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Cabernet Sauvignon vs Pinot Noir

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Similarities of Cabernet Sauvignon & Pinot Noir

Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir hail from France, and are among the most widely grown grapes in the world. They have been particularly successful in California, where together, they make up the majority of red wine grown in the region. 

While classic bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir are very distinctive and easily distinguishable from each other, they both tend to pick up more fruity characteristics when they are grown in New World regions. The two wines both have medium to high levels of acidity and are made in a dry style.

Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir both come from highly esteemed French regions, Bordeaux and Burgundy respectively. However, due to being accessible almost everywhere, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir can both vary greatly in quality and value. 

Some of the finest, top-shelf wines that you can buy are made from either Cabernet or Pinot Noir. Likewise, both red wine varietals can wind up being used for affordable but lower-quality wines.

Differences of Cabernet Sauvignon Versus Pinot Noir

Cabernet Sauvignon has a reputation for being tough and versatile and has a universal appeal. Pinot Noir, on the other hand, is slightly more elegant and has a reputation among grape-growers for being temperamental. Pinot Noir is still extremely popular worldwide but is grown in fewer regions than Cabernet. 

This is largely due to the physical characteristics of the grape. Cabernet Sauvignon is large and thick-skinned on the vine and adapts well to different climates. Pinot Noir is thinner-skinned and more vulnerable to pests and diseases. It requires cold and dry climates, like its home region of Burgundy in northwest France, in order to succeed. 

To compare their profiles, Cabernet Sauvignon is bold, punchy, tannic and medium to full-bodied. It is also generally a deep red color. Pinot Noir is usually lighter in color, light to medium-bodied, and low in tannins. It can be described as delicate and subtle. 

Generally speaking, Cabernet Sauvignon is seen as the more consistent wine. Pinot Noir can vary massively from bottle to bottle, and due to its fragility, flaws can be exaggerated. However, wine enthusiasts tend to view Pinot Noir as having a higher ceiling for quality. In other words, the very best Pinot Noir is preferable to the very best Cabernet Sauvignon – but of course, it all comes down to personal preference. 

Typically, Cabernet Sauvignon wines are better for cellaring than Pinot Noir, but high-quality Pinot Noirs can also age in the bottle for a long time. Cabernet also ages very well in oak. 

How To Distinguish Between Cabernet Sauvignon & Pinot Noir

Cabernet Sauvignon, like many Bordeaux wines, is packed with rich, dark fruit flavors. It has a distinctive blackcurrant scent when you open the bottle. Pinot Noir is more oriented towards red fruits, with aromas of cherry and raspberry, but it can be full of small nuances. 

The most obvious difference will be in the mouth. Cabernet Sauvignon is juicy and has an aggressive tannic element, whereas Pinot Noir is thinner and more subtle. 

Pinot Noir is also more translucent in color. Often, you can see through the wine, whereas Cabernet Sauvignon is denser and blocks the light. 

Cabernet Sauvignon vs Pinot Noir Comparison Chart

Characteristic Cabernet Sauvignon Pinot Noir
Sweetness Dry Dry
Acidity Medium Medium
Tannins High Low
Body Full Light-Medium
Tasting Notes Black fruits – blackcurrants, blackberries and black cherries. Bell pepper and earthiness.  Red fruits – raspberries, cherries and cranberries. Earthy flavors of forest floor, tea leaves and mushrooms.
Popularity 90,500 Monthly Searches 90,500 Monthly Searches
Calories Per Glass 120 cal 120 cal
ABV % 13.5 – 14.5% 12 – 15%

Pairing Food With Cabernet Sauvignon & Pinot Noir

Cabernet Sauvignon goes well with fatty steaks or cheeses, such as ribeye steak or cheddar. For Pinot Noir, try pairing food flavors with the flavors of the wine. It will pair well with the umami flavors in mushroom dishes, but like Cabernet, its acidity will cut through fatty meats perfectly.

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