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Tempranillo vs Cabernet Sauvignon

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Similarities of Tempranillo & Cabernet Sauvignon

Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon are red grape varietals, originating from Spain and France respectively. They form the basis for some of the best red wines in the world, including Rioja wines from the north of Spain, and Cabernet-based Bordeaux and Napa Valley blends. 

In terms of body, tannin content and acidity, Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon are pretty similar. Good examples of both wines can be cellared for 20 years or more, and both of the varietals respond well to oak aging, picking up some interesting characteristics, including notes of vanilla and spice. 

Differences of Tempranillo Versus Cabernet Sauvignon

Tempranillo is the most important grape variety in Spain and is the main grape used in the production of Rioja and Ribera del Duero. Cabernet Sauvignon, on the other hand, is a grape variety that was originally from Bordeaux in France but now it is widely grown all over the world. It is famed for its robustness, and ability to survive in unfavorable conditions. 

They range between medium and full-bodied, and show similar tannic content, although Tempranillo’s structure could be described as slightly smoother. Cabernet Sauvignon leans more towards the bold side than Tempranillo, though these characteristics vary a lot. Tempranillo from higher altitudes may be just as bold and rich as a Cabernet. 

How To Distinguish Between Tempranillo & Cabernet Sauvignon

In a blind tasting, Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon shouldn’t be too difficult to tell apart – although the details of their character largely depend on terroir and production techniques. Tempranillo is more likely to show hints of smoke, dill and spice, with a fleshy fruit character. Meanwhile, Cabernet Sauvignon is more likely to have herbal notes, including mint and eucalyptus, as well as some vegetal bell pepper notes and a distinctly angular mouthfeel.

Another difference can be found on the nose. Tempranillo is relatively neutral in scent and flavour, which is why you will often find it blended with small portions of other varietals or aged in oak. Cabernet Sauvignon, on the other hand, is relatively aromatic and generous with its bouquet. 

Tempranillo vs Cabernet Sauvignon Comparison Chart

Characteristic Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon
Sweetness Dry Dry
Acidity Medium – High Medium-High
Tannins Medium Medium-High
Body Medium – Full Full
Tasting Notes Red and black fruits – fleshy fruit notes with flavours of spice/pepper, dill and smoke. Black fruits – blackcurrants, blackberries and black cherries. Bell pepper, mint, eucalyptus and earthiness.
Popularity 18,100 Monthly Searches 90,500 Monthly Searches
Calories Per Glass 113 calories 120 calories
ABV % 13 – 15% 13.5 – 14.5%

Pairing Food With Tempranillo & Cabernet Sauvignon

Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon are both natural pairings for meat. Along with their red fruit flavours, they can contain a lot of herbal and smokey complexity, which is a beautiful trait to look for when pairing with meats and sauces. To be more specific, think about pairing these wines with steaks, barbecued meats, or roasted and seasoned vegetables.