Browsing the red wine aisle at your local bottle shop or an online wine shop can be enough to make anyone’s head spin.
There are so many options on the shelf – how do you know:
- Which brand or vineyard is the best?
- How to pair food and red wine?
- What each type of red wine grape tastes like?
This certainly isn’t made any easier by the huge variety of red wines out there!
Completely new to the world of red wine? You can’t go wrong with a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Shiraz.
These are two of the most popular varieties of red (and in the case of Cab Sav, the most popular in the world).
And there’s a good reason for that!
Of course, if you want to impress your relatives and guests, you’ll need to understand the subtle (and not-so-subtle) differences, and which is more appropriate for specific situations.
How they stack up: taste
As two full-bodied wines, both Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz are rich in flavour, with a tendency towards strong, fruit-forward results.
However, it’s there that the similarities in flavour end!
What does Cabernet Sauvignon taste like?
As the world’s most popular red wine, there is a lot of variation in how a Cab Sav will end up tasting.
For example, some might be savoury and smoky in flavour, while others are fruitier.
No matter what flavour profile your specific bottle has, Cab Sav tends to be dominated by dark-coloured fruits like black cherries and blackcurrant
Many varieties also feature notes of:
- Baking spices
Generally speaking, the mix you end up with will depend on the climate the grapes were grown in, with warmer wine-growing areas tend towards fruitier flavours, while cooler climates feature savoury flavours more heavily.
What does Shiraz taste like?
While Cabernet Sauvignon might be the world’s most popular red, Shiraz is without a doubt Australia’s, accounting for 30% of ALL of Australia’s wine production.
Just like Cab Sav, Shiraz is dominated by fruity flavours, in particular, blueberries and black plums.
Most bottles of Shiraz will also feature hints of:
- Milk chocolate
- Green peppercorn
Just like Cab Sav, there’s a lot of variety in how Shiraz ends up tasting.
As a general rule of thumb, so-called “old world” Shiraz (meaning those from Europe) tend to be more acidic and have a stronger aftertaste.
By contrast, “new world” varieties (including Australia, the USA and South America) tend to be fruit-driven.
Comparing Cab Sav and Shiraz
Notice how when you eat something tangy like a lemon, your mouth instinctively puckers up and your face heats up a little bit?
That’s your body’s automatic reaction to acidity.
Acidic wines are great for food that’s oily or heavy in cream. The acidity inherent in wine can help “clean out” your mouth afterwards.
Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz aren’t too far apart in acidity, with both being classified as medium-acidity wines.
What you’ll want to pay attention to is climate.
This is because the cooler temperature gives the grapes less time to ripen. The resulting grapes are more sour when harvested, and therefore, more acidic – a trait that carries over the wine they produce.
Since Cab Sav and Shiraz grapes are versatile and grow in a variety of regions, you’ll want to pay attention to where it’s grown.
Warm-climate wines tend to be less acidic, while cool-weather regions tend to produce more acidic wine.
If you’re looking for something that’s especially high-acidity? It’s important to note that as a general rule, red wine is almost always less acidic than white wine.
If you’re new to red wine, you might be wondering what that “stuff” floating around at the bottom of the bottle is.
These are what we wine obsessives refer to as tannins.
Tannins are a byproduct of the winemaking process, and come from grape skins, seeds, stems and even the oak barrels wine is aged in.
Don’t worry, tannins aren’t unhealthy – in fact, they’re a perfectly natural part of any red wine, and in many cases can also highly-desirable, as they add texture and complexity to your bottle of red!
Both Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz are tannic wines, with medium-high levels of tannins. Either is a great choice if you’re looking for a more complex bottle of red.
Alcohol levels (ABV)
When buying wine, whether for personal consumption or as a gift, it’s important that you check the alcohol levels.
Simply put, different people have different tolerances for alcohol – additionally, this also influences how much you should pour. (You wouldn’t want to give out a high ABV wine at a business event, for example!)
Both Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz are highly acidic by wine standards, both sitting at around 13-15% ABV – the upper limit for alcohol levels in wine.
Obviously, there’s some wriggle room there depending on the vineyard and the winemaking process.
Our good friend climate also makes a return, with warm weather wines tending to produce higher levels of alcohol.
Most Australian vineyards are generally classified as warm weather, meaning most Aussie Cab Sav and Shiraz will pack a bit more of a punch.
The exceptions are reds from the:
- Coonawarra region (WA)
- Mornington Peninsula (VIC)
- Yarra Valley (VIC)
- Western parts of Gippsland (VIC)
- All of Tasmania
Buy red wine online with I Like Wine
Do you like wine? So do we!
In fact, we love it so much that we’ve created one of Australia’s biggest online wine shops, giving you the power to choose all your favourite types of red wines.
Whether it’s a Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz or any other type of alcoholic beverage, you can find it in our online wine shop.
We offer nation-wide delivery, meaning you can enjoy the convenience of red wine delivered straight to your door.*
And once you’re up to speed, you can click here to buy red wine online.
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