Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon

Published January 29th, 2023

Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon are two very popular and prestigious red grape varieties. They are both of French origin, from Burgundy and Bordeaux, respectively, and they are now grown a bit all over the world.

Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon.

The wines produced from these two grapes are reds of exceptional quality and extraordinary aging capacity.

However, the similarities between these wines are not many as they are extremely different in their properties and characteristics.

Therefore, to better understand the Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon comparison, in this article, we will analyze their organoleptic characteristics, their origins, their production areas, and their combinations with food. So if you are wondering which is better pinot noir or cabernet sauvignon, keep reading and you may find your answer!

Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon

The question posed in this article (is Cabernet Sauvignon similar to Pinot Noir) is quite easy to answer, but to do so, let's see in detail the similarities and differences of these wines.


Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir are types of red wine with little in common.

These are wines from red grape varieties. Both originated in France, both are spread throughout the world and both are considered among the most important grape varieties.

They are often vinified alone, although, in the case of Cabernet, this depends on the production area and the style sought by the winemaker.

In terms of longevity, the cab sauv vs pinot noir comparison can be said to end in a draw: both can be very long-lived.

Cabernet or Pinot Noir wines fall into a very broad price range, from  everyday wines to wines of very high prestige and with a considerable price tag.


As mentioned, the comparison of Pinot Noir versus Cabernet Sauvignon highlights very different traits in these vines and the respective wines.

But it is in the comparison of Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon taste that you can see the real differences. The former is decidedly more delicate in its organoleptic characteristics. This doesn't mean less intense or less complex but certainly less powerful and bold.

The tannic texture is the characteristic that makes them more different; the tannins are silky and delicate in Pinot Noir and firm and sometimes grippy in Cabernet Sauvignon.

Compared to Cabernet, Pinot Noir's acidity is generally slightly more pronounced, but its body is much lighter.

Comparison chart Pinot Noir vs. Cabernet

Cabernet Sauvignon Pinot Noir
Tasting notes Exuberant and powerful. Full and deep with notes of forest red fruits, herbs, tobacco, olives, earthy and balsamic aromas. Elegant wine with amazing aging potential. Complex bouquet of fruity aromas, earthy and herbaceous notes. Low, velvety tannins and bright
Sweetness Dry Dry
Body Full Light to medium
Acidity Medium Medium to high
Tannins Medium to high Low
Alcohol High Medium
Age worthiness 5 to 30 years 5 to 30 years or more
Cost $8 to $1000 or more $8 to $2000 or more
Food pairing Red meat, especially grilled and with peppery sauces. Flavorful and rich vegetarian dishes. Fatty fish and white meat, mushroom and truffles.
Serving temperature 15-20°C / 60–68°F 12-18°C / 55–65°F
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Cabernet Sauvignon vs Pinot Noir taste and flavor

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is a wine with an exuberant personality. The aromatic profile is complex and recalls the scents of the forest:  blueberries, currants, blackberries, and then traces of undergrowth, earthy notes, plums, eucalyptus, tobacco, and olives.

On the palate, it is rich, full, and powerful, with firm tannins and a remarkable structure. With aging, Cabernet comes at its best as it loses some of its vigor to become incredibly fine, balsamic, and full of spicy tertiary aromas while maintaining a solid and compact structure.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is an elegant wine, characterized by an extremely fine and complex bouquet. The younger and fresher wines have intense notes of red fruit that intertwine with balsamic aromas, lavender, pink pepper, jasmine, and mint and aromatic herbs, scents of olive and fennel, and then earthy notes, leaves, coffee, and truffle that develop with age.

It is generally light to medium-bodied, lean, and elegant, with good acidity and freshness, moderate alcohol, and silky tannins, all characteristics that make it very versatile in combinations with food.

Origin and history

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon originates from the Bordeaux wine region, in France and more precisely it has been cultivated extensively and intensively in the Medoc area since the end of the 18th century. It is believed to come from a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.

Pinot Noir

There is no certainty about the origins of Pinot Noir. There are still many doubts about exactly where and how it was born, but it is clear that Burgundy is its elective homeland, and that this vine is the genetic father of Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and Pinot Blanc.

Where are they produced and in which styles?

Cabernet Sauvignon

The best Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines in the world come from the Bordeaux region, in particular the Médoc area (Haut-Médoc), on the left bank of the Garonne river, where this grape variety finds ideal conditions for perfect ripening.

Cabernet Sauvignon is also very popular in the rest of the world.

In California, it is especially common in Napa and Sonoma Country, where the mixed clayey soils rich in minerals and the hot, dry climate give rise to fruity and full-bodied Cabernets, with different characteristics depending on the sub-areas.

In Chile, the Maipo Valley, characterized by a Mediterranean climate and by a difference in altitude of the vineyards from 500 to 1000 m, is the home of tsome of the best Cabernet Sauvignon of South America.

In Australia, it is present in the Barossa Valley at the southern end of the country where it produces intense and full-bodied wines.

It is also popular in Spain, South Africa, Argentina (Mendoza), and New Zealand (Hawkes's Bay).

Pinot Noir

The land of choice for Pinot Noir (vinified in red) is undoubtedly Burgundy, in particular the Côte d'Or, where some of the most prestigious and long-lived reds in the world are produced. Indeed, this grape thrives in cool temperatures and soils rich in limestone such as those of Burgundy where it can create wines with different aromatic nuances depending on its terroir.

Pinot Noir is also cultivated in Germany, Austria, and northern Italy, where cool climates guarantee an excellent evolution of aromas and excellent acidity. Outside Europe, it is widely distributed in the United States, Canada, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.

New World wines from warmer climates such as California, New Zealand, or Australia tend to display a bolder personality, riper fruit aromas, lower acidity, and higher alcohol content.

Sweetness/dryness comparison

When you compare Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon in terms of sweetness/ dryness there is no real difference: they are both dry wines.

Alcohol content comparison

The alcohol content of Pinot Noir compared to Cabernet Sauvignon is certainly  lower, even in those countries where the warmer climate tends to generate warmer wines.

Food pairing

Given the substantially very different characteristics of Pinot Noir wine vs Cabernet Sauvignon, this is clearly reflected in food pairing, in which the two wines, although both versatile, are shown to be suitable for substantially different dishes.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is a powerful, substantial wine with character, and vigorous tannins. It is a wine often defined as ‘carnivorous’ due to its flavors and intense personality and in any case suitable for pairing with hearty dishes with a marked fat tendency.

Perfect with grilled or barbecued pork and red meats, and with rich dishes such as roasts, braised meats, game, and flavored meats accompanied by various sauces and aged soft or hard cheeses.

Its aromas also make it excellent with truffles and mushrooms (especially those stuffed) and with hearty vegetarian dishes such as vegetarian chili, eggplant parmesan, Mac & Cheese, and vegetarian burgers.

Pinot Noir

As mentioned in our previous article, Pinot Noir is a very versatile wine in food pairings.

The light body makes it particularly suitable in combination with white meats, but also duck and lamb, and spicy dishes such as chicken curry, starting from Chinese cuisine up to Indian cuisine.

It is also one of the few red wines that go well with fish, especially the slightly fatty ones such as salmon because the good acidity and silky tannins of the wine easily create a harmonious bond without penalizing the flavors.

Thanks to its earthy and undergrowth notes, it is perfect for combinations with mushrooms, porcini, and truffles.

Wines to try under $50

Given the wide choice of wines on the market, here is our selection specifically designed to better understand the comparison of Cabernet Sauvignon versus Pinot Noir and the characteristics of these wines depending on the country of production.

Penfolds Max's Cabernet Sauvignon, Australia.

Cabernet Sauvignon

  • Penfolds Max's Cabernet Sauvignon, Australia

  • Vina Ventisquero Grey Single Block Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile

  • Lamadrid Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva, Argentina

  • Turnbull Cabernet Sauvignon, USA

Innocent Bystander Central Otago Pinot Noir, New Zealand.

Pinot Noir

  • Innocent Bystander Central Otago Pinot Noir, New Zealand

  • Bennett Valley Cellars Bin 6410 Pinot Noir, USA

  • Chofflet-Valdenaire Givry Clos de Choue Premier Cru, France

  • Rainer Schnaitmann Steinwiege Pinot Noir, Germany