Malbec vs Cabernet Sauvignon: Comparing Two Wine Varieties

Two hands holding a glass of Malbec vs Cabernet Sauvignon wine

Have you ever been in the mood for some delectable red wine, but weren’t sure which exactly to pick? Well, you’re not alone. When it comes to choosing a glass (or bottle, no judgement here) of dry red wine to savor, the debate between Malbec vs Cabernet Sauvignon often comes up. 

Although they’re both red wines, they don’t taste the same as many imagine. Both of these full-bodied red wines have their own unique flavor profiles and characteristics, making them favorites among wine enthusiasts. 

Knowing the differences between Cabernet Sauvignon vs Malbec can help you make the perfect choice. In this article, you’ll learn about what sets these two wines apart, their tastes, food pairings, and more.

The Biggest Difference Between Malbec vs Cabernet Sauvignon

Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon wines come from different grapes and growing regions, leading to distinct differences in their flavors and characteristics. 

  • Malbec grapes, originally from the Bordeaux region of France, have found a new home in Argentina, where the grapes are grown at high altitudes. This environment gives Malbec wines their rich, dark fruit flavors and deep color. 
  • On the other hand, Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, a staple of Bordeaux, France, are known for their versatility and ability to thrive in various climates, especially warmer ones. This results in wines with high tannins and complex flavors.
  • Malbec tends to be softer and fruitier, while Cabernet Sauvignon is often more structured and tannic. 
  • The thick skin of Malbec grapes contributes to its dark color and full body, whereas Cabernet Sauvignon’s thick skin leads to high tannins and a robust structure. 
  • While Malbec is best enjoyed young, typically within a year or two of aging, Cabernet Sauvignon’s flavor improves after sitting in a dark wine cellar for years. 
Malbec vineyard

Taste Comparison

The tasting notes of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon are distinctly different, making them suitable for different occasions and palates. 

What Does Malbec Taste Like?

Malbec wines are known for their velvety smooth flavors of dark fruit like black cherry and plum, often with hints of black pepper and sometimes chocolate. The grapes are typically harvested at optimal ripeness to balance sugar and acidity, ensuring a smooth and fruity wine.  

In addition to its fruity flavors, Malbec wines from Argentina often exhibit a unique minerality due to the high-altitude vineyards where the grapes are grown. This minerality adds a refreshing aspect to the wine, balancing the bold fruit flavors and creating a harmonious taste.

Learn more about Malbec wines here

Cabernet Sauvignon Vineyard

What Does Cabernet Sauvignon Taste Like?

Cabernet Sauvignon, in contrast, offers a more varied flavor profile with notes of dark fruits as well, but also green bell pepper, blackcurrant, and sometimes a touch of mint. The high tannins in Cabernet Sauvignon give it a dry, structured feel that can age well and develop even more complex flavors over time. 

The high tannins and acidity in Cabernet Sauvignon give it a dry, structured taste that can be quite intense, especially in younger wines. This intensity can mellow out with aging, revealing more nuanced flavors like cedar, tobacco, and earthy undertones.

Learn more about Cabernet Sauvignon wines here

When comparing these varietals, you’ll notice that Malbec has a more approachable taste for new wine drinkers, whereas Cabernet Sauvignon is often appreciated by those who enjoy more complexity in their wines.

A glass of Malbec wine with food on a table

Malbec vs Cabernet Food Pairings

When it comes to food pairings, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon each have their strengths. Malbec wines, with their fruity flavors and soft tannins, are perfect for pairing with a variety of dishes. 

  • They go particularly well with grilled meats, roasted vegetables, and dishes with rich, savory sauces
  • The dark fruit and moderate acidity in Malbec complement the flavors of red meat, making it an excellent choice for steak, lamb, and even burgers.

Cabernet Sauvignon, with its high tannins and structured taste, pairs beautifully with re meat and rich, fatty foods. 

  • The tannins in Cabernet Sauvignon can cut through the richness of dishes like ribeye steak, prime rib, and hearty stews, enhancing the overall dining experience. 
  • The wine’s complex flavor profile also makes it a great match for aged cheeses, grilled mushrooms, and dishes with bold spices.


In the end, whether you choose Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon depends on your personal preference and the occasion. Malbec wines offer a fruity, approachable taste that’s perfect for casual gatherings and easy drinking, while Cabernet Sauvignon provides a more complex and structured experience ideal for special occasions and gourmet meals. Both wines have their own unique characteristics and can be enjoyed in different settings.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Malbec wine?

Malbec wine is a full-bodied red wine known for its dark fruit flavors and smooth texture, originally from the Bordeaux region of France but now primarily produced in Argentina.

Is Cabernet Sauvignon a red wine?

Yes, Cabernet Sauvignon is a red wine known for its high tannins, complex flavor profile, and ability to age well.  It is one of the most popular and widely recognized red wines in the world. 

Is Cabernet Sauvignon Sweet?

No, Cabernet Sauvignon is typically not sweet; it is known for its dry, bold flavor with high tannin levels. The wine often has fruity notes, but it finishes dry and smooth. 

Is Malbec sweet?

No, Malbec is generally a dry wine. It is appreciated for its deep color and rich, fruity flavors, but it has a dry finish.

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