Written by: Tim Edison

Updated: January 9, 2024

Ultimate Cabernet Sauvignon Food Guide [20 Divine Pairings]

Cabernet Sauvignon is, without a doubt, the most popular wine in the world. Its full body, plush tannins, and unmistakably bold fruit flavor make it an ideal wine for pairing with everything from oxtail to étouffée to the common dinner salad.

This guide covers everything you need to know about making the perfect Cabernet Sauvignon food pairing.

With tasting notes, regional differences, pairing tips, and tons of recommendations, we’ve got you covered!

What Does Cabernet Sauvignon Taste Like? 

To build the perfect pairing, we should first review what Cabernet Sauvignon tastes like and how different growing regions impact its flavor. 

Cabernet Sauvignon is a dry red wine with high tannins, medium to high acidity, and full in body.

All examples of Cabernet can be expected to have dark fruit flavors ranging from dark fruit to cooked dark fruit, along with pepper notes and a fair amount of oak flavor. 

Now, because Cabernet is so popular, it’s been grown in nearly every wine-producing region in the world, making for both cool and warm climate Cabernet, each with its preferred pairings.

Cool climate Cabernet will have more vegetal and green notes, as the grapes do not ripen to the fullest extent. Expect flavors of green bell pepper, fresh herbs, vanilla, and oak spices. 

Warmer climate Cabernet - the more preferred climate for Cabernet - exudes dark cherry, blackberry, plum, chocolate, and licorice flavors. Oak is prominent in both regions and offers a roundness to an otherwise sharply tannic wine. 

Related: How does Cabernet Sauvignon compare to similar reds like Malbec?

Bordeaux Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet's most prestigious growing region, Bordeaux, is its birthplace and makes for some of the most world-renowned red blends in the world.

Here, Cabernet is typically blended with Merlot and other red varietals, where Cabernet adds dark fruit and complexity, and increases the wines aging potential. 

Expect Bordeaux Cabernet Sauvignon to emphasize vegetal notes of bell pepper, dried herbs, violets, tobacco, licorice, and black cherry. 

Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Napa is the United States’ most prominent and award-winning wine-growing region, mainly due to its plantings of Cabernet.

Indeed, if Bordeaux is Cabernet’s birthplace, then Napa is its home away from home, as it accounts for 40% of all of Napa’s production. 

Expect Napa Cabernet to have dark fruit flavors of plum, red and black cherry, blackberry, black currant, licorice, and palpable oak flavor. 

For an excellent selection of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon at great prices I recommend trying Costco.

Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon

Chile is an excellent band-for-the-buck wine region, producing excellent examples of Cabernet Sauvignon and approachable price points.

Both as a single varietal and as a blend, Chilean Cabernet is rich with dark fruit flavor, candied fruit, and jammy notes. 

South Australian Cabernet Sauvignon

South Australia, especially Coonawarra and Margaret River, is known for producing outstanding examples of Cabernet.

These regions offer wines with wonderful minerality and notes of dried herbs and black cherry.

Australia is also the native home to the Eucalyptus tree, making for Cabernets with a delicate eucalyptus or mint flavor that’s wildly refreshing.

How to Pair Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is delicious and fruit-forward, making for an easy pairing with all sorts of dishes.

That being said, some factors should be considered to help narrow down your pairing choices.

Factors to Consider When Pairing Foods With Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is high in acid and tannins. These two factors make for a wine best paired with bold, equally rich dishes. 

In general, the wine should not be more intense than the food it’s served with.

For example, pairing crudités with Cabernet would drown out the fresh vegetable flavor and make the dish seem boring. Save this plush, inky wine for your most challenging pairings.

In addition, Cabernet’s high acidity makes it an excellent choice for fatty dishes, as that acid will perfectly slice through an otherwise overpowering dish. 

One thing to avoid is to pair Cabernet with spicy dishes such as buffalo wings or a spiced Indian curry. These foods will make Cabernet taste hot (more alcoholic) and make your food taste spicier. 

The Best Cabernet Sauvignon Food Pairings

Now that we’ve covered our bases, it’s time for the fun part! Cabernet Sauvignon is a wonderfully versatile wine that accentuates all sorts of dishes.

Here are some of our tried and trusted food parings for Cabernet Sauvignon.

Cabernet Sauvignon Meat Dish Pairings

Prime Rib Ready to Eat

  • Prime rib - A robust red such as Cabernet is the perfect wine to stand up to such a hearty meat dish as prime rib. Opt for a warm climate Napa Cabernet or a Bordeaux blend with complimentary green herb flavor. 
  • Filet mignon - Tender, buttery, and expensive - if you’re going all out with a piece of filet mignon, then definitely pair it with a nicer bottle of Napa or Chilean Cabernet. The plush tannins and rich fruit flavor will pair perfectly. 
  • Lamb with mint jelly - Another tender and richly flavored meat entree, lamb is complex in flavor and needs a wine with balancing green herb flavors. Mint jelly will accentuate the subtle refreshing minty flavor found in some Napa or Australian Cabernets.
  • Crusted ahi tuna - While red wine and fish don’t usually pair well together, ahi tuna is a more meaty fish. When crusted and served with savory garnishments, it pairs nicely with a berry-forward Napa or Chilean Cabernet. 
  • Meatloaf - When you have a richly spiced and hearty dish such as meatloaf, seemingly few wines stand up to the task better than Cabernet. The combination of savory meat, herbs, and ketchup will complement a Cabernet from any region. 

Cabernet Sauvignon Vegetarian Dish Pairings

Vegetable Burgers

  • Mushroom ragu - The combination of savory and caramelized mushrooms with pasta and a delicate tomato sauce has all the hallmarks of a perfect pairing with a Bordeaux or Australian Cabernet. 
  • Pasta in marinara - Red wine and tomato sauce fit perfectly together. Sometimes, the simplicity of pasta and marinara is all you need to show off a perfect bottle of Cabernet. Try a “Super Tuscan” from Toscana, Italy, featuring Cabernet and the Chianti grape - Sangiovese
  • Veggie burgers - Hearty burgers, whether of the black bean variety or real meat, will stand up perfectly to a fruity Napa or Washington Cabernet. As for toppings, you can’t go wrong with blue cheese, caramelized onion, or aioli.  
  • Bean chili - Rich and flavorful, a classic three-bean chili will pair nicely with any bottle of Cabernet. Bonus points if you add a splash to the chili as it cooks!
  • Eggplant parmesan - Savory and herbaceous, cheesy and savory, a classic eggplant parmesan will pair as well with a bottle of Bordeaux as any meat dish on the menu. 

Cabernet Sauvignon Appetizer Pairings

Swedish Meatballs

  • Bacon -wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese- The combination of sweet, salty, and tangy earthiness from stuffed dates wrapped in bacon is unbeatable. Few wines can accentuate all of those competing flavors better than Cabernet. 
  • Swedish meatballs - Sweet and rich, this is another combination of flavors that’s hard to pair with anything other than an equally jammy Chilean or Washington Cabernet. 
  • Mushroom tart - Sheets of buttery pastry dough wrapped around caramelized mushrooms and fresh herbs will pair beautifully with a Bordeaux Cab with complimentary green herb flavor. 
  • Spinach artichoke dip - An appetizer as rich and fatty as spinach artichoke dip is best paired with a high-acid wine with complimentary herb notes, making Cabernet a great choice. 
  • Pigs in a blanket - A savory appetizer, this dish will make a glass of Cabernet taste far sweeter, more fruity, and less bitter. 

Cabernet Sauvignon and Cheese Pairings

Camembert Cheese

  • Blue cheese - The stinkier, the better, blue cheese is an excellent pairing with Cabernet Sauvignon. The complexity, saltiness, and depth of flavor make for a truly ideal pairing. 
  • Camembert - Soft-ripened cheeses with earthy and strong flavors make it an excellent pairing with a like-minded rich and flavorful Bordeaux or Napa Cabernet. 
  • Sharp cheddar - The saltiness and richness in sharp cheddar make it a great pairing with Cabernet, which will taste sweeter and more fruity by comparison. 
  • Goat cheese - Tang and earth notes will accentuate the herbaceousness in a glass of Bordeaux and soften the strong flavors of the goat cheese. 
  • Gouda - Nuttiness, creamy, and slightly caramelized make this a good cheese pairing for a bright and fruity Chilean Cabernet. Enjoy a gouda grilled cheese with your next glass of Cabernet - and thank us later!

Cabernet Sauvignon and Snack Pairings

Beef Jerky

  • Beef jerky - The rich, salty flavor of beef jerky doesn’t usually lend itself to making a good wine pairing. Yet, it is guaranteed to make a glass of jammy Washington Cabernet taste far richer and lush by comparison. 
  • Dark chocolate - If you enjoy the combination of chocolate and red wine, then dark chocolate is by far the best pairing with a Bordeaux or aged Napa Cabernet. 
  • Potato chips - Salt and fat are your friends when it comes to pairing with wine, as these features will make a wine seem fruity, sweeter, and less bitter by comparison. 
  • Peanut butter and jelly - The combination of nuttiness, richness, and sweet, jammy flavors is guaranteed to pair nicely with an equally cooked fruit-flavored Cabernet from Australia or Chile. 
  • Charcuterie - Whether you’re talking jamón, Marcona almonds, or blue cheese stuffed olives, Cabernet is a guaranteed perfect pairing for anything you can put on a board (just like Pinot Noir).  

Do you have a food pairing with Cabernet Sauvignon that's worth sharing? Let the world know down below!

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About the Author Tim Edison

Tim started Wine Turtle way back in 2015.
These days he contributes to Wine Turtle (and other renowned wine publications) while continuing his wine education.
Tim's wine of the month is the Coates & Seely Reserve Brut NV (from Hampshire, England).

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