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Malbec vs Pinot Noir

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Similarities of Malbec & Pinot Noir

Malbec and Pinot Noir are both red wines, known for their lush, fruit-forward flavor profiles and smooth tannins. They are both popular around the world among wine enthusiasts, but they are both also considered great starting points for those new to red wine because of their fruity profile and mild tannins. The qualities also make Malbec and Pinot Noir great for pairing with food as they each complement a wide range of cuisines. These also originated in France, but have since gained popularity in other regions around the world. 

Differences of Malbec & Pinot Noir

In spite of their French origins, Malbec and Pinot Noir have earned considerable reputations in other parts of the world. Malbec became wildly popular in Argentina, and is now considered the country’s flagship grape variety. Pinot Noir, while produced in many countries, gained significant notoriety in New Zealand, as well as California and Oregon in the United States.

These grapes also have different climate preferences. Malbec thrives in warm, sunny climates, so it’s understandable why it would flourish in Argentina. Pinot Noir, however, likes cooler climates. Pinot can also be a challenge to grow as it prefers a climate with an ideal balance of both warm and cool weather. 

How to Distinguish Between Malbec & Pinot Noir

While both wines are fruit-forward, Malbec tends to be more robust, with rich dark fruit flavors and hints of spice, cocoa, and subtle herbs. It also has higher tannin levels than Pinot Noir, resulting in a slightly drier and more astringent mouthfeel. You can also identify Malbec by its deep, purple-red color, which is usually accompanied by a bright magenta rim.

Pinot Noir, on the other hand, is somewhat translucent and ruby in color. It can be identified by its bright, red fruit flavors and leans towards more earthy and subtle floral notes. Its texture is silkier and smoother than that of a Malbec due to its low tannins, and the acidity of Pinot Noir brings a fresh brightness to the wine. 

Malbec & Pinot Noir Comparison Chart

Characteristic Malbec Pinot Noir
Sweetness Dry Dry
Acidity Low to Medium High
Tannins Medium Medium 
Body Full Light to Medium
Tasting Notes Plum, blackberry, black cherry, coca, soil, black pepper Cherry, strawberry, raspberry, mushroom, thyme, cinnamon
Popularity 27,100 Monthly Searches 90,500 Monthly Searches
Calories Per Glass 135 120
ABV % 13.5 – 15 11.5 – 15

Pairing Food with Malbec & Pinot Noir

Malbec’s full body means it can stand up to a variety of bold dishes. Grilled or roasted meats, such as steak, barbeque, chicken, pot roast, lamb, or duck will be complemented by the robust qualities of Malbec. The tannins and bold fruit also offer a lovely balance to rich cheeses such as blue cheese, cheddar, or gorgonzola. On the sweet side, Malbec and dark chocolate make a combination that is both decadent and indulgent. Pinot Noir is known for being an all-around food favorite wine. It’s mellow tannins and bright acidity make it a wonderful complement to a plethora of foods.

Roasted pork or poultry, duck, and even salmon are well matched with the medium-bodied wine; it’s bold enough to balance the flavors of the protein without overpowering it. The earthy quality of the wine makes it a natural accompaniment to mushrooms, and it also pairs well with other vegetables like sweet potatoes and squash. Finally, the acidity and bold fruit of the wine add depth to soft cheeses like Brie, goat cheese, and Camembert.