Cabernet Sauvignon vs Malbec Wine (What is the difference?)

When it comes to choosing the perfect red wine, you have sweeter and/or lighter reds, and then you have heavier, heartier reds. So let’s compare the two richest reds:  Cabernet Sauvignon vs Malbec.

Cabernet Sauvignon is known for a fuller body than Malbec, with higher tannins, complex notes of black currant, cedar, and spice, and a deeper color. Malbec is medium to full-bodied with notes of blackberry, plum, and vanilla. Cabernet pairs well with red meats, while Malbec pairs well with spicier foods.

Both wines have unique characteristics and flavors that make them popular choices among wine lovers. In this blog post, we will delve into the origins of these two grape varieties, exploring their differences and similarities.

We’ll discuss how each wine’s taste profile is influenced by factors such as sweetness or dryness and alcohol content. Furthermore, we’ll take a look at the hue and body of both wine types, in addition to how they evolve over time.

Lastly, we’ll compare the average price points for cabernet sauvignon vs malbec wines and provide expert recommendations on food pairings to enhance your dining experience with these exquisite reds. By understanding these nuances in greater detail, you can make an informed decision when selecting your next bottle of fine wine.

Table of Contents:

Where Do Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec Originate?

Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec are two well-known red wines that originate from different parts of the world. The Cabernet Sauvignon grape is primarily grown in the Bordeaux region of France, but it has also gained popularity in other regions such as Napa Valley, Washington State, South Africa, and New Zealand.

The Malbec grape, on the other hand, was initially cultivated in Southwest France. However, it truly flourished when introduced to Argentina in the 17th century. Today, Argentine Malbecs dominate global production with their bold flavors and smooth texture.

  • Napa Valley: Known for its high-quality Cabernet Sauvignons with rich fruit flavors and firm tannins.
  • Bordeaux: Home to both Cabernet Franc (parent grape of Cab) and classic French Malbecs known for their higher acidity compared to Argentine counterparts.
  • New Zealand: Produces excellent examples of both varietals due to its diverse terroir; Hawke’s Bay is particularly famous for producing outstanding Cabs while Central Otago excels at growing top-notch Malbec grapes.
  • South Africa: Stellenbosch region boasts some exceptional cabernets displaying notes of blackcurrant alongside moderate tannins while Swartland offers unique expressions of malbec showcasing dark fruit flavors combined with a smoky finish.
  • Washington State: A rising star in the world of wine, producing bold Cabernet Sauvignons and increasingly popular Malbecs that exhibit dark fruit flavors with a touch of spice.

Take a chance and shop for vino from these areas to discover the ideal pairing between Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. Cabernet Sauvignon is a full-bodied red wine that pairs well with red meat, strong cheese, and dark chocolate. Malbec, on the other hand, is a dry wine that pairs well with grilled meats, stews, and spicy dishes. Both wines are great options for wine lovers who enjoy full-bodied wines with firm tannins and earthy flavors.

Cab Sauv and Malbec vinos, from disparate locales, possess their own individual traits. Let’s explore the distinctive features of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec wines.

What is Different About Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon?

When comparing Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, it’s essential to understand their distinct characteristics. While both wines are popular reds, they offer unique flavor profiles, food pairings, and origins.

But they may not be the best choice to serve guests who don’t normally drink wine.

Click that link to read my article on the best wines (both red and white) to serve if you happen to be hosting guests who are new to wine or who don’t normally drink it.

Main Differences in Flavor Profiles

Cabernet Sauvignon, a full-bodied wine originating from the Bordeaux region of France, has high tannins with notes of black currant, cedarwood, and green bell pepper. In contrast, Malbec, native to Southwest France but now predominantly produced in Argentina, offers moderate tannins with flavors of blackberry jam and milk chocolate.

Variations in Food Pairings

  • Cabernet Sauvignon: Pairs well with fatty meats like prime rib or roast lamb due to its acidity; also complements garlic-herb dishes found in French or Italian cuisine.
  • Malbec: Best served alongside game birds or lean meats such as venison; goes great with salty cheeses or savory appetizers too.

Differences in Origin & Production Regions

The primary production regions for these two grape varieties differ significantly.

The world-renowned Napa Valley produces some of the best Cabernets globally while Argentine Malbecs have gained popularity over recent years thanks to their affordable price points. However, Cabernet Sauvignon is also produced in other regions like Washington State, South Africa, and New Zealand.

In summary, understanding the differences between Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon will help wine lovers choose the perfect match for their palate and food pairings. Next time you’re shopping for a bottle of red wine, consider these distinct wines to elevate your dining experience.

Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon contrast in that the former imparts a milder, sweeter flavor while the latter supplies more tannin and structure. Despite their differences, both wines share certain characteristics such as having dark-colored skins, being full bodied reds with high levels of acidity.

Let’s explore what else these two varietals have in common in our next heading.

What Is Similar About Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon?

Despite their distinctions, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon share some commonalities that make them both widely favored among oenophiles. Both are full-bodied red wines with rich flavors and a bold presence on the palate. They also have similar alcohol content, usually ranging from 13.5 to 15 percent ABV.

Their origins can be traced back to the Bordeaux region of France, where they were initially used as blending grapes in Bordeaux blends alongside other varieties like Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc. Today, these grape varieties have found success as single-varietal wines in different parts of the world.

  • Grape Variety: Both Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon belong to the same family of Vitis vinifera grape species which includes most well-known wine grapes.
  • Tannins: While there is a difference in tannin levels between these two wines (Cabernet being more tannic), they both contain moderate to high levels of tannins that contribute to their structure and age-worthiness.
  • Oak Aging: Many winemakers choose to age both types of wine in oak barrels for varying periods which imparts additional flavors such as vanilla or toastiness while softening harsher elements like acidity or tannins.
  • Versatility with Food Pairings: Thanks to their full body and robust flavor profiles, both Malbecs (food pairing ideas) and Cabernet Sauvignons (food pairing ideas) pair well with a wide range of dishes, particularly red meats and hearty fare.

Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon are both dark-hued, robust reds with tannins and a powerful taste. Despite their similarities in flavor, the two types of red wines contrast when it comes to the level of sweetness or dryness.

Are Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec Wines Sweet or Dry?

When it comes to the sugariness of these two renowned red wines, there are some noteworthy distinctions between them. Malbec, despite being a dry wine, has a surprisingly jammy flavor that makes it taste sweeter than you might expect.

This allows its moderate tannins and low acidity to shine without drying out your mouth, giving Malbec a juicy mouthfeel.

In contrast, Cabernet Sauvignon is much drier in comparison. Its high tannin content gives it a dry, gritty texture that helps the dark fruit flavors stick to your palate. With no residual sugar present in most Cabernets compared to around 1.5g per liter found in Malbecs, this can make Cabernet Sauvignons taste chalkier.

Confused about the types of wine and how they differ and how they are similar?

Click that link to read my article on that topic and also to see a handy chart that breaks down all the major types of wine into a convenient, easy-to-read chart that makes it easy to know what to buy.

Sweetness Factors:

  • Moderate Tannins & Low Acidity: Gives Malbec its sweet-like taste despite being classified as a dry wine.
  • Jammy Flavors: Adds an unexpected touch of sweetness to Malbec’s overall profile.
  • No Residual Sugar vs Some Residual Sugar: Cabernet Sauvignons typically have no residual sugar while Malbecs contain about 1.5g per liter on average – making them seem slightly sweeter by comparison.

The next time you’re deciding between these two delicious wines at the grocery store or during dinner with friends, consider their distinct characteristics when choosing which one will best suit your preferences and food pairings.

Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec wines can vary in sweetness, depending on the producer. It is essential to examine the alcoholic strength of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec wines when attempting to comprehend them more thoroughly.

What is the Alcohol Content of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon?

Both Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon boast an ABV on the upper end of the scale, making them two of the more potent varieties apart from port. These popular red wines typically have an alcohol by volume (ABV) range of 13.5 to 15 percent, making them some of the strongest options aside from port wines. They share a similar ABV with other robust varieties such as Californian Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and Petite Sirah.

The reason behind their high alcohol content lies in the grape-growing regions’ climate conditions. Warmer climates tend to produce sweeter grapes, which subsequently leads to more sugar during fermentation – ultimately resulting in a higher alcohol percentage. Some well-known wine-producing regions for these varietals include:

  • Napa Valley, California: Known for its exceptional Cabernet Sauvignons.
  • Argentina: Renowned for producing outstanding Malbecs.
  • Washington State: Offers excellent examples of both Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec wines.
  • New Zealand: Produces quality Bordeaux-style blends that often feature both grape varieties.

It’s important to keep in mind that while enjoying these full-bodied reds, moderation is key due to their higher alcohol content. Sipping responsibly enables you to experience the robust flavors and intricate nuances of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon wines.

Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon both have an alcohol content of around 13-15%, but there are other differences between the two wines that should be considered. Shifting the focus to the distinction between their hues and consistencies, let’s investigate what makes them one-of-a-kind.

How Does the Color and Body of Malbec Compare to Cabernet Sauvignon?

The color and body of a wine can greatly impact its overall appeal, as well as provide hints about its flavor profile. When it comes to Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, both are considered full-bodied wines with distinct hues that set them apart from other reds.

Malbec, originating in France but now predominantly produced in Argentina, boasts a deep purple color with dark red undertones. This rich hue is reflective of the bold flavors often found within Malbec wines, such as blackberry, plum, and notes of spice like black pepper or even milk chocolate.

In contrast, Cabernet Sauvignon – one of the most popular grape varieties worldwide – presents itself with an intense dark red color reminiscent of the dark fruits it embodies.

Originating from the Bordeaux region in France but now grown across various regions including Napa Valley and Washington State, this iconic variety offers complex flavors ranging from black cherry to cassis along with firm tannins that contribute to its full body.

  • Maintain room temperature: To best appreciate these two varietals’ unique colors and bodies when enjoying at home or during a tasting event at your local grocery store or wine shop,
  • Pour into proper glassware: Make sure you serve them at room temperature (around 60°F) using appropriate glassware designed for full-bodied red wines,
  • Aerate if necessary: And don’t hesitate to aerate or decant if needed, as this can help enhance the flavors and textures of both Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon.

By understanding the differences in color and body between these two well-known red wines, you’ll be better equipped to choose the perfect wine for your next meal or gathering.

Wine lovers can appreciate the unique characteristics of each grape variety and how they pair with different foods. Cabernet Sauvignon pairs well with red meats, while Malbec doesn’t shy away from spicy dishes. Both wines are dry and full-bodied, making them great choices for those who enjoy bold and flavorful wine.

Malbecs tend to have a deep, dark color and body compared to Cabernet Sauvignon which is often more light-bodied. When it comes to aging potential, the two wines can vary significantly depending on their individual characteristics.

Key Takeaway: 

Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon are both full-bodied wines with distinct hues that set them apart from other reds. Malbec has a deep purple color with dark red undertones, while Cabernet Sauvignon presents itself with an intense dark red color reminiscent of the dark fruits it embodies. Understanding their differences in color and body can help you choose the perfect wine for your next meal or gathering.

How Well Do Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon Age?

Cabernet Sauvignon is known for its exceptional aging potential, thanks to its high tannin levels. As these tannic wines age, they become more velvety and complex in flavor. This makes them an excellent choice for wine enthusiasts who enjoy discovering the subtle nuances that develop over time.

In contrast, Malbec also ages well but has a slightly shorter optimal aging period due to its softer tannins. Generally speaking, a good-quality Malbec will drink well after 5 years of aging. However, some higher-end bottles can benefit from longer cellaring periods resulting in an even greater depth of flavor.

  • Cabernet Sauvignon: High tannin levels make it ideal for long-term aging; flavors become more velvety and complex over time.
  • Malbec: Softer tannins result in a shorter optimal aging period; still develop complexity with age but typically peak around 5 years.

To get the most out of your aged wines, it’s essential to store them properly.

Both Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec should be kept at a consistent temperature (around 55°F) with moderate humidity levels (50-70%). Additionally, ensure that your wine is stored away from direct sunlight or other sources of heat that could negatively impact the quality as it matures (source).

By following these guidelines, you’ll have an enjoyable experience when it’s time to uncork your aged Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec.

Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon both have the potential to develop pleasingly over time, yet their aging processes can be distinct in certain ways. As such, it is important to consider how the average price of these two wines compares when making a purchasing decision.

How Does the Average Price of Malbec Compare to Cabernet Sauvignon?

When it comes to price, there is a noticeable difference between Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon.

While you can find good bottles of each wine for under $20, many high-quality Cabs are priced higher than that, fetching upwards of $50 or more. This can be attributed to factors such as production costs, grape variety scarcity, and regional demand.

In contrast, Malbec is generally more affordable, with many excellent bottles in the $15-$30 range.

The lower price point makes this varietal an attractive option for both casual drinkers and wine enthusiasts alike. Some reasons behind its affordability include increased production in recent years – particularly in Argentina – and less expensive land prices compared to regions like Napa Valley.

  • Affordable Malbec options: Look for wines from Mendoza or Salta regions in Argentina. Brands like Alamos Seleccion ($17) and Catena ($24) offer great value.
  • Budget-friendly Cabernet Sauvignons: Seek out lesser-known regions like Chile’s Maipo Valley or South Africa’s Stellenbosch area where quality Cabs can be found at reasonable prices (e.g., Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha – around $22).

If you’re interested in exploring these two popular red wines without breaking the bank, consider trying different brands from various parts of the world. By doing so, you’ll not only expand your palate but also discover some hidden gems that won’t hurt your wallet.

Of course, in either case, if you buy it at Trader Joe’s, the wine will be dirt cheap!

But why are Trader Joe’s wines so cheap? Are they inferior? Click that link to read the whole story in another article on my website where I break down the whole truth about Trader Joe’s wine prices.

What Foods Pair Best With Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec Wines?

The acidity of Cabernet Sauvignon makes it an excellent choice for pairing with rich, fatty meats. Pairing Cabernet Sauvignon with food can include prime rib, steak, beef roast, and lamb roast for their full-bodied flavors that harmonize well with the tannins and acidity of the wine. The bold flavors in these dishes are complemented by the wine’s tannins and acidity.

In addition to meat-based dishes, Cabernet Sauvignon also pairs beautifully with garlic and herbs.

This compatibility brings out the best in French and Italian cuisine as well as carb-heavy meals like pasta. For more food pairing ideas specifically tailored to Cabernet Sauvignon wines, check out our dedicated guide.

Malbec, on the other hand, is better suited for game birds and lean meats such as venison or hanger steak due to its moderate tannins and fruity flavor profile. Salty cheeses like blue cheese or aged cheddar make great accompaniments too.

  • Cabernet Sauvignon pairings:
    • Fatty meats (prime rib, ribeye)
    • Garlic-herb dishes (French/Italian cuisine)
    • Pasta dishes
  • Malbec pairings:
    • Game birds (quail, pheasant)
    • Lean meats (venison, hanger steak)
    • Salty cheeses (blue cheese, aged cheddar)

When it comes to selecting a wine for your meal, take into account individual preferences and be open to discovering the ideal combination. Don’t be timid to try different combinations and discover the ideal blend for your palate.


How does Malbec compare to Cabernet?

Malbec is generally fruitier and softer in tannins compared to Cabernet Sauvignon, which tends to have more structure and complexity. Malbec often exhibits flavors of plum, black cherry, and spice while Cabernet Sauvignon showcases notes of blackcurrant, cedar, and green bell pepper. Both wines are full-bodied with good aging potential.

What is the difference between Malbec and Cabernet Malbec?

Cabernet Malbec is a blend that combines both grape varieties – typically featuring a higher percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon than Malbec. This blend aims to balance the boldness of Cabernet Sauvignon with the fruity softness of Malbec for a harmonious wine experience.

What is the earthiest red wine?

The earthiest red wines are usually those from Old World regions, such as Burgundy (Pinot Noir) or Barolo (Nebbiolo). These wines tend to exhibit strong terroir characteristics like forest floor, mushroom, truffle, or wet leaves along with their fruit profiles.

Is Cabernet Sauvignon lighter than Malbec?

No, generally speaking, Cabernet Sauvignon has a fuller body compared to most Malbecs due to its higher tannin content providing more structure. However, individual expressions may vary depending on factors such as regionality or winemaking techniques employed by producers.


After learning about the differences and similarities between Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec wines, it’s clear that these two varietals offer unique experiences for wine lovers. While both are dry red wines with high alcohol content, their origins, flavor profiles, aging potential, and price points differ significantly.

If you’re looking to pair a bold red wine with a hearty meal or enjoy a glass on its own, consider trying both Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec to see which one suits your palate best. And next time you visit your local grocery store or wine shop, impress the staff by asking for recommendations based on what you’ve learned about these two popular varietals.

Jeff Campbell

Hi! I'm Jeff Campbell. I was a leader for Whole Foods Market for over 2 decades. I worked in 9 stores in 4 states, not counting the hundred-plus stores I've assisted in other ways. I was a Global All-Star, a Gold Pen Winner, and won Top-10 Store (company-wide) 3 times in addition to Best New Store (company-wide).

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