompanied by firm tannins.
  • Tannins: Shiraz tends to have pronounced tannins, contributing to its structure and aging potential.
  • Flavor: Rich flavors of blackberry, black plum, pepper, and olive

Helpful Tip: Black pepper is the signature marker when tasting Shiraz wines blind.

Are Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon Similar?

Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon are similar. They’re both red wines crafted in a dry style. Both wines will exhibit dark plum and cherry notes. Both wines have a firm tannin structure, a full body, and high alcohol.

What Is the Difference Between Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon?

Shiraz has more pepper spice and olive than Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet has a signature mint, herbal, or grassy green note that’s customary in the Cabernet family. Cabernet Sauvignon often has slightly higher acid than Shiraz.

As you can see, the difference between Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon is subtle.

Difference Between Shiraz and Cabernet: Winemaking

Both Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon can be oaked to impart toast, vanilla, or mocha flavors. Shiraz is a little more challenging to work with and is prone to reduction, or a garlicy aroma. If you detect something funky in your Shiraz wine, give it a stiff swirl (or decant) and it will blow off.

Helpful Tip: Here’s what oak adds to wine.

Shiraz vs Cabernet Sauvignon: Food Pairings and Serving Temperature

difference between shiraz and cabernet sauvignon - steak

Both Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon share that bold and robust character, making them excellent companions for hearty dishes, grilled meats, and flavorful cheeses.

Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon are best enjoyed at a slightly cool temperature. Place them in the refrigerator for about 10-15 minutes before serving or keep them in a cooler part of the house.

Note: You may need to decant both Shiraz 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:
Shiraz Cheese Pairing Guide
Cabernet Pairing Guide

Which Is More Expensive, Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon?

difference between shiraz and cabernet sauvignon - lucky duck wine, cheap shiraz
I love this bottle of Lucky Duck Shiraz from Australia. It’s $2 USD. You’ll find extreme value Shiraz and Cab at discount stores.

Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon differ slightly in price points. Cabernet Sauvignon enjoys greater popularity and can often cost a few dollars to tens of dollars more for Shiraz wines of similar quality.

You can find both Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon at the extreme value end of the market (under $5 USD) if you’re cost-conscious.

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.

Shiraz Cost

Shiraz wines are widely available at various price points. You’ll find budget-friendly Shiraz starting under $5 USD. These wines, while more affordable, are typically made in an off-dry (slightly sweet) style.

  • Shiraz starts to get interesting around $18-$20 USD.
  • Premium Shiraz wines, sourced from renowned regions, can easily cost you $80+ USD, but usually below Cabernet Sauvignon.

Which Is Better, Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon?

If you enjoy red wines with a spice side and a lush, mid-palate feel, then choose Shiraz. If you love earthy red wines with subtle herbal notes, then go for Cabernet Sauvignon.

Final Thoughts – The Difference Between Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon Comes Down to Flavors

differnce between shiraz and cabernet sauvignon - wine bottles

I appreciate both Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon and have bottles of both wines in my cellar. Personnally, I tend to focus on the pairing experience (these are both food wines). How do I choose?

Take-out burger and fries: Shiraz
Steak: Cabernet Sauvignon
Tacos: Shiraz
Meatloaf: Cabernet Sauvignon

I always recommend organizing a side-by-side tasting to fully appreciate the differences between these two wines. Grab two bottles of similarly priced Cab and Shiraz, invite a few friends over, and enjoy an evening of swirling and sipping.

Thirsty for More?

I 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. Syrah, another popular 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