Sangiovese, an Italian red grape variety, and Cabernet Sauvignon, a French grape renowned for its international appeal, are two prominent figures in the world of wine. Sangiovese, known for its spicy flavors and high acidity, is the backbone of notable Italian wines like Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino. On the other hand, Cabernet Sauvignon, with its full-bodied structure and flavors of blackcurrant and plum, is integral in iconic Bordeaux blends and popular standalone wines.
In this comparison, we will explore the origins, characteristics, and wine-making processes of each variety. Furthermore, we will examine how these variables influence the taste, texture, and pairing suitability of the wines produced from these illustrious grape varieties.
What’s Sangiovese Wine?
Sangiovese, originating in Tuscany, Italy, is a revered grape variety known for its late ripening. Flourishing in the warm Mediterranean climate, it is resilient against diseases and pests. The name Sangiovese holds poetic significance, translating to “blood of Jove” or “blood of Jupiter,” referencing the ancient Roman god. This noble grape has played a vital role in Italian winemaking since the time of the Etruscans, gaining prominence during the Renaissance.
Sangiovese grapes produce medium-bodied wines with high acidity and moderate tannins. The flavors and aromas present in Sangiovese wines can range from ripe red and black fruits to savory herbs and spices. The primary flavors associated with Sangiovese include sour cherry, red plum, strawberry, and earthy notes.
Sangiovese, a prominent grape variety, thrives in central Italy, particularly in Tuscany. Notable regions like Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, and Montepulciano produce exceptional Sangiovese wines. It is also grown in Emilia-Romagna, Umbria, Marche, Argentina, Australia, and California. Sangiovese’s character varies with terroir, showcasing opulent fruit flavors in warmer regions and vibrant acidity in cooler areas. Soil composition influences the wine’s mineral or robust characteristics, with limestone and clay playing key roles.
Sangiovese Varietal Wines
Sangiovese can be vinified as a single varietal wine or blended with other grapes, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Canaiolo. The most prominent Italian Sangiovese wines include Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and Morellino di Scansano.
100% Sangiovese wines
The Sangiovese grape is the star of prestigious wines like Brunello di Montalcino and Rosso di Montalcino. With strict regulations, these wines must be made exclusively from Sangiovese grapes and bear the esteemed “DOCG” designation. Known for their deep ruby color, high acidity, and bold tannins, these Montalcino wines offer a harmonious blend of ripe red and black fruits, earthy notes, and spice.
Blends featuring Sangiovese
Sangiovese is a versatile grape that blends harmoniously with other varieties. In Chianti blends, it is combined with red and sometimes white grapes to create softer, fruit-forward wines. In Super Tuscan blends, Sangiovese pairs with international varieties for robust, fruit-flavored wines with a new-world charm.
60–68°F / 15-20°C
- GLASS TYPE
What’s Cabernet Sauvignon Wine?
Cabernet Sauvignon, one of the world’s most popular and widely planted grapes, originated in Bordeaux, France, in the 17th century. This grape is a result of an accidental cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. The name Cabernet Sauvignon translates to “wild or coarse Cabernet,” alluding to the grape’s hardy nature and thick, tough skin. This grape quickly gained popularity in Bordeaux blends, becoming an essential component of the famous Left Bank wines.
Cabernet Sauvignon produces full-bodied wines with bold tannins and intense flavors. The distinct blackcurrant, plum, and dark cherry flavors are often accompanied by notes of cedar, tobacco, and sometimes mint. On the palate, Cabernet Sauvignon wines are rich and powerful, often with a long finish.
Cabernet Sauvignon Terroirs
Cabernet Sauvignon is a truly global variety, found in almost all the major wine-growing regions around the world. Bordeaux, in Southwest France, is the birthplace of Cabernet Sauvignon and remains its most important region. Here, it is the dominant grape in the Medoc area on the Left Bank, contributing to some of the most prestigious Bordeaux blends. In New World regions, especially California’s Napa Valley and Australia’s Coonawarra and Margaret River, Cabernet Sauvignon thrives and creates some of the world’s most sought-after wines. Other notable regions include Chile’s Maipo Valley, South Africa’s Stellenbosch, and Italy’s Super Tuscan regions.
Cabernet Sauvignon Varietal Wines
Cabernet Sauvignon is primarily known as a single-varietal wine, and many regions have strict regulations that require wines labeled as “Cabernet Sauvignon” to contain at least 75% of this grape. However, it is also commonly blended with other varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot.
100% Cabernet Sauvignon wines
Cabernet Sauvignon varietal wines are celebrated for their extraordinary depth and complexity. These wines, characterized by their opaque, inky color, are usually full-bodied with high tannin and alcohol levels. The flavor profile of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wines often includes blackcurrant, plum, and black cherry, complemented by secondary notes of cedar, tobacco, and spices.
With age, these wines develop further complexity, introducing nuances of leather, smoke, and dark chocolate.
Blends featuring Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon’s robust structure and rich flavors make it an excellent grape for blending. In Bordeaux, it is traditionally blended with Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and smaller amounts of Petit Verdot and Malbec to create balanced, complex wines.
In the New World, particularly in California, Cabernet Sauvignon is often blended with Merlot and Cabernet Franc in a Bordeaux-style blend, or with Syrah for a more innovative blend. These blends are known for their plush fruit flavors, well-integrated tannins, and long, satisfying finish.
- Black Currant
- Black Cherry
60–68°F / 15-20°C
Sangiovese vs. Cabernet Sauvignon Wine Taste
Flavor Profile and Aromas
Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon, although both red wines have distinct aroma and flavor characteristics. Sangiovese delivers an aromatic burst of ripe red and black fruits, such as cherries and plums, complemented by earthy, herbal notes, and a hint of balsamic. The taste is vibrant and layered, with a fitting acidity that lingers on the palate, making it an excellent companion for food.
On the other hand, Cabernet Sauvignon entices the senses with a more robust aroma profile, featuring dark fruits like blackcurrant and plum, accentuated with cedar wood, tobacco, and occasionally, a touch of mint. Its taste is characterized by its full-bodied richness, bold tannins, and long finish, asserting it as a wine that can stand its ground, even with hearty, flavorful dishes.
Tannin Levels and Acidity
As for tannin levels and acidity, both Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon are notable, but in differing manners.
Sangiovese is renowned for its high acidity, which delivers a vibrant, tangy mouthfeel. This Italian grape also has moderate tannins, which contribute to its texture and aging potential.
Cabernet Sauvignon, on the other hand, is known for its hefty tannin content, which gives the wine its signature structure and considerable aging potential. Additionally, it has moderate acidity, which balances the fruit flavors and tannins, making the wine well-rounded.
Both Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon wines have excellent aging potential, but again, in different ways.
Sangiovese wines are best enjoyed young, within 3-5 years of vintage. In this stage, they exhibit their vibrant fruit flavors and crisp acidity that make them perfect for pairing with food. However, when aged for 10+ years, Sangiovese wines develop further complexity and smoothness, making them excellent for sipping on their own.
On the other hand, Cabernet Sauvignon is known for its ability to age gracefully over decades. Premium Cabernet Sauvignon wines from top regions like Bordeaux and Napa Valley can continue to improve in the bottle for 20-30 years or more, developing secondary and tertiary flavors that add layers of complexity to the wine.
Sangiovese’s high acidity and vibrant fruit flavors make it a versatile wine when it comes to food pairing. It pairs exceptionally well with tomato-based dishes, such as pasta with marinara sauce or pizza. Its tangy acidity also complements foods that have an acidic component like lemon chicken or vinaigrette dressings.
Cabernet Sauvignon, being a full-bodied wine with bold tannins, pairs well with equally rich and hearty dishes. Its structure and depth make it an ideal pairing for red meat, such as steak or roasted lamb. The wine’s tannic grip also helps cut through the richness of fatty foods like cheese or charcuterie.
Which is better for aging, Sangiovese or Cabernet Sauvignon?
Both wines have excellent aging potential but in different ways. Sangiovese is best enjoyed young within 3-5 years of vintage, while Cabernet Sauvignon can continue to improve in the bottle for 20-30 years or more.
Can Sangiovese be blended with other varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon?
Yes, Sangiovese is often blended with other grape varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, to add complexity and balance to the wine. This blend is commonly known as a Super Tuscan.
Can Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon wines be paired with the same foods?
While both wines pair well with food, they have different flavor profiles that may complement certain dishes better. Sangiovese’s high acidity makes it an ideal pairing for tomato-based dishes and acidic foods like vinaigrette dressings, while Cabernet Sauvignon’s bold tannins and depth make it a perfect match for red meat and rich, hearty dishes. Ultimately, the best pairing will depend on personal taste preferences.
What wines are similar to Sangiovese?
Sangiovese is often compared to other Italian red wines, such as Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino. These wines are made primarily from Sangiovese grapes and share similar flavor profiles but may exhibit varying levels of tannins and acidity depending on the specific terroir and winemaking techniques used.
What is the Italian equivalent of Cabernet Sauvignon?
Cabernet Sauvignon is produced in various regions across Italy, but the closest equivalent may be the wine made from a grape variety called Cabernet Franc. This grape is commonly used in blends with Sangiovese and other Italian varieties and shares similar flavor profiles to Cabernet Sauvignon, including bold tannins and dark fruit flavors.
What wine is 100% Sangiovese grapes?
The wine traditionally made with 100% Sangiovese grapes is called a Rosso di Montalcino, which is produced in the Tuscan region of Montalcino. This region is known for producing some of Italy’s most renowned Sangiovese wines, including the Brunello di Montalcino and Rosso di Montalcino. Other regions may also produce 100% Sangiovese wines under different names, such as Morellino di Scansano from the Maremma region in Tuscany.
Is Sangiovese wine sweet or dry?
Sangiovese wines are typically dry, meaning they contain very little residual sugar. However, the level of perceived sweetness may vary depending on the specific terroir and winemaking techniques used. Some Sangiovese wines may have a slightly sweeter taste due to their fruity aromas, while others may exhibit a more savory and earthy character without any noticeable sweetness.
Is Sangiovese like Shiraz?
While both Sangiovese and Shiraz (also known as Syrah) are red wines, they come from different grape varieties and have distinct flavor profiles. Sangiovese is a medium-bodied wine with high acidity and notes of tart cherry, while Shiraz is full-bodied with lower acidity and flavors of dark fruits like blackberry and plum.