Zinfandel Vs. Cabernet Sauvignon

Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon are red wines originating from Croatia and France, respectively. Today, Zinfandel is primarily grown in California, and Cabernet Sauvignon is grown all over the world. Cabernet Sauvignon is nearly always a very dry wine, but Zinfandel ranges from semi-sweet to dry. Both wines are very high in alcohol without going into fortified wines, sometimes reaching up to 17% ABV.

What Is Similar About Zinfandel Vs. Cabernet Sauvignon?

Both Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel are red wines that are popular outside of their originating countries. Zinfandel, in particular, is primarily considered a US wine now. These wines are very high in alcohol, especially in drier versions. Cabernet Sauvignon can have bold cherry flavors and black currant and blackberry. Sometimes it has a notable bell pepper flavor, which some people highly prize. Likewise, Zinfandel is also a fruity wine with flavors like jam, blueberry, cherry, and cranberry, but it can also have notes of black pepper.

Both wines can be described as bold, but they are great choices when exploring red wines.

What Is The Difference Between Zinfandel Vs. Cabernet Sauvignon?

Zinfandel is usually lighter in color than Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s also lighter in body, although it has a bold taste. Zinfandel is also considered California’s flagship grape because over 10 percent of its vineyards grow it. And it didn’t gain extreme popularity until making its way to the United States. However, Zinfandel actually originates from Croatia, which is quite rare for a wine grape. Its notable regions are California, Apulia, and Dalmatia. This grape almost reached extinction in the United States because of the prohibition era. Its popularity today can be partially attributed to a British wine writer who described it as “fascinating” and grown nowhere else in the world.

Cabernet Sauvignon is firmly a French wine despite being grown all over the world. It became popular because of France and spread from there. It differs from Zinfandel which did not have worldwide popularity until it left its country of origin.

Which One Is Sweeter Or Drier Than The Other?

Both Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon can be quite dry. This doesn’t mean you can’t find sweeter versions of both, only that they’re generally not considered sweet wines. Sweeter versions are made from late harvests and if you’re interested in those, try Herzog’s Late Harvest Zinfandel Sweet Red Wine. Of course, with sweeter wines comes less alcohol, so Herzog’s sweet Zinfandel only has 9% ABV.

In general, Cabernet Sauvignon is drier than Zinfandel.

Which One Has More Alcohol Content?

In general, California wines and New World wines tend to be higher in alcohol than Old World wines. So Zinfandel often has more alcohol than Cabernet Sauvignon, typically anywhere from 13.5% to 16% ABV, but there are outliers on both ends. Cabernet Sauvignon usually doesn’t have higher than 15%, with 12.5% to 13.5% being more in line with the norm.

How Do I Choose Between Zinfandel Vs. Cabernet Sauvignon?

Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon have many differences. So choosing between them is a matter of determining what’s most important to you. If you want a higher alcohol wine, Zinfandel is the clear choice. On the other hand, if you want a French wine or a wine with interesting flavors, then Cabernet Sauvignon is a good choice.

Summary

California wines were once snubbed by wine connoisseurs everywhere. So don’t be surprised, but you might still find people turning their nose up at Zinfandel. But truthfully, it’s a great wine with a rich history. Cabernet Sauvignon is a more traditional choice for dinner parties and get-togethers, but it’s not necessarily a “better” wine.