Zinfandel Vs Cabernet Sauvignon (7 Key Differences)

    Zinfandel Vs Cabernet Sauvignon Guide

    When the weather’s not at its best, or the day has been longer than you would like, there’s nothing quite like pouring yourself a glass of red wine in the evening

    But are all red wines the same? 

    Let’s take a look at Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.

    Zinfandel vs Cabernet Sauvignon: Key Differences

    At first glance it can be very easy to confuse the two, so what are the key differences between Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon?

    The best way to do this is to assess the wines side by side and see how the qualities of Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon compare to one another.

    • Let’s start with tannins. Both Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel wines have medium-high tannins. Their respective winemaking processes may impact which wine has the smoother tannins.
    • Both Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon make dry red wines, so it’s helpful to know that sometimes Zinfandel has brighter fruit flavours, such as strawberry.

    So how do these facts help us compare Zinfandel with Cabernet Sauvignon?

    Asking how to compare Zinfandel with Cabernet Sauvignon can appear daunting at first. It’s important to remember that most Sommeliers and Masters of Wine take years, if not decades, to master the art of telling wines apart.

    A good place to start is looking at where the grapes grow.

    1. Origins

    Cabernet Sauvignon is very much a French wine and most Cabernet Sauvignon is made in a similar style.

    Zinfandel, on the other hand, grows predominantly in the USA.

    Although the grape originates in Croatia, it has found great success in making red and pink wines in the US as well as making red wines in Italy, where it is commonly labelled under its Italian name, Primitivo.

    Names and locations are very important in comparing Zinfandel with Cabernet Sauvignon, but what about taste? Does Cabernet Sauvignon taste sweeter than Zinfandel?

    Which One Is Sweeter Or Drier Than The Other?

    Is Zinfandel sweeter than Cabernet Sauvignon? Or is it the other way around

    Both Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon make dry red wines. However, Zinfandel is also used to make White Zinfandel and, in this case, White Zinfandel will be sweeter than Cabernet Sauvignon.

    It’s important then, to check the labels when comparing Zinfandel with Cabernet Sauvignon. That one little word, White, makes all the difference between one being sweeter than the other.

    Now we know how their sweetness compares, what about alcohol? Is Cabernet Sauvignon more alcoholic than Zinfandel?

    Alcohol Content

    How do the alcohol levels of Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon compare?

    As a rule, Zinfandel has a higher alcohol content than Cabernet Sauvignon.

    Whereas most Cabernet Sauvignons fall between the 13.5-15% ABV mark, Zinfandel consistently makes wines above 15% ABV.

    So when comparing Zinfandel with Cabernet Sauvignon, taking alcohol levels into consideration can be a huge help.

    But if there are all these differences between Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon, how do you choose between them? Should you drink Cabernet Sauvignon or should you drink Zinfandel?

    How Do I Choose Between Them?

    This is the fun part, because the only person who can determine right or wrong between Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel is you and your tastebuds.

    It’s worth trying both wines at least once so that you know where your personal preferences lie. But if you want something powerful and rich with an alcohol content to match then a Zinfandel may be the best bet.

    Alternatively, for something more classically French, a Cabernet Sauvignon never misses. It’s not one of the most popular red wines in the world for nothing.

    Why not try a glass of each when you’re next out for dinner or drinks and see which one you prefer.

    Before You Go... 

    We hope this provides you all the information you may need on telling the difference between Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.

    If you have any questions, leave them in the comments, or email us at

    If you want to learn more about other types, consider our related blog posts:

    You can also shop new wine coolers online at

    philip thompson Author: Philip Thompson
    Philip is the General Manager at Expert Wine Storage, and is very knowledgable about all things relating to wine and wine storage, including wine fridges. He is regularly featured in media outlets sharing his knowledge on wine. Connect on Linkedin

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