Syrah vs Cabernet – Which Variety of Wine Will You Love More?

Main Differences Between Syrah vs Cabernet

The Main Differences Between Syrah vs Cabernet are: 

  • Syrah has a more tarty fruit notes and spicy finish, whereas Cabernet has a black fruit and tobacco flavour notes. 
  • Syrah is great to pair with bold flavoured food, whereas Cabernet is great with meats and stews. 
  • Syrah wine have thick skins and high tannin, whereas Cabernet is less bold and more  are sumptuous. 

Different wine types provide distinct tastes and flavor profiles that some people prefer over others. When it comes to choosing the perfect wine option for your next event or personal gathering, there are a lot of options for you to choose from. While all wines are essentially made using the same process, each wine type varies significantly in terms of quality and potency. The quality, flavor, and potency of the wine option that you choose will all be dependent upon a single factor, that’s the type of grapes used during the bottling and grape fermentation process. There are several different types of wine options available for purchase on the market and they all vary drastically in terms of their taste, color, texture and more. For true wine enthusiasts, it takes an intricate process of choosing the right grapes and combination of food selections in order to choose the right wine.

With all of the various kinds of wine products available on the market, many wine drinkers and enthusiasts alike have begun forming favorites when it comes to the type of wines that they consume on a regular basis. Given the various types of wine options that are out on the market for you to choose from, your potential favorite wine choices are unlimited and many people are taking advantage of all of the great selections out there. While many people opt to go with more traditional wine picks such a Merlots and Chardonnay’s, there are plenty of versatile and robust wine flavors that you can choose from to make your ideal beverage compliment regardless of the occasion.

Two really popular wine types that have begun to grow in popularity in recent years are Syrah wine and Cabernet wine. Both of these wine varieties are types of red wine that can be very similar in color and texture due to the fact that very thick grapes are skinned during the fermentation and bottling process. Syrah and Cabernet wine can vary in many aspects related to the flavor profile and colo4 intensity, these attributes will vary significantly depending on the climate that the grapes are grown in, we’ll get into more detail about how climate impacts the way that grapes grow and are bottled.

When speaking about these two different wine types, there are very subtle differences that the most skilled or novice wine enthusiast will notice. The acidic level of cabernet sauvignon tends to be on the higher side when compared to Syrah wine options however Cabernet also tends to be very lively and bold in terms of their flavor profile. Syrah wine varieties typically can be cultivated to contain a very high level of alcohol content within a single bottle which is why many people prefer this wine choice.

In this guide, we’re going to give you a detailed breakdown about the main differences between Syrah wine and Cabernet wine so that you can make the right decision on which wine variety is best for you. We’ll go into detail about the various characteristics that differentiate each wine type and how you can use these various flavor attributes to make the right decision about which wine selection will be the optimal choice for your needs.

Wine Profiles: Syrah vs. Cabernet, A Closer Look

Both Syrah and Cabernet wine varieties come with very distinctive flavor attributes and overall taste profiles. Depending on the type of taste and food choices that you will combine when selecting which wine is best for you, both Syrah and Cabernet can provide completely different elements to your dinner, gathering, or event with simplicity and elegance. Below, we’re going to take a closer look at the small differentiating notes and flavor subtleties that make Syrah and Cabernet wine so different from one another.

After you read the section below, you’ll know more about the subtle differences between Syrah and Cabernet wine options so that you’ll be able to make the right decision about which wine is perfect for your drinking desires.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Origin and Climate: Warm climate grape is commonly grown in France, California, Chile, South Africa, and Argentina.

Color: A darker-spectrum red with purple tones.

Flavor Profile: Black fruits, such as blackberry and black currants, with dried herbs and tobacco undertones.

Food Pairings: Roasted or grilled red meats, black beans, and lentils, stews. Cabernet Sauvignon also pairs well with hard aged cheeses such as cheddar.

History and Fun Facts: Outside of its famed origins in Bordeaux, France, California’s wine region is uniquely suited to producing high-quality Cabernet Sauvignon. A hybrid between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc, these grapes date back to the 18th century, when it enjoyed broad popularity. Cabernet Sauvignon is often blended in its native France, while Californian and Chilean Sauvignon is often bottled as mono-varietal wines.

Shiraz (Syrah)


Origin and Climate: A warm region wine with an honored history in the Rhône region of France. Also popularly grown in Australia, Spain, Argentina, South Africa, and the United States.

Color: Among the deepest, darkest red wines, approaching the blackest areas of the color spectrum.

Flavor Profile: A strong splash of dark tarty fruit tones, followed by a peppery, spicy finish.

Food Pairings: With medium tannin and acidity level and bold expression, Syrah pairs well with foods that are equally bold, but not spicy. Pair this wine with barbecued red meats and creamy cheeses.

History and Fun Facts: The building block of most Rhône blends, Syrah is indigenous to France. Half of the world’s Syrah comes from France, but it thrives in Australia as well. It first came to California in 1878. DNA testing in 1998 actually proved Syrah to be a genetic hybrid of two rare grapes: Mondeuse blanc and Dureza.

Now that you know a little bit more about the background of each of these wine varieties, it’s time to look at some of the critical factors that determine the quality of wine that you get as a result of the fermentation process. There are several factors that play an integral role in the end result of the wine product that you get when selecting either Cabernet or Syrah wine varieties.

Factors That Affect How Syrah grapes & Cabernet grapes Grow

Everyone knows that without different types of grapes, there would be no wine varieties. With that fact established, the way that your wine tastes and hits your tongue is all dependent upon the way in which the grapes used during the fermentation process were grown and cultivated. The climate in which grapes are grown has a huge impact on the overall quality and taste that you experience with each bottle. Syrah and Cabernet wine varieties can be grown in a variety of different locations and are in fact grown in various regions around the world. These various climates have a substantial impact on the overall quality of wine that you experience when cracking open the bottle.

In the section below, we’re going to discuss how different climates can and will affect how the wine that you consume tastes, feels and intoxicates you.

Varietal Differences

Varietal differences are also influenced by territory, which includes growing season, temperature, rain, altitude, and even the very soil the vines are rooted in. Which is to say climate and regionality matter almost as much as the genetic differences in the red wine grapes themselves.

For example, warmer temperatures will produce a higher alcohol content in the grapes. The terroir has a deep impact on the thickness of the skin and the overall sugar content. Keep in mind that a wine’s flavor is impacted by the skin and the sugar content. Thinner skin results in fewer tannins, while lower sugar content means lower alcohol content and vice versa. You can split most wines into two main categories: cool climate varieties and warm climate varieties.

Climate and genetic differences can impact the body, or the mouthfeel, of red wines. The body is affected by several factors, most prominently the alcohol content and the tannins. The alcohol content affects the viscosity of the wine, with lighter-bodied wines showing a lower alcohol content (typically under 12.5 percent), while full-bodied wines tend to have a thicker, bolder mouthfeel and have alcohol contents above 13.5 percent. Meanwhile, the tannins, which are found in the skin, seeds, and stem of the plant, impart color and bitterness in the wine. Tannins also cause a drying effect on the tip of the tongue (not to be confused by the level of dryness, which is a measure of the sweetness of your wine) — a sort of grippy quality. Different varieties can produce a range of weights in wine, from light to medium to full, with some falling in-between. Red wine varietal differences will significantly affect what meal they pair with best, so it’s always preferable to research these factors before making a final pairing decision.

Warm Climate Wine Varieties

Warm climates are typically closer to the equator or inland from the coast and provide more sunshine, often more rain, different soil types, and warmer temperatures throughout the growing season. The result is increased ripeness with fuller-body and higher alcohol contents. These wines tend to have a deeper red color and are more tannic. Warm climate varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, and Mourvedre.

Cold Climate Wine Varieties

A cool climate usually means that the area is influenced by such factors as proximity to bodies of water or higher elevations. Far from the equator, these climates provide less direct sunlight, more cloud or fog cover, and cooler temperatures. These wines tend to have lower tannins, less ripeness, and less alcohol. Cool climate reds include Gamay and Pinot Noir.

Now we’re going to take an in-depth look at both Syrah wine varieties and Cabernet wine varieties to see which one may be best for your specific taste buds and flavor interests.

Syrah Wine: Complete Profile

Syrah wine varieties are generally much darker than Cabernet Sauvignon wines and provide a lot of great benefits related to cardiovascular health and more.  If you’re looking for a premium wine option that provides a bold taste and robust flavor profile, there are plenty of Syrah wine options for you to choose from.

Syrah wine varieties are grown in the following regions:

460,000 acres worldwide (186,000 hectares)

  • France (169,000 acres)  Côtes du Rhône: Cornas, Hermitage, St. Joseph, Côte-Rôtie
  • Australia (105,000 acres)  Barossa, McLaren Vale, Limestone Coast
  • Spain (49,000 acres)  Priorat, Montsant, Toro, Yecla
  • Argentina (32,000 acres)  Mendoza, Salta
  • South Africa (25,000 acres)  Stellenbosch, Paarl, Franschhoek
  • United States (23,000 acres)  Paso Robles, Santa Barbara, Napa, Sonoma, Columbia Valley (WA)
  • Italy (17,000 acres)  Tuscany, Sicily
  • Chile (15,000 acres)  Colchagua Valley, Maipo Valley

Syrah Wine profile

FRUIT: Blackberry, Blueberry, and Boysenberry (tart to jammy) OTHER: Olive, pepper, clove, vanilla, mint, licorice, chocolate, allspice, rosemary, cured meat, bacon fat, tobacco, herbs, and smoked oak: Yes. Usually medium to high usage of oak aging (of all kinds). TANNIN: Medium (+)ACIDITY: Medium (+) ageability: Yes. 5-9 years (most) & 12-25 years (age-worthy examples)COMMON SYNONYMS & REGIONAL NAMES: Shiraz, Sirac, Marsanne Noir, Entournerein, Serène, Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, Cornas, Côte-Rôtie, St. Joseph

Syrah Wine: in-depth

When you taste Syrah you’ll be greeted with a punch of flavor that tapers off and then has a spicy peppery note in the aftertaste. Because of its front-loaded style, Syrah is often blended with grapes that add more mid-palate, similar to Cabernet Sauvignon to help make the wine taste more complete. Traditionally in France, Syrah is blended with light body grenache to create the classic Côtes du Rhône blend. Old World Syrahs from Italy and France tend to have more acidity and earthy-herbaceous aromas. New World-styled Syrah wines from Australia, The U.S., and South America usually have more fruit-driven characteristics with lots of spice. Visualize the common taste of Syrah wines depending on what part of the world they originate.

Barossa Valley in Australia is the birthplace to some of the highest rated Syrah wine in the world. However, despite the region’s fame, Barossa Valley remains somewhat of a provincial wine country. The closest big city to Barossa is Adelaide in South Australia. Low plains from the city of Adelaide lead into rolling hills in a scene that is oddly similar to the Central Valley of California. Since the root louse that ravaged Europe has never touched the soils in Barossa Valley, the region boasts some of the oldest living vineyards. Along the side of the road to Nuriootpa, you will breeze past 100-year-old vines.

Heritage

Some of the most expensive Syrah in the world is from the 340+ acre appellation called Hermitage. The best wines are sourced from a hill close to the village of Tain-l’Hermitage and are noted for their floral and smoky aromas of blackberry and grilled meat.

Name: Origin

The word Syrah may hail from “Syracuse” –a city in Sicily. Syracuse was a powerful city during the ancient Greek rule in 400 BC.

Unknown Blend

Before appellation control in France, the Bordelais blended Syrah into their red wines to make them richer. Today, you can commonly find Cabernet-Syrah blends in both Australia and the United States.

Parentage

Two very obscure grapes are the parents of Syrah: Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche. Dureza is from Southern France, just North of Nimes in the Ardèche department. Mondeuse Blanche can be found in Savoy.

Petite Sirah?

Petite Sirah does not mean ‘little Syrah.’ Petite Sirah (aka Durif) is a different grape variety and is the genetic offspring of Syrah and the rarer Peloursin.

Viticulture

Wine growers often say “Syrah likes a view” because the best vineyards are usually towards the top of hills where there is less soil, making the vines produce less (but more concentrated) grapes.

Winemaking

Because Syrah wines have such thick skins and high tannin, it is a common practice for winemakers to cold soak Syrah grapes for days (or even weeks!). Cold soaking (aka extended maceration) increases color and fruitiness in a glass of wine while also reducing harsh tannin and herbaceous flavors.

Syrah Wine Goes Perfectly with These Foods

Soft Cheeses Are Better Work with softer stinkier cheeses, the fat texture and earthy flavors in a block of cheese such as Abbaye de Belloc will absorb the high tannin in Syrah.

Shiraz and Barbecue Tip The peppery spice in Australian Shiraz works wonders with a peppery barbecue. Try spicing your meats with anise and clove to bring out those subtle nuances in the wine.

Cabernet Sauvignon Wine: Complete Profile

Cabernet Sauvignon is known as the “classic” red wine option for many people who enjoy a rich and bold wine beverage that incorporates various notes of natural elements and fruits. Cabernet Sauvignon is also another very robust and versatile wine variety that you can choose to couple with virtually any food option and it’s great for personal gatherings or small events.

Cabernet Sauvignon is grown in the following regions:

Bordeaux, France

TASTING NOTES: Black Currant, Anise, Tobacco Leaf, Plum Sauce, Pencil Lead

Bordeaux is very much the “OG” Cabernet Sauvignon growing region. It’s here where you’ll find some of the savoriest and age-worthy expressions of the grape. Still, you won’t find a lot of single-varietal Cabs here – most are blended into the region’s eponymous “Bordeaux Blend.”

Cabernet Sauvignon performs best on the gravelly soils in Bordeaux. So, if you’re looking for a Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant wine, look to the sub-regions of the Médoc, Graves, and gravelly areas within Côtes de Bourg and Blaye. Wine drinkers today can find many Cabernet Sauvignon options in the market. Some Cabernet Sauvignon wines are sumptuous and fruity, others are savory and smoky. It all depends on where the Cabernet Sauvignon grows and how it’s made into wine.

North Coast, California

TASTING NOTES: Black Currant, Blackberry, Pencil Lead, Tobacco, Mint

The North Coast AVA (American Viticulture Area) includes Napa Valley, Sonoma, and some lesser-known regions that produce outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon. The area became known for Cabernet when in 1976, an English wine merchant held a blind-tasting featuring French and Californian wines with France’s top wine critics. Later dubbed “The Judgement of Paris,” the Californian wines won, proving that great wine could be made outside of France!

South Australia

TASTING NOTES: Black Plum, White Pepper, Currant Candy, Chocolate, Bay Leaf

The Coonawarra region in South Australia is typified by its warm climate and red clay soils (called “terra rossa”) with high iron-oxide content. This region, along with Langhorne Creek is famous for their exceptional (and unique) expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon. Wines have ample depth and powerful tannins with distinct notes of white pepper or bay leaf. It’s common to find exceptional quality Australian Cabernet wines bottled under screw cap. So, don’t be deterred by the bottle top!

Chile

TASTING NOTES: Blackberry, Black Cherry, Fig Paste, Baking Spices, Green Peppercorn

Chile offers some of the best values for exceptional quality Cabernet Sauvignon. While there is plenty of wine exported from the vast Central Valley in Chile, the best Cabernet comes from the Aconcagua, Maipo, Cachapoal and Colchagua Valleys. The location of Maipo Valley between the cooling Pacific Ocean breezes and hot, inland Andes Mountains produces one of the most ideal Mediterranean climates for Cabernet Sauvignon. You’ll find top-quality Maipo wines from the sub-region, Alto Maipo.

Cabernet Sauvignon Wine: in-depth

Cabernet Sauvignon means “wild Cabernet” and the grape originated in the Aquitaine Department of France (includes Bordeaux). In 1997, researchers at UC Davis (Carole Meredith and John Bowers) shocked the world. They discovered Cabernet Sauvignon was a child of Sauvignon Blanc (and Cabernet Franc). It’s true that Sauvignon Blanc leaves look very similar to Cabernet Sauvignon vines. That said, no one ever thought that a white grape could parent such a world-class red. Who would’ve thought of that!

Cabernet Sauvignon is related to a slew of other grapes in Bordeaux that people generally refer to as “the Bordeaux varieties.” These grapes include Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Carménère, and Sauvignon Blanc. One of the intriguing similarities shared amongst the Bordeaux varieties in the presence of an aromatic compound group also found in green bell pepper (called methoxypyrazine). When sniffing Cabernet Sauvignon, you may note subtle smells of green peppercorn, graphite, dark chocolate, or even bell pepper. For many years, the bell pepper compound was considered a negative “green” component in Bordeaux wines. As it happens, many consumers prefer their wines to taste fruity! So, viticulturists learned how to reduce “greenness” in wine with special pruning methods.

Cabernet Sauvignon is a red grape varietal known for its thick, durable skin, and the vine’s resistance to the elements. After the birth of the grape, the Cabernet Sauvignon varietal began to be adopted in parts of France by winemakers searching for more durable plants that were relatively easy to grow, and the grape found its champion in the region of Bordeaux.

It actually wasn’t proven that Cabernet Sauvignon was born from Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc until 1996 by wine researchers at UC Davis. As the Bordeaux wine blend evolved into one of the world’s most famous and highly coveted wines, the Bordeaux brand spread across the globe, and with the press for Bordeaux went the Cabernet Sauvignon grape. As the name of the grape spread and more people around the world began to grow it, many took to calling Cabernet Sauvignon the great colonizer, as it became the most widely planted grape globally, until Merlot overtook it in the nineties.

Apart from its success in Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon saw its reputation take off even further when it was planted in California. In 1976, a Cabernet Sauvignon from Stags’ Leap in the Napa Valley beat out the top Bordeaux Chateaus in the 1976 Judgement of Paris in a blind taste test. From that moment on, California Cabernet Sauvignon was launched into the world and began to be ordered at steakhouses around the globe.

Top Syrah & Cabernet Sauvignon Wine Recommendations

Now that you know more about the subtle differences between each type of wide variety, it’s time to take a look at some of the top recommended wine options available on the market. All of the wine recommendations listed below are all either Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon varieties so use all of the information previously listed in this guide to help you make the right decision.

Cabernet Sauvignon Recommendations

Corison 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon (St. Helena)

This understated, elegant study in the variety opens in beguiling aromas of floral rose before opening into a finely made, structured and gracefully constructed wine that’s fully in balance. Leather, black cherry and dark chocolate highlight a midpalate of finely polished, tamed tannin and integrated oak. This is delightfully enjoyable now, but can stand up to aging; enjoy best 2020–2030.

Daou 2016 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Paso Robles)

Inky in the glass, this rich and structured bottling offers a plump black-currant aroma, along with pinches of pepper and tightly woven oak. The palate lands softly and then the tannins rise up, offering savory flavors of charred beef, dark chocolate, and black cherry. Drink 2020–2036.

Quilceda Creek 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon (Columbia Valley (WA)

This hails from Champoux, Lake Wallula, Palengat and Wallula Gap Vineyards. The aromas draw you into the glass, evoking anise, blackberry, black raspberry, graphite, and exotic spices. The flavors show intense depth, richness, and hedonism, and the finish seems endless. Best from 2029–2036.

Syrah Recommendations

Torbreck 2014 Woodcutter’s Shiraz (Barossa Valley)

For an entry-level wine, this is excellent. The aromas and flavors feature smoky, stemmy, herbal goodness layered over blueberries and black cherries, while the palate is full and supple and the finish long, silky and elegant. The quality of this wine has me looking even more forward to Torbreck’s high-end 2014s.

Kingston Family 2014 Lucero Syrah (Casablanca Valley)

Ripe, earthy black-fruit aromas are spicy and a bit lactic from oak, hence, the palate is full and creamy, but with a good acidic cut. Blackberry, herbal spice and cool toasty oak flavors finish warm and plump.

Michel Gassier 2013 Les Piliers Syrah (Costières de Nîmes)

A super bargain, this is a concentrated, structured glass of gamy Syrah. Black cherry liqueur, black olives, espresso, and meaty flavors combine on the full-bodied palate, finishing with a hefty dose of smoky goodness. Drink now–2025.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Petite Syrah and Syrah the same?

Petite Syrah and Syrah are not the same. Even though you might think that Petite Syrah is just a smaller version of Syrah, these are two different types of grapes and that is reflected on the DNA.

What does terroir mean? What does it have to do with wine?

It is very well known that the region where grapes are cultivated have a huge impact on the wine result and that what terroir refers to. Terroir is a French word that refers to the territory, region, climate and soil where grapes are cultivated.

Do you add flavourings to wine to achieve different aromas (i.e. chocolate, cherry)?

Believe it or no, the flavour notes you might feel in wines, such as tobacco, chocolate, butter, smoked berry fruits and much more, are all-natural! These notes are a result of the fermentation, terroir and ageing process.

Conclusion

You can use all of the information included in this article to help guide you throughout making a decision about which wine is best for your intended usage when it comes to Cabernet and Syrah wine varieties. All of the win recommendations listed above can make the perfect dinner complement or any other sort of gathering that you may be planning will go great with both the Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon wine options that are out there.

The quality, flavor, and potency of the wine option that you choose will all be dependent upon a single factor, that’s the type of grapes used during the bottling and grape fermentation process. There are several different types of wine options available for purchase on the market and they all vary drastically in terms of their taste, color, texture and more. For true wine enthusiasts, it takes an intricate process of choosing the right grapes and combination of food selections in order to choose the right wine.

With all of the various kinds of wine products available on the market, many wine drinkers and enthusiasts alike have begun forming favorites when it comes to the type of wines that they consume on a regular basis. Given the various types of wine options that are out on the market for you to choose from, your potential favorite wine choices are unlimited and many people are taking advantage of all of the great selections out there.

While many people opt to go with more traditional wine picks such a Merlots and Chardonnay’s, there are plenty of versatile and robust wine flavors that you can choose from to make your ideal beverage compliment regardless of the occasion. If you’ve been looking for the perfect Cabernet or Sauvignon wine variety but were having no luck, hopefully, this guide will be able to help you better understand the differences between both wine varieties and how to choose which one is best for you.

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Ben Holt

Ben practiced as a "Wine connoisseur" in the restaurant industry for over 2 years. He suggested, tested and educated diners on which wine would best fit their meal. Ben is also a freelance writer with over 4 years of experience. He now shares his insights on wine and wine accessories for those looking to take their love of this amazing beverage to the next level!

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