Non-ischaemic cardiomyopathies (NICMs) are chronic, progressive myocardial diseases with distinct patterns of morphological, functional, and electrophysiological changes. In the setting of cardiomyopathy (CM), determining the exact aetiology is important because the aetiology is directly related to treatment and patient survival. Determining the exact aetiology, however, can be difficult using currently available imaging techniques, such as echocardiography, radionuclide imaging or X-ray coronary angiography, since overlap of features between CMs may be encountered. Cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) imaging has recently emerged as a new non-invasive imaging modality capable of providing high-resolution images of the heart in any desired plane. Delayed contrast enhanced CMR (DE-CMR) can be used for non-invasive tissue characterization and may hold promise in differentiating ischaemic from NICMs, as the typical pattern of hyperenhancement can be classified as 'ischaemic-type' or 'non-ischaemic type' on the basis of pathophysiology of ischaemia. This article reviews the potential of DE-CMR to distinguish between ischaemic and NICM as well as to differentiate non-ischaemic aetiologies. Rather than simply describing various hyperenhancement patterns that may occur in different disease states, our goal will be (i) to provide an overall imaging approach for the diagnosis of CM and (ii) to demonstrate how this approach is based on the underlying relationships between contrast enhancement and myocardial pathophysiology.