Shiraz vs Cabernet

By | November 12, 2017

Undoubtedly, Shiraz and Cabernet are two of the most famous grapes in the world. Both Shiraz and Cabernet are thick skinned red grapes with intense hues and bold flavors, and they both produce big red wines. Furthermore, beginners and amateurs are often unable to distinguish the two grape varieties in blind tasting. Still, Shiraz and Cabernet are different from each other, and they do have different characteristics regarding the aromas and flavors. Below, we will help you understand the differences between Shiraz vs Cabernet based on several factors, including the origin, vine, grape structure, aroma, and flavor.

The Origins
Shiraz may refer to two types of wine, and they are sometimes incorrectly thought to be the same. Historically, the very first Shiraz wine was produced in the 9th century in the city of Shiraz, which is located in Iran. This was considered as the finest wine in the Near East at the time.

In today’s modern world, though, Shiraz refers to a style of Syrah. Modern Shiraz wine is produced in Australia and South Africa, but it may also refer to a style of Syrah that is produced in some other countries. The modern Shiraz is actually identical to Syrah, originating in southeast France without any connection to Iran.

The modern Shiraz has quite an extensive and well-documented history. It is believed to originate in the Rhone region of France as an offspring of two different grapes, which are Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche. We will only focus on the modern Shiraz from now on.

On the other hand, Cabernet Sauvignon (also known as Cab Sauv and “Prince of Grapes”) is one of the most widely recognized red wine grapes in the world. It is grown in almost all major wine-producing countries over a diverse spectrum of climates, from Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley to Canada’s Okanagan Valley. It was discovered not a very long time ago, which is in 1996. It originated in France, but has quickly spread across Europe and eventually to the entire world in the ‘90s. This robust grape variety is an offspring of two famous varieties, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.

The Vines
Although the fruits of Shiraz vs Cabernet may appear quite similar, their vines actually do have notable differences. If you grow Shiraz vines and Cabernet vines side by side, you will see a clear demarcation line between the two. Shiraz has lighter green leaves, whereas Cabernet has darker green foliage. Furthermore, it is also worth a note that Shiraz vines tend to be more robust, and usually ripens a little bit earlier. Cabernet is also very robust, though not as robust as Shiraz, but takes a little bit more time to ripen.

In Australia, Shiraz grapes are grown in several regions. Of course, the most popular destination for Shiraz grapes is the lush, revered Barossa Valley. Other favorable regions for growing Shiraz grapes include the Margaret River, McLaren Vale, Heathcote, and Hunter Valley.

On the other hand, Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are best grown in the Coonawarra region, which has a cold climate. However, Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are also widely grown in Clare Valley, YarraVallley, and Langhorne Creek.

The Fruits
In terms of appearance, the fruits of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon tend to have lots of similarities. They are both thick-skinned grapes. If they come from climates that are not too hot, their grapes often have a medium intensity color. If they come from warmer climates, their grapes usually have much deeper color. More often than not, Shiraz comes with more purple tint than Cabernet Sauvignon, but this is not always true.

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Nevertheless, if you have bunches of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, you can quite easily tell the two apart. Shiraz usually produces larger berries. Cabernet Sauvignon’s berries tend to be smaller and rounder. The size difference between the grapes of Shiraz vsCabernet is pretty noticeable.

The Aromas
Yes, beginners and amateurs often have troubles distinguishing the two types of wine apart, but there are still noticeable differences between the aromas of Shiraz vs Cabernet. You can notice these subtle differences of the two types of wine.

The Shiraz wine is high and intense. It usually delivers spicy, peppery, smoky, and meaty aromas. You can say that the aromas are classic and exotic.

On the other hand, the Cabernet wine produce mostly exude fragrances. You can notice its cassis, mint, blackberry, and leather aromas. If one needs to describe it, the aromas are fresh yet classy.

The Flavors and Palates
In blind tasting, after comparing the aromas, you can also tell the two types of wine apart by the flavors and palates. The difference is perhaps quite subtle, but still noticeable.

The Shiraz wine is known for the rich and juicy mid-palate. The Shiraz wine is well-balanced, strong, and flavorsome, with sophisticated natural tannins and acid structure.

On the other hand, the Cabernet wine’s palate has a doughnut structure; it has a strong up-front and strong finish, but the mid-palate is dull. It is a beautiful full-bodied, aromatic, and acidic wine with brilliant ageing potential. It often has fruity and jammy flavors.

Because of the different palates, it has been quite common to blend these two awesome great wine varieties in order to complement their best characteristics to each other. The blend will have a strong up-front and finish from Cabernet Sauvignon, and the mid-palate will be filled by Shiraz.

Both Shiraz and Cabernet are great red wine varieties for dining. They are both popular accompaniment for beef. Choosing the best one for dining is a matter of personal taste.

- The offspring of Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche grapes- The offspring of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc grapes
- The vines have lighter leaves and tend to ripen more quickly- The vines have darker foliage
- Larger fruits- Smaller fruits
- Spicy, peppery, smoky, and meaty aromas- Cassis, mint, blackberry, and leather aromas
- Strong mid-palate- Strong up-front and finish, dull mid-palate

Although both Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon wines are popular and may seem similar, they are actually very different. Modern Shiraz grapes are the offspring of Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche grapes, and the vines have lighter leaves and tend to ripen more quickly. The fruits tend to be larger. The aromas are spicy, peppery, smoky, and meaty, and the mid-palate is strong. On the other hand, Cabernet Sauvignon grapes came from Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc grapes, its vines have darker foliage. Its fruits are smaller, and it has cassis, mint, blackberry, and leather aromas. It has a strong up-front and finish, but the mid-palate is dull.

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