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Cabernet Franc vs Pinot Noir

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Similarities of Cabernet Franc & Pinot Noir

Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir are both world-famous French red grape varietals. If you like wines that are on the fruity, nuanced and light side, they are excellent varietals to try out. They are both, in their own ways, typical of France. Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir tend to pick up a lot of characteristics from their terroir, and are quite delicate and deep in flavour, particularly when compared to rustic Italian reds, or bold New World wines.

However, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir are both grown all across the world, and while they are generally light to medium-bodied and dry, they can vary greatly in other aspects. In this article, we’ll take a look at their differences, and help you make a decision between the two. 

Differences of Cabernet Franc Versus Pinot Noir

While they are both French wines, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir have different origins. Pinot Noir is from the relatively cold region of Burgundy, and Cabernet Franc originates from the Bordeaux appellation of Libournais – but it does have the potential to thrive in cooler climates. 

Cabernet Franc is much less popular than Pinot Noir and usually takes a backseat, being used frequently as a small percentage wine in Bordeaux blends. Another way the wines differ is how easy they are to grow. Pinot Noir is famously finicky, and highly susceptible to disease, while Cabernet Franc is robust and relatively low maintenance. 

Much of this difficulty comes from the physical characteristics of Pinot Noir grapes – they are very thin-skinned and tightly packed. Thin grape skins generally indicate wines with lower tannin levels, and that is certainly true with Pinot Noir. Cabernet Franc is far more tannic. 

How To Distinguish Between Cabernet Franc & Pinot Noir

Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir are both high-acid wines, light red in color, and full of red fruit flavours – but the similarities you’ll find when tasting pretty much stop there. Cabernet Franc is known for being peppery and slightly floral, while Pinot Noir has more notable earthy undertones, reminiscent of mushrooms or a forest floor. These stereotypical characteristics are the key to distinguishing between the two wines, as they can be quite similar in terms of structure and mouthfeel. 

Other than that, Cabernet Franc is known for its slightly firmer tannins, as well as flavours and aromas of raspberry, strawberry, green bell pepper and tobacco. Pinot Noir is recognised by its aromas of cherry and raspberry, with a hint of earthiness and mushroom.

Cabernet Franc vs Pinot Noir Comparison Chart

Characteristic Cabernet Franc Pinot Noir
Sweetness Dry Dry
Acidity Medium-High High
Tannins Medium Low
Body Medium Light-Medium
Tasting Notes Green bell pepper notes and florality, red fruit and floral flavours such as raspberry, cherry, and violet. Red fruits – raspberries, cherries and cranberries. Earthy flavours of forest floor, tea leaves and mushrooms.
Popularity 8,100 Monthly Searches 90,500 Monthly Searches
Calories Per Glass 122 calories 120 cal
ABV % 11.5 – 13.5% 12 – 15%

Pairing Food With Cabernet Franc & Pinot Noir

Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir are versatile wines for pairing with food. When it comes to main courses, earthy dishes with turkey, mushrooms or roast chicken are great options. Both wines contain high acidity, and a deep well of flavours that can match complex dishes. For a more in-depth exploration, check out our articles on pairing below. 


Cabernet Franc food pairing

Pinot Noir food pairing