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Dear Dr. Vinny,

I had a friend ask me the difference between the taste of a Brunello and a Cabernet Sauvignon. It was harder than I expected. How would you describe the difference?

—Frederick L., Montréal

Dear Frederick,

Happy to help! Let’s start with how the two wines are similar: Both Brunellos and Cabernet Sauvignons are rich, full-bodied red wines.

Brunello is the name of a wine that comes from the Montalcino region in Italy's Tuscany; by law, Brunellos are made using 100 percent Sangiovese grapes.

Cabernet Sauvignon is a winegrape grown with great success in many wine regions around the world, most famously California's Napa Valley and France's Bordeaux region. In Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon is typically blended with Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot or Malbec; it's a recipe that's popular in many regions around the world and referred to as a "Bordeaux-style blend."

As far as the differences? I’d say that the very best examples of Brunello would be more perfumed, and showing off notes of licorice, leather and mineral, whereas Cabernet Sauvignons would typically have more cassis and tobacco flavors. I think of Brunellos as being particularly tannic, tight and powerful, and showing their best with some bottle age.

—Dr. Vinny

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