Malbec vs Cabernet Sauvignon: Compare 2 Popular Wines

malbec vs cabernet sauvignon: a person holding a bottle of wine in their hand
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Ready to find out the difference between malbec vs cabernet sauvignon so you can pick the best wine for your next dinner, event or just a simple night in? We’ve got you covered.

The world of red wines is as diverse as it is fascinating. Among the myriad options available to wine lovers, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon have carved out their own distinct niches.

The choice between these two can sometimes be confusing though. Let’s compare these two popular red wines, offering a comprehensive comparison and look into their origins, grape characteristics, tasting notes, and much more.

Malbec Vs Cabernet Sauvignon: The Origin Story

The historical roots of any wine can offer intriguing insights into its current characteristics. Malbec, originally a French grape, has found its most successful expression in the vineyards of Argentina. Cabernet Sauvignon, also a French native, has become a global phenomenon, grown in various wine regions from California to South Africa.

  • Malbec: Originated in the Bordeaux region of France but has found its true calling in Argentina, especially in regions like Mendoza.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: A Bordeaux native as well, this grape has successfully adapted to various climates and soils around the world.

The Grapes Behind the Wines

grapes for making malbec and cabernet

Understanding the grapes used in Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon can significantly influence your appreciation of these wines. Malbec grapes are generally thin-skinned and high in juice content, which often results in a wine that is less tannic but rich in flavor. In contrast, Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are thicker-skinned, resulting in a wine that is more robust and tannic.

  • Malbec Grapes: Known for their thin skins and susceptibility to environmental factors, which often leads to a less tannic but fruit-forward wine.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon Grapes: These grapes are hardier with thicker skins, contributing to the wine’s robust nature and higher tannin levels.

Tasting Notes

a person pouring red cabernet wine into wine glasses

Flavor is, of course, a significant factor when choosing a wine. Malbec is generally softer on the palate, offering fruity notes of blackberry and plum. Cabernet Sauvignon, on the other hand, is more structured and complex, featuring flavors like black currant, green bell pepper, and sometimes even tobacco or leather.

  • Malbec: Often described as plush and velvety, with dominant fruit flavors like plum, black cherry, and raspberry.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: Known for its complexity, offering a range of flavors from fruity to herbal and even earthy tones.

Aroma and Color

The sensory experience of wine isn’t just about taste; aroma and color play crucial roles too. Malbec wines tend to have a deep purple hue and are often associated with floral and red fruit aromas. Cabernet Sauvignons are usually darker, almost inky in color, and their aroma profile is more complex, often featuring notes of black fruit, tobacco, and sometimes even leather.

  • Malbec: Deep purple in color, with aromas ranging from red fruits like raspberry to floral notes like violet.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: Darker, almost black in some instances, with a complex aroma profile that can include black currant, tobacco, and spices.

Alcohol Content and Body

The body and alcohol content of a wine can greatly affect its mouthfeel and the overall drinking experience. Malbec wines usually have a medium body with moderate alcohol content, making them easier to drink. Cabernet Sauvignons are generally full-bodied with higher alcohol content, providing a more intense experience.

  • Malbec: Typically medium-bodied with alcohol content ranging from 13-14%.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: Usually full-bodied, with alcohol content that can go up to 15% or more.

Food Pairings

cabernet wine food pairing

The right food pairing can elevate your wine-drinking experience to new heights. Malbec, with its softer tannins and fruity profile, pairs excellently with grilled meats and hearty stews. Cabernet Sauvignon, being a more robust wine, goes well with steaks and more complex dishes like beef bourguignon.

  • Malbec: Ideal with grilled meats, barbecue, and even pizza.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: Best paired with red meats, especially steak, and complex dishes with rich sauces.

My Personal Take: The Similarities That Make Them Favorites

As someone who enjoys a good glass of wine, I find both Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon to be remarkably similar in ways that make them my go-to choices, whether I’m purchasing a bottle for home or ordering at a restaurant. Here’s my personal take on why these two wines hold a special place in my wine rack and my heart.

The Comfort Factor Both Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon offer a certain level of comfort and familiarity. They’re like old friends who never disappoint. Whether I’m enjoying a casual dinner or celebrating a special occasion, I find both wines to be reliable picks that enhance the moment.

  • Malbec: Its fruit-forward profile makes it an easy and enjoyable drink, especially when I’m in the mood for something less complex.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: Its structured and robust nature offers a different kind of comfort, like a warm, weighted blanket on a cold night.

Versatility in Pairing One of the reasons these wines are my favorites is their versatility with food. I love that I can pair Malbec with a simple barbecue dinner and Cabernet Sauvignon with a more elaborate steak meal, and both will shine in their own right.

  • Malbec: Perfect for grilled meats and even pizza, making it a versatile choice for various occasions.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: Its complexity pairs well with rich sauces and red meats, elevating any dining experience.

The “Anytime, Anywhere” Appeal What truly makes Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon stand out for me is their adaptability to any situation. Whether it’s a quiet evening at home, a dinner party with friends, or a meal at a fancy restaurant, both wines fit the bill effortlessly.

  • Malbec: Its approachable nature makes it a great choice for casual settings.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: The wine’s complexity and depth make it suitable for more formal occasions as well.

The Verdict

a person holding a bottle of wine in their hand

Choosing between Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon ultimately boils down to personal preference, as both offer unique and enjoyable experiences. However, understanding their differences—from grape characteristics to flavor profiles and ideal food pairings—can help you make a more informed choice.

  • Malbec: Best for those who prefer a softer, fruitier wine.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: Ideal for those who appreciate a more structured, complex wine.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

In this section, we’ll tackle some specific questions that often come up when discussing Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. Whether you’re looking to refine your wine palate or just curious about these two popular reds, these FAQs should offer some quick insights.

1. Which is sweeter, Malbec or Cabernet?

  • Malbec: Generally considered to be fruitier, which may give the impression of sweetness. However, most Malbec wines are dry.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: Typically more structured and less fruity, also usually dry.

2. What is the classiest red wine?

  • Classiness: The term “classy” can be subjective and often depends on personal preference, occasion, and even regional wine trends. However, wines like Bordeaux blends, which often include Cabernet Sauvignon, are frequently considered high-end and sophisticated.

3. Is Malbec dry or sweet?

  • Malbec: Most Malbec wines are dry, although the fruit-forward flavor profile can sometimes give the impression of sweetness. There are some dessert Malbecs that are intentionally made to be sweet, but these are less common.


This article has endeavored to offer a comprehensive, side-by-side comparison of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. Whether you’re new to the world of wines or looking to expand your existing knowledge, we hope this guide has been informative.