Malbec vs. Cabernet Sauvignon – What’s the Difference?

malbec vs cabernet sauvignon

There are many different varietals of wine available and while some may appear similar, you’ll find distinct tastes and flavor profiles within each one. Because there are so many different options available to wine drinkers, not everyone knows what the difference is between different varietals.

Just because two wines happen to be the same color doesn’t mean that they have the same taste or flavor profiles. It’s important to understand what types of grapes were used as well as the winemaker’s process. Different aging techniques and fermentation processes can all lead to a slightly different overall taste, even within the same varietal.

Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon are two of those wines that people often like to compare to each other even though they each have their own distinct tastes.  While there are some similarities between the two, let’s take a look at what makes these wines stand on their own.

Malbec vs. Cabernet Sauvignon

While some people just assume a red wine is a red wine, we know that couldn’t be further from the truth. Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, while both dry red wines, have many differences that set them apart from each other.

Grape Varietals and Wine Colors

One of the most obvious differences between Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon is that they are produced using different grape varietals. While the Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes both hail from different regions in France, the Malbec grape is much darker which gives Malbec that darker, deep purple/red look when in the glass.

Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are from the coveted Bordeaux region in France and is known for its thicker skin which adds to a dark red, almost black color.

Taste and Flavor Profile

Malbec wine can be described as having a more velvety taste to it. It’s a little smoother than the Cabernet Sauvignon and not quite as dry. You’ll find hints of fruitiness in the flavor ranging from blackberries and plums to even a bit of chocolate or coffee flavor.

The Cabernet Sauvignon is bolder than the Malbec and is a bit more dry due to the tannins present. This wine has more of a firm feel in your mouth with notes of darker fruits like blackcurrant as well as some more earthy tones at times. If you’re looking for a slightly more bold wine, then you’ll want to go with the Cabernet Sauvignon.

Aging of the Wine

Winemakers strive to give you the best tastes and flavors from their wine when it is first purchased, but that doesn’t mean that modern wines don’t age well. Both of these wines will be delicious when opened right after purchasing, but the Cabernet Sauvignon will benefit more from aging that the Malbec.

Malbec is best enjoyed while they are still young. Typically you’ll want to open a bottle of Malbec within the first few years of bottling, as they don’t age as well as some other wines. There’s nothing wrong with aging a Malbec, but you’re typically not going to pull more flavor out of them by aging them for 5-10 years.

Cabernet Sauvignon is the opposite. This wine will age gracefully as it sits in a nice dark wine cellar for years. If you’re looking for a good wine for aging, then Cabernet Sauvignon is one that can be enhanced after 5-10 years of aging and some high-quality Cabernet Sauvignon’s can be enjoyed after being aged for decades.

Food and Wine Pairings

Both of these wines are dry red wines which means that their food pairings do have some overlap. Either of these wines would go great with grilled red meats, a nice steak, or a good burger. Malbec tends to go a little better with a variety of other foods such as pizza and comfort foods, while a Cabernet Sauvignon will pair better with heartier foods like stews or lamb dishes.

The best way to figure out what food pairs best with these types of wines is to try them with a variety of different foods. While food and wine pairing has been discussed over and over when it comes to wine, the only true way to figure out what food pairs well with the wine you like, is to experiment.

Not everyone has the same tastes that you do, so what pairs well for one person may not pair well for you.

Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon

While these two wines may share a similar hue when poured into a glass and may pair well with red meat, that’s about where the similarities end. If you’re looking for a fruitier, more relaxed, wine, then the Malbec may be up your alley. But if you’re looking for something a little more refined, sometimes seen as a bit “fancier”, then the Cabernet Sauvignon is what you should be pouring.

Wine, just like all food and drink, is subjective to the person experiencing it. If you prefer to drink Malbec then by all means enjoy that glass of Malbec. And if Cabernet Sauvignon is more your style, enjoy that glass and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Wine should make you happy and make you feel good. There is no wrong way to experience a good glass of wine.