You know that you have a challenge when even a Master of Wine admits he sometimes has trouble identifying Australian Shiraz vs. Australian Cabernet Sauvignon.
Australian Shiraz vs. Australian Cabernet Sauvignon are both very similar – at least my samples, which are Barossa Valley Estate Shiraz 2013 and The Cover Drive Jim Barry 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon.
Both Australian Shiraz vs. Australian Cabernet Sauvignon have that “mint” aroma and flavor typical of Australia and especially McLaren Vale.
Both have intense black fruit (blackberry, black currant, black cherry, sweet vanilla from oak, spice, high alcoohol (13.5 Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.0 Shiraz).
Black fruit, ripe pungent flavors, high-ish alcohol, zesty acidity, pronounced firm tannins — yep.
So what separates them?
Again, it can be these two samples (even the bottle designs look similar, and the price for both are about $20).
But for me, the only real difference is a subtle violet and ripe plum character on the Shiraz, that is not present on the Cabernet Sauvignon. There is also a green peppercorn and cracked pepper on the Cabernet Sauvignon, but hold up — cracked black pepper is supposed to be a marker for the Shiraz!
At this point, I supposed it’s all about private markers. The Shiraz sort of boldly announces itself in an outspoken, strident way as a jammy, fruit forward, “typical” Shiraz. If the wine could be personified by a color, it is “purple” … the violet aromas, the slight inky flavor, the sharp pointed acidity, slight chocolate (the cabernet sauvignon doesn’t have chocolate at all). It is also a strident wine, whereas the cabernet sauvignon is more restrained in flavor (for an Australian wine) with more graphite notes.
What is your experience?