Shiraz vs Cab Sav: What’s the Difference?

Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz are two of the notable red wines in the wine industry today. Although they share many similarities, they still have their shared differences that help to distinguish them.

During a blind taste test, many newbies and even some experienced wine enthusiasts find it challenging to differentiate between Shiraz and Cab Sav.

However, understanding their differences as well as the uniqueness of each will help you to confidently distinguish between these wines and better your choice of what’s best for you between these two major reds.

Shiraz is the sixth-most grown grape in the world, with vines over 500,000 acres. Shiraz grapes are mostly grown in Australia and many New World wine regions such as New Zealand, the USA, Chile and so on.

The term Syrah is popular around the Old World wine regions mainly France, Spain and Italy. Syrah originated from France in the Northern Rhone regions, the Syrah grape was also grown in Cornas, Saint Joseph, Cote-Rotle, and Hermitage while the Australian shiraz is very popular in the Barossa Valley.

On the other hand, Cab Sav is the most popular red wine around the globe today. this red wine has a high alcohol percentage of about 14% and a dry taste accompanied by high tannin levels.

Sauvignon was created via the crossing of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc, which are red and white grapes respectively.


Cab Sav is one of the most popular red grape varieties in the world. It is cultivated in almost every major wine-producing country and it has great adaptability to various spectrums of climates. Cab Sav was said to have originated from France in the 17th century.

Its birth came by accident when Carbernet Franc met Sauvignon Blanc. The union of these two became very popular during the 18th century, it became widely planted in the Bordeaux region of Medoc.

However, in its birth town, Bordeaux, Cab Sav isn’t made as a pure single varietal, but it’s mostly blended with Carbernet Franc or Merlot.

Later in the year 1824, Cab Sav moved to Australia where it started to thrive and gained grounds across the country, especially in south Australia’s Coonawarra and western Australia’s Margaret River.

After some time, the vines of Murrumbateman soon became another thriving ground for this grape variety in Australia.  some believe August 30th to be the International Carbernet Sauvignon Day.

Syrah was birthed in France. This was established after DNA profiling showed that the grape variety was created by crossing Dureza and Mondeuse Blanch grapes which hailed from old southern France and Savoie region in the French Alps respectively.

Syrah became prominent in France during the 18th century. In the 1830s, a Scottish viticulturist named, James Busby, introduced the first cuttings of Syrah from France to Australia. right from there, the grape was planted in the Sydney Botanical Gardens, then the Hunter Valley, before it made its way to South Australia

. It remains unsolved how Syrah became Shiraz, maybe it’s the string Australian accent or the wrong labelling on the first cuttings.

What is sure is that Syrah and shiraz are the same grape variety. If you stay in France, it is “Syrah” but if you stay in Australia or other parts of the New World wine regions, then, you will most likely call it “Shiraz”.

What does Shiraz Taste like?

Similar to Cab Sav, Shiraz is dominated by fruity flavours such as blueberries and black plums. Most bottles of Shiraz will give you a hint of

  • Milk chocolate
  • Tobacco
  • Green peppercorn

The new world varieties of this grape variety are fruit driven while the old word shiraz is usually more acidic with a strong aftertaste.

What does Cab Sav Taste like?

There are a lot of variations in how a Cab Sav will end up Tasting after Production. Some might be smoky and savoury in flavour, while others might be fruitier.

However, regardless of the flavour profile of each specific bottle, Cab Sav will always give flavours of dark-coloured fruits such as black cherries and blackcurrant.

In some Cab Sav bottles, you will find notes of

  • Cedar
  • Baking spices
  • Graphite
  • Tobacco

In summary, the Cab Sav flavours are largely dependent on the climatic region where the grapes were grown in. fruitier flavours are produced from the warmer wine-growing regions while the cooler climates end up with a strong savoury flavour.

Comparing Shiraz and Cab Sav


Shiraz and Cab Sav aren’t quite similar in their acid levels, as they are both regarded as medium-acidity wines. Oftentimes, when you consume tangy things like Lemon, your mouth involuntarily puckers up and your face heats up a little bit.

That’s the body’s default response to acidity. Acid wines are nice for food that is oily or heavy in cream. Also, the acidity in the wine helps to clean your mouth after your business.


It is important to pay adequate attention to this factor as the cooler region affords the grapes less time to ripen. Therefore, the grapes from these climatic conditions tend to be more sour and acidic when harvested. These traits usually end up prominent in the wine they produce.

However, Shiraz and Cab Sav have an excellent ability to adapt to various weather conditions.  Warm-weather regions produce wines with less acidity while cool-weather regions often produce more acidic wines. It is expedient to note that, red wines almost naturally are less acidic than white wines.


If you have ever wondered what stuff floats around the bottom of your wine bottle, those are what many wine enthusiasts call tannins.

Tannins are defined as the byproduct of the winemaking process and emanate from grape skins, seeds, stems and even the oak barrels used in ageing the wine. Although, they are byproducts of the production processes they aren’t unhealthy.

They are a natural part of any red wine and are often responsible for the texture and complexity of your red.

Cab Sav and Shiraz are both wines rich in tannin; they are regarded as having medium-high levels of tannins. If you desire a bottle of complex red wine, both wines will meet your needs perfectly.

Alcohol Levels (ABV)

When purchasing a wine for personal consumption or as a gift, it is expedient to check for alcohol levels. This is because people have different tolerance for alcohol, and the alcohol levels determine how much wine you pour. You wouldn’t want to serve a high-ABV wine at a business event.

Cab Sav and Shiraz are both highly acidic wines, at around 13to15% ABV which is the upper limit level in wine. Climates also affect the alcohol levels, with warm weather tending to produce grapes with a higher level of alcohol.

Since Australian vineyards are regarded as warm weather, hence, most Aussie Cab Sav and Shiraz will contain a high alcohol level except for a few exceptions such as

  • Coonawarra region
  • Mornington Peninsula
  • Western parts of Gippsland
  • Tasmania
  • Yarra Valley

Differences between Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz

Wine connoisseurs around the globe know that Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz grapes slightly taste different. However, there’s a fascination with the nuances attracted to the differences between these two grapes when grown in the vineyard.

As stated earlier, Shiraz and Cab Sav share some similarities. They both have strong hues that are responsible for giving distinct flavours to wines. After harvesting, in their early years, they tend to have deep purple colour. In Australia, the 2019 vintage Shiraz was absolutely the dominant red grape variant responsible for 44% of total red wine crushed. Whereas Cabernet Sauvignon sits at 27%.

Here are some of the few differences between Shiraz and Cab Sav

Berry size

The size of the grapes is different and this is what helps most viticulturists and wine enthusiasts around the world to easily distinguish between the two varieties in the wine industry.

Shiraz grapes are much bigger compared to that of Cab Sav. In a winery, the difference in size determines how the fruit is handled. The Shiraz will be Juicy with fewer tannins while the Cab Sav will give a more structured style and excellent ageing ability.


Typically, Grape leaves have a relatively uniform shape, with a characterized look and feel that slightly changes from each varietal. However, between Shiraz and Cab Sav, the differences between the leaves are crystal clear.

The leaves of Shiraz are more significant and darker than those of Cab Sav. When handling the two grape leaves, you will discover that the Shiraz leave is two times larger than the leaves of Cab Sav.

The size of the leaves does not, in any way affect the quality of the grape, but it only makes it easier to identify this from that when visiting a winery or checking out some grapes.


One of the major limelight in the wine industry is the distinct aroma you get from every glass of wine you hold.  Cab Sav has a soft smell with a blackberry, mint, leather and cassis scent. This very pleasing aroma is one of the reasons this red has become the most popular wine in the world today.

Shiraz, on the other hand, has a powerful smell which might suit you if you are a hardcore wine fan. It has a spicy, meaty and smoky aroma with little feeling of pepper.  

Aromas are so important in the wine world as they can contribute largely to how you pair your wines with various food. As you will see in the section below that these wines are the best pairs for dishes with lots of meats especially when grilled with a lot of vegetables.

Food Pairing

Shiraz wines are a perfect pair with meat, this is because of their underlying flavour and aromas. Shiraz perfectly seems to be a good fit with any meat as long as the meat is properly cooked.

Also, Shiraz pairs best with roasted meat, or barbecue, however, one must be careful with the sauce as the wine might conflict with the overall taste.

On the other hand, because of its acidity and tannin levels, Cab Sav pairs best with softer foods like potato gnocchi, cheddar, dark chocolate and tender beef meals.

How to Serve Shiraz and Cab Sav Wines

Shiraz and Cab Sav are both red wines, therefore, you can use the same basic pouring method when serving them;

  • Refrigerate the bottle for about 20 minutes or 5 minutes in an ice bucket. Ensure that the win hits a temperature of 63 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Uncork the cooled bottle and let it sit open for about an hour

  • Pour the wine into a glass with a round top with a wide rim, ensuring you pour directly at the centre of the cup.

Conclusion: Shiraz vs Cab Sav: What’s the Difference?

Shiraz and Cab Sav are two wines with different structures and textures. Cab Sav is stronger in taste while Shiraz is possess a smooth and fine texture. In summary, if you desire a sharper wine, then Cab Sav is your go-to wine.

However, if you prefer to have a smooth wine with a fine texture, Shiraz might just be the best for you. It’s expedient to know that neither of these wines is better than the other, deciding will only come down to an individual’s tastes and preferences.

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