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7 Cabernet Sauvignon Substitutes: Elevate the Wine Experience

Looking to switch up your wine game? Whether you’re fresh out of Cabernet Sauvignon or just craving something new, we’ve got you covered.

We’ve all faced that moment, staring at the wine rack without our beloved cab in sight. Don’t sweat it. We’ve tasted, studied, and gathered the best alternatives.

Get ready to sip smarter and elevate your wine experience without breaking a sweat. Let’s jump right into our top picks.

7 Easy Substitutes for Cabernet Sauvignon

For those with a deep love for the “King of Reds,” finding a suitable substitute can be daunting. But fear not, these options will have you saying “cab-who?” in no time.

SubstituteTasteTextureRatioSuitable Dish
MerlotFruity, smoothMedium-bodied1:1Red sauces, braised meats
Syrah/ShirazDark fruit, pepperyFull-bodied1:1Red meat dishes, BBQ
MalbecPlum, blackberryFull-bodied1:1Grilled meats, empanadas
Pinot NoirLight, earthyLight-bodied1:2Salmon, poultry, salads
GrenacheFruity, floralLight-bodied1:2Tapas, paella, fruit-based desserts
TempranilloEarthy, leatheryMedium-bodied1:1Spanish dishes, tapas, stews
ZinfandelFruity, spicyFull-bodied1:1BBQ, grilled meats, red sauces

1 – Merlot

Merlot is a great alternative to Cabernet Sauvignon. Its smooth texture and fruity flavors make it a hit at any dinner table. We love its plummy taste and hints of chocolate.

Merlot is less tannic than Cabernet, making it more approachable for casual sipping. It’s softer on the palate. This makes it ideal for pairing with dishes like roast chicken or grilled vegetables.

Here’s a handy tip: use Merlot in recipes calling for Cabernet. It works perfectly in a 1:1 ratio. Swap it in your favorite beef stew or hearty pasta sauce for a delightful twist.

2 – Syrah/Shiraz

Syrah, known as Shiraz in Australia, is a fantastic swap for Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s bold and spicy, with hints of black pepper and dark berries.

We love its rich, smoky finish. It packs flavor.

Syrah is more robust. It can handle hearty dishes like barbeque ribs or lamb chops.

Here’s a tip: Use Syrah in a 1:1 ratio for recipes needing Cabernet. It’s great in rich stews or savory meat sauces.

We’ve found it elevates beef bourguignon to a whole new level. Try it and see the difference.

3 – Malbec

Malbec is another fantastic choice. It’s fruit-forward with flavors of plum and blackberry.

The wine is smooth and has a slight spiciness.

You’ll find it’s similar to a Cab in its boldness but has a softer finish. It’s great with grilled meats or mushroom dishes.

Use Malbec in your beef stew or rich pasta sauce. Keep the ratio 1:1.

Personal favorite? We’ve subbed it in a BBQ sauce recipe. It added a rich depth we loved. Try it next time you’re out of Cab.

4 – Pinot Noir

Next, let’s talk about Pinot Noir. It’s lighter and fruitier than Cabernet, with bright flavors of cherry and raspberry. Perfect for those who prefer a softer red. It’s also got a bit of earthy complexity that keeps things interesting.

Use Pinot Noir in a 1:1 ratio for recipes calling for Cabernet Sauvignon. We’ve found it works wonders in lighter dishes like salmon or duck.

Pro tip: Sub Pinot Noir in beef stew for a delicious twist. It’s a game-changer for us. Interested in more options? Check out this Pinot Noir substitutes guide for extra ideas.

5 – Grenache

Grenache is an excellent option for those seeking a Cabernet substitute. Its juicy red berries flavour with a hint of spiciness makes it stand out. This wine is more on the fruity side, less tannic, and straightforward.

Ideal for lighter meals, it pairs nicely with grilled chicken or even a hearty salad. For cooking, use Grenache as a 1:1 substitute for Cabernet. We’ve tried it in tomato-based pasta sauces, and honestly, it’s a winner.

Grenache brings a fresh twist to classic dishes. It’s perfect for those casual, laid-back dinner nights.

6 – Tempranillo

Tempranillo is a solid choice. It has dark fruit flavors like cherry and plum. There’s a hint of leather and spice.

It’s bold but not overpowering. We love how it pairs with grilled sausages or tapas.

For cooking, use Tempranillo in a 1:1 ratio for Cabernet. It shines in recipes like paella or a rich tomato sauce.

Our team swapped it in a chili recipe—big hit at our last potluck! This wine brings a Spanish twist to your meals. Give it a try next time.

7 – Zinfandel

Zinfandel, it’s a bold choice. Think jammy berries with a hint of spice. It’s got this punch of flavor that stands out. We love it for its robust taste.

Perfect for BBQ dishes. It complements smoked ribs or grilled meats. And for cooking? Use it as a 1:1 swap for Cabernet. We tried Zinfandel in our chili recipe. It added a depth we weren’t expecting.

The wine’s full-bodied nature makes it a great substitute. For your rich stews or meaty sauces, it’s a go-to. We’re big fans of its versatility. Simple, yet flavorful.