Tannat vs Cabernet Sauvignon


Comparing Tannat vs Cabernet Sauvignon is a fun experiment. We think of Cab Sav as the king of red wines, but Tannat is a worthy competitor.

Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon both have high tannins and a firm structure. Cabernet Sauvignon has a green note, and Tannat has lower acid, licorice, and smoke. Both are big wines.

TL;DR: If you like the structure and power of Cabernet Sauvignon, you’re going to like Tannat, too.

Tannat Basics: A Powerful Red

tannat vs Cabernet Sauvignon- tannat wine profile infographic - what does tannat taste like

Tannat, originating from France, is a powerful, tannic red wine grape that isn’t nearly as popular as some of the other big reds out there. Today, Tannat’s spiritual home is Uruguay, of all places, in a curious twist of wine fate. (Here’s a deep Tannat wines.)

You’ll find tiny pockets of Tannat grown outside of France and Uruguay from boutique producers. If you come across these wines, be sure to give them a try.

Wines from tannat are deeply colored, almost an inky-black, thanks to thick skins and small berries. Those skins leach out tannins into the wine, making for an astringent drinking experience. Tannat showcases black fruit, licorice, spice, and a smokey note.

Fun Wine Fact: The name “Tannat” derives from tannin, giving you a clue as to just how tannic this wine can be.

Cabernet Sauvignon Basics: King of Bordeaux

what does cabernet sauvignon taste like infographic - cabernet sauvignon vs tannat

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 one of the main grapes that goes into Bordeaux wines.

Wine Comparison: Tannat vs. Cabernet Sauvignon

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

CharacteristicsTannatCabernet Sauvignon
HueDeep purple to inky blackDeep red to purple
ColorRedRed to purple
AromasDark fruit, chocolate, smoke,
licorice, black tea
Blackcurrant, plum, bell pepper, green mint, herbs
AcidMediumMedium + to High
Alcohol (%)13-15%13-15%
IntensityMedium to PronouncedPronounced
Key Growing RegionsUruguay (Madiran, Tursan in France)France (Bordeaux), California, Chile
Classic PairingsGrilled meats, hearty stewsGrilled steak, lamb, rich dishes
Price Range$15-$40$10-$100+

Tannat Wine Profile

  • Sweetness: Tannat is a dry red wine.
  • Alcohol: Tannat wines generally have a moderate to high alcohol content, ranging from around 13% to 15% ABV.
  • Body: Known for its bold body, Tannat provides a powerful and complex drinking experience.
  • Tannins: Tannat has higher tannin levels compared to Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Acid: Tannat has medium acid levels, lower than Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Flavor and Aromas: Tannat will be medium plus to pronounced on the nose and palate with dark fruits, like blackberry and black plum, dark chocolate, licorice, and smoke.

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.
  • Acid: Cabernet Sauvignon has medium plus to high acid, higher than Tannat wines.
  • Flavors and Aromas: Cabernet Sauvignon exhibits intense flavors and aromas of black fruits, such as blackcurrant and blackberry, with underlying notes of cedar and vanilla.

Helpful Tip: Winemakers for both Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon often use oak during winemaking. Here’s what oak contributes to wine.

Are Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon Similar?

Both Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon wines are rich and full-bodied with dark fruit flavors. Both wines are often oaked, with mocha, coffee, and chocolate notes. They both have similar alcohol levels.

What Is the Difference Between Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon?

Tannat tends to have much stronger tannins than Cabernet Sauvignon, but softer acid. Cabernet Sauvignon has a distinctive green note that it gets from the Sauvignon wine family (Sauvignon Blanc shares the same quality).

Tannat vs. Cabernet Sauvignon: Food Pairings and Serving Temperature

grilled steak dinner - tannat vs cabernet sauvignon wine

Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon Food Pairing: Both of these wines have strong tannins and robust bodies that need to be paired with protein- and fat-rich dishes. Grilled and roasted meats, vegetables and hearty stews are what you’re going to want to have with Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat.

Personal Note: I love both Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon with grilled steaks and/or grilled vegetables.

Both Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon are best enjoyed at slightly below room temperature. Place them in a cool, dark place for a while before serving.

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

Which Is More Expensive, Tannat vs. Cabernet Sauvignon?

cabernet sauvignon vs tannat - wine store shelf

When comparing the prices of Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon, it’s natural to wonder about bottle prices.

Helpful Tip: Tannat is less expensive than Cabernet Sauvignon at the premium end. It doesn’t have the same production costs or cult status as Cabernet Sauvignon from, say, Napa Valley or Bordeaux.

Wine Prices

Wine Prices

Category Tannat Price Range Cabernet Sauvignon Price Range
Entry-level $15 to $20 per bottle $10 to $20 per bottle
Premium Around $25 to $40 or higher per bottle Around $30 to $100 or more per bottle

Tannat Cost

  • Entry-level Tannat wines are typically affordable, ranging from $15 to $20 per bottle.
  • If you are looking for premium Tannat, there are higher-priced Tannat wines available. These bottles, priced around $25 to $40 or higher, offer a more complex and nuanced drinking experience.

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 Tannat or Cabernet Sauvignon?

If you enjoy bold, robust red wine with more tannin, Tannat will be better for you. If you prefer a full-bodied wine with a herbaceous bite and rich spice, then stick with Cabernet Sauvignon. If you’re on a budget, Tannat is often less expensive for the quality level. If you have limited access to a range of wines, Cabernet Sauvignon will be easier to find.

Final Thoughts – Tannat or Cabernet Sauvignon?

Both Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon are big red wines that you should know about if you enjoy this wine style.

I’m a big fan of side-by-side tastings to tease out the different wine characteristics. A great way to get started with these two wines is to do a side-by-side comparison.

Grab 2 bottles of similarly priced Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon. Invite over a few friends and enjoy an evening of swirling and sipping.

Helpful Tip: These are both food wines. Make sure you have something to eat along with them.

Thirsty for More?

I’m a big believer in doing side-by-side tastings to boost your wine knowledge. Here’s how to host your own wine tasting for beginners.

Check out this post on Cabernet Sauvignon vs Merlot, another popular red wine, along with Cabernet Sauvignon vs Malbec, and Shiraz vs Merlot.

You should be able to find delicious wines at every price point. Check out this post on how to find great wines under $50.

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