Cabernet sauvignon is among the best known red wine grape in the world. This grape varietal is the result of a cross between cabernet franc and sauvignon blanc grapes, and originated in the Medoc region of France. This grape has since become the most widely grown in Bordeaux, and is grown in all the renowned wine regions in the world. These grapes produce wine with a characteristic aroma of black currants, as well as cherries and violets.
Merlot grapes are commonly grown in the Bordeaux region of France, as well as many regions in California. As the merlot grapes are harvested from the same type of climate as cabernet sauvignon grapes, the two varieties have similar flavor profiles. The merlot grapes are often used in wine blends, such as the common Merdoc blend which consists of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc grapes. Wines made from merlot grapes have distinctive black currant aromas, as well as herbaceous, floral and slightly spicy notes.
Pinot noir is one of the oldest varieties of grapes used to make wine. These grapes have a reputation as being difficult to grow and ferment, and yet pinot noir is one of the most versatile red wines for pairing with foods. Wines made from pinot noir grapes are full-bodied and complex, with intense aromas of black cherry and spice. Although it has a rather high alcohol content, it is neither acidic nor high in tannins, as is common with cabernet sauvignon.
Any type of complex, aged red wine would be a good substitute for cabernet sauvignon, particularly one originating from the Bordeaux region of France. The flavors and aromas of cabernet sauvignon or any of its alternatives pair well with rich, simple dishes, particularly those containing beef, lamb or meaty fish such as salmon or swordfish.