Cabernet vs Pinot Noir Wine: A Connoisseur’s Guide (2023)

Last Updated on November 25, 2023 by Lydia Martin

Knowing how to distinguish between red wines may not seem like a big deal for some people. But as I’ve always told my customers, understanding the flavor profile of each red wine would allow you to select the best wines according to your preference.

Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon are among the most common types of wine worldwide. But how do they differ from each other?

Here’s a comprehensive Cabernet vs Pinot Noir to help you select the best wine for your next buy.

Comparing Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon

Bottle and a Glass of Red Wine with Roses

Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon differ primarily in their tasting notes. If you enjoy red wines with depth, structure, and firm tannic grip, I recommend Cabernet Sauvignon as the ultimate choice. 

However, Pinot Noir suits those looking for a light and fruit-forward red wine [1]

“All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.” – Paulo Coelho, Lyricist and Novelist

Pinot Noir is more versatile than Cabernet Sauvignon in that it can be used to produce Sparkling and white wine. However, Cabernet Sauvignon is typically combined with other grapes, unlike Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon Comparison Table

Characteristics Pinot Noir Cabernet 
Acidity High acidity Medium acidity
Aging Potential 4 to 5 years 10 to 20 years
Tasting Experience More delicate, light with fruity notes Darker fruit flavors with smoky notes
Primary Aromas Strawberries, raspberries, and red cherries Black fruits like dark plums, black currants, and cherries
Texture Light and delicate palette Heavy
Versatility Highly versatile and goes well from seafood to grilled meats Versatile and pairs well with rich, flavorful dishes
Alcohol Content 12-15% ABV Over 13% ABV
Tannins Low Medium to High
Climate Preference Cool and moderate regions Warm and cool regions
Body Light to medium-bodied Full-bodied wine
Average Price Approximately $5 to $100,000 Approximately $5 to $300,000
Star Rating ★★★★★ ★★★★

Main Differences

Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon History

Pinot Noir originates from France’s Burgundy region and is considered one of the oldest wine grapes, while Cabernet Sauvignon hails from the 17th-century wine region of Bordeaux, France. 

In a way, Pinot Noir has a more extended history than Cabernet Sauvignon, but the latter gained more popularity during the 20th century.

In 2015, Cabernet Sauvignon became one of the most famous Bordeaux wines worldwide. 

Growing & Making Process

Bottle and a Glass of Wine

Although Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon are popular grapes from France, they have found their sweet spots in different parts of the world.

Cabernet Sauvignon thrives in warmer climates, while Pinot Noir requires cooler conditions.

These two popular wines would undergo barrel aging (usually French Oak barrels) before the winemakers bottle them and age them for at least another six months.

Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Originating Regions

Cabernet Sauvignon red wine grapes are widely planted in almost every major winemaking region worldwide, including California, France, Italy, Australia, and South Africa. It’s a cross of Cabernet Franc (red grape) and Sauvignon Blanc (white grape).

Meanwhile, Pinot Noir’s finest expressions are found in regions like Burgundy, France, and Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Along with Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir are mutant red wine grape varieties.

Grape Characteristics

Pinot Noir grapes have delicate skin that yields lighter colors and softer tannins. They are prone to damage from mold and extreme weather conditions, like Merlot grapes.

In contrast, Cabernet Sauvignon grapes have thick skin, are very durable, and are built to withstand challenging conditions, contributing to their robust nature. 

Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon Flavor Profiles


A Cabernet Sauvignon red wine makes a bold entrance with robust flavors of black currant, spice green bell peppers, and other herbaceous notes. It leaves a lasting impression, unlike Pinot Noir’s delicate balance of fruity and floral notes. 

Pinot Noir often comes with black cherry and raspberry tasting notes accompanied by earthy flavors.


Similar to the taste, Cabernet Sauvignon wine boasts more intense aromas than Pinot Noir.

Cabernet Sauvignon has intense black fruit aromas and hints of tobacco, while Pinot Noir wine offers delicate aromas and gentle red fruit scents.


Cabernet Sauvignon showcases deep and dark ruby colors, while Pinot Noir features lighter, translucent red hues that exude elegance. 


Pinot Noir offers a more elegant and smoother finish that gently fades away, while Cabernet Sauvignon has a long lingering finish filled with tannins. 

Food Pairings

Some of my favorite pairings for Pinot Noir are mushroom dishes, grilled salmon, soft cheeses, lamb, and poultry. For a pizza night, I also prefer it, especially for pepperoni pizza. 

On the other hand, Cabernet Sauvignon wine pairs wonderfully with hearty dishes, juicy steaks, hamburgers, and other red meat dishes.

Serving Temperatures & Glass Styles

Wine on a Glass and Decanter

The smooth tannins and lighter body of Pinot Noir wines make it perfect for a slightly chilled drink at 55-60°F. It is traditionally served using a Burgundy glass, a tulip-shaped wine glass that helps showcase the fruit-forward profile of Pinot Noir red wines. 

However, serving Cabernet Sauvignon wines at a slightly warmer temperature of 60-65°F would let you enjoy it more. The taller and skinnier Bordeaux glass best complements the full-bodied texture and high tannin content of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon Sweetness

Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir are typically dry wines, although Pinot Noir can occasionally display a touch of sweetness. These products lean towards dryness with very little residual sugar levels. 

“Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir each offer distinct qualities and characteristics, making them delightful choices for wine enthusiasts.” – Liquor Laboratory 

Some may want the floral and fruity profile of Pinot Noir, while others prefer the darker profile of Cabernet Sauvignon. 


Which is smoother, Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir?

Pinot Noir is often considered smoother than Cabernet Sauvignon due to its lighter body and gentler tannins. Its name is derived from the French words “black” and “pine.” It has a more delicate flavor, aroma, and texture than other wine varieties. 

Which is healthier, Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon? 

Pinot Noir is healthier than Cabernet Sauvignon. Pinot Noir grapes are planted in the northernmost region, where they can develop their most complex characteristics in cooler climates. 

With the addition of its thin skin, it produces wine bottles with high levels of resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant [2]

In Conclusion

Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon are types of dry wine and incredibly delicious red wines. But if you compare Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon taste profiles, you will notice distinct differences. 

Depending on one’s taste preferences, Pinot Noir wine is perfect for those who like light flavors, low tannins, and high acidity. It’s a suitable introductory red wine for those who love white wines.

On the other hand, Cab Sauv red wine offers a more complicated flavor profile suitable to pair up with hearty dishes.

But if we depend on their versatility and food pairings, Pinot Noir is our ultimate winner.



Lydia Martin

Lydia Martin hails from Redmond, Washington, where you’ll find some of the best cocktail bars and distilleries that offer a great mix of local drinks. She used to work as a bar manager in Paris and is a self-taught mixologist whose passion for crafting unique cocktails led her to create Liquor Laboratory. Lydia can whip up a mean Margarita in seconds! Contact at [email protected] or learn more about us here or feel free to give Lydia a tip.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *