Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon

pinot noir vs cabernet sauvignon

Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon are two of the world’s most famous wines. And they are  normally both amongst wine lovers and wine drinkers favorite red wines.  But they differ in many ways. And it’s much easier to notice their differences than between Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

What sets these two red wine grape varieties apart? Pinot Noir is generally light body red wine while Cabernet Sauvignon is generally full body red wine.

Now, if you don’t really understand what I mean by ‘body’, think of milk – non-fat milk is a light body, while whole milk would be a full body. It simply means the weight of the liquid.

pinot noir vs cabernet sauvignon body full bodied red wine

Table of Contents

What Is Cabernet Sauvignon?

Cabernet Sauvignon, the King of grapes, is well-known for its intensity – color, flavor, and aroma. It has a signature tannin taste and intensity associated with aging in oak barrels.

Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are native to the Bordeaux region of France, particularly in the famous Left Bank of Bordeaux (Merlot grapes are in the Right Bank). Bordeaux Cabernet Sauvignons have distinctive herbaceous notes.

The grape varietal is incredibly adaptable to different climates, so you can find it grown in every major wine-producing country worldwide, including:

  • California (Napa Valley) – where Cabernet Sauvignon is the king of the grapes, complex Cabs with high acidity levels
  • Chile – where Cabernet Sauvignon has softer tannins and more enjoyable to drink young
  • Italy (Tuscany) – making the famous Super Tuscan wines.

What Is Pinot Noir? Where Is It Produced?

Pinot Noir are two French words that mean ‘pine’ and ‘black,’ respectively. The cluster of the grapes have a conical shape that makes them look like a pine cone.

It has very light tannins, making it an easy-drinking red wine.

Although Pinot Noir grapes are now grown worldwide, its origins, and the best region for the best Pinots, remains the Burgundy wine region of France

Styles from the cool growing region of Burgundy are famous for their complexity with fleshy farmyard aromas with earthy flavors that turn fruity on the tongue.

Meanwhile, Pinot Noir wines from Napa Valley in CA highlights a darker wine with more powerful, fruit-forward flavors. Californian Pinot Noir generally comes with spicier and savory components. Other best Pinot Noir wine regions include:

  • Willamette Valley, Oregon
  • Central Otago, New Zealand – Full-bodied, rich Pinot Noir
  • Argentina – High Elevation Pinot Noir grapes
  • Italian Pinot Noir a.k.a. Pinot Nero

Pinot Noir vs. Cabernet Sauvignon

pinot noir vs cabernet sauvignon

Wine Tasting Notes

Pinot Noir comes with amazing nuances, but generally, the finish of Pinot Noir is a combination of red fruits: strawberry, raspberry, black cherry. There can also be an impact of earthiness like a mushroom to it.

Meanwhile, Cabernet Sauvignon features the natural black currant flavor of the grapes with a little oak that’s either from fermentation or during barrel aging. Generally, Old World Cabs have earthier notes while New World styles have pronounced fruitiness.


Pinot Noir wine typically has a distinct delicate, ruby red hue when young, although it can turn orange after eight to ten years, while Cabernet Sauvignon presents a mesmerizing deep purple color.

Meanwhile, opening a Pinot Noir wine will give you a bouquet of earthy, silky, and fruity-floral aromas.


Black currant aroma is a distinctive element in Cabernet Sauvignon wine in virtually every style of this wine all over the planet. However, Cabernet Sauvignon wines from other regions may also include mint, tobacco, and eucalyptus aromas. 

Meanwhile, opening a Pinot Noir wine will give you a bouquet of earthy, silky, and fruity-floral aromas.

Food Pairing Guide | Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon

pinot noir food pairing
  • Fatty fishes like grilled salmon
  • Mushrooms, boiled vegetables
  • Roasted or grilled pork, lamb, and poultry
  • Soft cheeses

Cabernet Sauvignon Food Pairings

full bodied red wine pairing
  • Savory dishes like red meats, hamburgers
  • Fatty, juicy steaks
  • Strong and yellow cheeses
  • Pepper sauces

Which One Should I Choose?

Do you prefer something subtle and delicate? Pick a bottle of Pinot Noir.

Do you prefer something bold and hearty? Get a Cabernet Sauvignon.

Do you prefer a ‘punch’ from every sip? Choose a Cabernet Sauvignon.

Do you prefer a lighter sipping wine? Pick a Pinot Noir.

What’s your preference, something more acidic or something more tannic? 

Get Pinot Noir for acidity and Cabernet Sauvignon for tannins. Pinot Noir is zesty and will make your mouth salivate, while Cabernet Sauvignon offers a puckery, dry feeling in your tongue.

pinot noir vs cabernet sauvignon

But again, everyone has a different palate and will prefer a different type of red wine. Explore your palate preference and find out whether you like Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon best.

AND let me repeat, the wine region makes a lot of difference in the flavor profile of the wine.

Wines to Buy For Research!

  • Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon vs. Sonoma Pinot Noir
  • Bordeaux (Left Bank) vs. Burgundy

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