Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon: What Are The 8 Important Differences To Know?

Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon
This is our comparison of Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon wine. Do you know the 8 important differences to know? Enjoy!

This is our comparison of Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon. We’ve extensively researched these two popular wines to help you pick the best for you.

Pinot Noir, when young, is a fruity and refreshing wine. The finest bottles evolve in flavours and complexity thanks to the long maturation.

Cabernet Sauvignon offers more complexity and ages extremely well thanks to its high amount of tannins. 

You’ll find Cabernet Sauvignon both in purity or blended with other grapes. Bordeaux wines are the most famous blend. Bolgheri is the Italian version of it.

Find below our wine guide on the most important differences between these two great wines.

Our recommendation for Best Value Pinot Noir is Belle Glos Dairyman Vineyard Pinot Noir.

For Best Overall bottle we recommend Domaine Daniel Rion & Fils Échezeaux Grand Cru 2017.

Our recommendation for Best Value Cabernet Sauvignon is Hall – Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2017.

For Best Overall bottle we recommend Shafer – Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon.

Let’s begin with the review!

Wine Selection Overview

Find below our Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon wine selection for you where you’ll find our recommendation for you.

Pinot Noir Selection

Meiomi Pinot
Noir
4.1/5

Deep garnet color. Luxurious and dynamic aromas of ripe strawberry, bright cherry and faint notes of spicy oak and vanilla.

The complexity of the palate smoothly layers rich red currant notes and baking spice flavors with light smoke, earth and leather.

A balanced, velvety texture and supple tannins carry the wine through to a lingering, succulent finish.

Belle Glos Dairyman Vineyard Pinot Noir
4.4/5

Bright crimson red in color. Aromas of black cherry and ripe plums combine with subtle notes of dried herbs and smoke.

The palate entry shows flavors of cranberry, fresh raspberry, and ripe cherry, complemented by hints of vanilla and baking spice.

A balance of savory, cedar and cocoa powder, and sweet, fig jam and ripe blackberry, round out the mouth-feel.

Échezeaux Grand Cru 2017
4.8/5

Tenderness and magnitude. They are often open, expressive , precocious.

They show great flexibility , supported by continued seeming velvet mouth.

Raspberry flavors, rosehip characterize in his youth.

Cabernet Sauvignon Selection

DAOU - Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
4.1/5

It ranks #3 in the Best wines under $20. Seriously, what else do you need to know?😄

Black cherry, plum, cherry, cedar and eucalyptus, and displays undertones of briary blackberry and wet gravel.

Full bodied, polished tannins and elegant finish.

Hall - Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
4.3/5

This rich and complex Cabernet shows aromas of black cherry, vanilla and mocha with hints of plum and cassis.

Similar flavors carry though on the concentrated palate that is framed by balanced acid and ample plush tannins that lead to a long lingering finish.

Hurry up and stack up a few of these in your cellar before it runs out of stock.

Shafer - Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon
4.7/5

Expect aromas and flavors of dark cherry, black coffee, sweet vanilla and wet forest floor with rose petal, cranberry, blueberry, oregano, and sage.

This wine is perfectly balanced, silky, with smooth tannins, complex and elegant.

In the words of Robert Parker, “One of the world’s, as well as Napa’s, most profound Cabernet Sauvignons.”

Comparison

Let’s now take a closer look at the difference between Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon so that you’ll have enough details to make an informed decision.

Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon: Where are they produced?

Here you’ll find a brief overview of Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon from regions and wine styles points of view.

Pinot Noir gives its best in a cool to moderate climate. The grape has thin skin and it’s quite delicate.

When grown in a warm climate it can lose its freshness and taste too cooked from excessive ripening of the grapes. Despite that, it’s cultivated around the world.

Here is a quick overview:

In cool climates, like Burgundy in France, expect red fruit and subtle oak aromas, mushroom and forest floor.

In warm climates, like California, expect ripe red fruit and intense vanilla flavors. The finest examples develop mushroom and forest floor flavors. Find more about Pinot Noir here.

Cabernet Sauvignon grows best in moderate to warm climates to help the long ripening of the grape. When unripe, Cabernet Sauvignon is unpleasantly high in tannins.

This is why in cooler areas, it is generally blended with other grapes. Blending and oak aging are the common techniques used to soften Cabernet Sauvignon high tannins.

Here are the typical taste profiles depending on the climate:

From cool climates, like Bordeaux in France, expect green bell pepper, mint, black currant, and cedar.

From moderate/warm climates, like California, expect black cherry, black currant, black olive.

From very hot climates, like Chile, expect flavors to become more cooked and “jammy”.

Find more about Cabernet Sauvignon here.

Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon: Which grapes are used to produce them?

Here you’ll find a brief overview of  Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon from a grape point of view.

Pinot Noir is produced from Pinot Noir grapes.

Cabernet Sauvignon is made with Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

Both are red-wine grape varieties of the species Vitis vinifera.

Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon: What's their alcohol content?

Here you’ll find a brief overview of Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon from an alcohol content point of view.

Alcohol content or more precisely Alcohol By Volume, i.e. ABV, measures the alcoholic strength of a drink.

There is a direct relationship between the sugar left in the wine after the alcoholic fermentation has taken place, i.e. Residual Sugar or RS, and ABV.

During the alcoholic fermentation, the yeast transforms the sugar in the grape juice into alcohol. Grapes with high residual sugar will therefore produce dry wine with a high ABV.

Pinot Noir’s ABV ranges between 11.5% to 15%, whereas Cabernet Sauvignon’s ABV is usually between 13% to 15%. 

Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon: What's their taste profile?

Here you’ll find a brief overview of Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon from a taste profile point of view.

Pinot Noir is a dry to off-dry wine, with a pale to medium garnet color. Pinot Noir has typical earthy and red fruit aromas like red berry, raspberry, cherry, and strawberry.

Expect tertiary flavors of leather, spice, truffle, and tobacco. 

Cabernet Sauvignon is a dry wine with a deep ruby color. It is known for its full-body, high tannins, and intense black fruit notes.

Typical tertiary aromas are leather, nutmeg, baking spice, and graphite.

In case you wonder, tannins are responsible for that dryness sensation on your tongue and mouth after the first sip. They also play a key role in its longevity too.

Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon: Are they sweet or dry?

Here you’ll find a brief overview of Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon in terms of sweetness level or residual sugar.

The sweetness level of a wine is expressed in grams of sugar per liter, aka g/L, or as a percentage.

10 g/L equals 1% which, if you are interested, represents 6 calories per 5 oz serving. 

You will usually find Pinot Noir in dry or off-dry sweetness levels.

Cabernet Sauvignon is usually a dry wine.

  • A dry wine contains less than 15 g/L.
  • An off dry wine contains between 15-30 g/L.

Learn more about wine sweetness level here.

Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon: Which are the best food pairings?

Here you’ll find a brief overview of Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon from a food pairings point of view.

Pinot Noir pairs easily with many foods compared to Cabernet Sauvignon thanks to its versatility. Ratatouille, beans dishes, pasta, and pizza with mushrooms are generally a very good fit.

Pinot Noir is also one of those few red wines that can pair well as well with grilled fish like grilled salmon and swordfish.

Meat wise you have an ample selection of dishes too from roast veal, braised pork, venison, duck, or a juicy burger.

If you are into cheese, a very good choice is Taleggio, Comte, Cheddar, or Pecorino.

Cabernet Sauvignon is a bold wine and therefore pairs well with bold and rich meat flavor dishes like rich grilled meats, Stroganoff, marinated ribeye steak.

Cheese wise go for strong flavor cheeses like Blue Cheese and Comte for example.

Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon: How do you serve and store them?

Here you’ll find a brief overview of Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon from a storing and serving perspective.

Pinot Noir should be decanted for 30 minutes and served at 55 – 64 °F (13 – 18 °C) in a Burgundy glass.[1]

The recommended storing period is 5 years for normal bottles and 10+ years for the finest bottles.

Cabernet Sauvignon should be decanted between 1 to 2 hours and served at 59 – 64 °F (15 – 18 °C) in a Bordeaux glass. As seen before, Cabernet Sauvignon is suitable for aging.

The recommended storing period is 5 years for normal bottles and 10+ years for the finest bottles.

Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon: How much do they cost?

Here you’ll find a brief overview of Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon from a price comparison point of view.

Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon are hardly inexpensive.

For Pinot Noir, the finest bottles are from the Côte-d’Or in France, where prices can easily reach over $3000.

For Cabernet Sauvignon, the finest bottles are from Bordeaux in France and Napa in California.

You don’t need to worry though as there’s plenty of great bottles out there that can be bought at a fraction.

You just need to know where to look, and we are here to point you in the right direction.

Indicative price points for Pinot Noir are:

  • under $40: from California, Oregon, France, and Australia represent a good entry-level
  • under $100: If you are after great bottles then look for bottles from California, Oregon, Italy, and France.
  • >$100: Outstanding bottles over $100+ are usually from France.

Indicative price points for Cabernet Sauvignon are:

  • under $30: from California (Sonoma), Washington, Australia, and Chile represent a good entry-level.
  • under $100: If you are after great bottles then look for bottles from California, Australia, France, and Italy.
  • >$100: Outstanding bottles over $100+ are usually from USA, Italy, and France.

Our Verdict

If you have been through the guide, by now you are a Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon expert!

Both Pinot and Cabernet Sauvignon are great wines and by now you should have a good idea of what to expect from them.   

Our recommendation is therefore based on what you’d fancy the most at a particular given moment or event. 

Pinot Noir is generally a common choice for the holiday season, given its food pairing options like duck, turkey, and roasted chicken.

Belle Glos Dairyman Pinot Noir is a great bottle at an incredible price. 

Having said that, do you want to celebrate a special occasion or want to treat yourself with something truly special?

Then Domaine Daniel Rion & Fils Échezeaux Grand Cru 2017 Pinot Noir is the perfect choice.

If you prefer a more complex wine, with more pronounced tertiary flavors that can also be enjoyed on its own, then go for this Hall Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2017.

Having said that, do you want to celebrate a special occasion or want to treat yourself with something truly special?

Then Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon is the perfect choice.

As always make sure to serve them at the right temperature to enjoy them at their best.

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