Pinot Noir vs Cabernet – Which Should You Choose?

Two of the most popular red wines are Pinot Noir and Cabernet. In this article, we are going to look at both wines to see if one is better than the other or if both have their own qualities. Perhaps you don’t need to choose one or the other. Maybe, you should drink both at different times with different food pairings.

Pinot Noir is difficult to cultivate and grows in fewer areas than Cabernet so you may not be able to purchase Pinot Noir as easily as Cabernet. However, it is an elegant wine and worth trying. It has a smooth flavour while Cabernet packs a punch. However, they both originate from the same place, that is, France, the home of many popular wines and of course, Champagne.  

Pinot Noir

As we have said, Pinot Noir is difficult to grow and in addition, it is also difficult to deal with when making the wine. However, it is one of the best wines in the market and has many fans. In the end, all the hard work is worth the trouble. 

Pinot Noir has been around for a long time. The Ancient Romans first produced it in the first century A.D. and called it Helvenacis Minor.

Now it is produced in many countries including France, England, The Czech Republic, Croatia, Austria, Hungary, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Algeria, Australia, New Zealand, the US, and Canada.

How Pinot Noir Got its Reputation

Pinot Noir was first mentioned in writing in 1375, but it had been around for centuries before that. As we have mentioned, it is difficult to cultivate, but in Burgundy, France, you can find the ‘slope of gold’  where Pinot Noir is produced successfully. This area is 30 miles long and two miles wide. 

The first reason why the ‘slope of gold’ is perfect for growing Pinot Noir grapes is that the vineyard slopes to the east. This means that the grapes get the benefit of the sun in the morning, but they are then shielded from the intense heat of the afternoon.

The next reason why this area is perfect for Pinot Noir is that the soil is calcareous which means that it is chalky. It contains calcium carbonate which allows for good drainage. The vines don’t get water logged when it rains heavily. Soils that drain well have a high temperature and this enables the grapes to ripen quickly. 

The Pinot Noir vine is particularly unstable so there are problems from the moment the wines are planted until they are bottled. They are so unstable that they can produce fruit that is different to the Pinot Noir grape. At the moment, there are around 46 genetic variants in France.

Fermenting is difficult because these grapes contain 18 amino acids. These can make for a difficult fermentation. It is not unknown for the fermentation to become volatile and the wine can even burst out of its container.  The wine needs to be watched for as long as possible to make sure that nothing untoward happens to the wine.

Pinot Noir grapes have thin skins which makes it difficult for them to retain their red colour when fermented. You will see that Pinot Noir wine is usually not a rich robust colour like Cabernet, but that, in the long run, is not that important. It is still a red wine. A more serious problem is that it is susceptible to acetification. Acetic bacteria cause spoilage by changing the balance of acid in the wine. This bacteria converts the alcohol into acetic acid and ethyl acetate which is basically undrinkable.

Despite these problems, Pinot Noir has numerous health benefits, probably more than any other red wine. It contains resveratrol which is an antioxidant. It can help prevent many illnesses such as cancer and heart disease as long as you drink it in moderation.

Pinot Noir is light in colour. It has smooth tannins and they don’t overpower the wine. The acidity is light and gives just a little bitterness to the wine. It is full-bodied and rich but not too high in alcohol.  The flavour of the wine is fruity. You may taste juicy black cherries or raspberries and blackberries. If the Pinot Noir is aged in oak barrels, it develops a slightly meaty taste so it is a wine that would go well with meats of all kinds. When it comes to the aroma of the wine, you may smell grapes or cherries. It also smells slightly spicy with hints of cinnamon and mint.


Cabernet is popular all over the world. It is not difficult to find in your supermarket or off-licence, unlike Pinot Noir. It is made in many different countries, but it originally comes from Bordeaux, France where it is still cultivated. It is often made into a blended wine, combining it with Merlot, Malbec, Carmenere, Petit Verdot, or Cabernet Franc.

Cabernet has not been around as long as Pinot Noir has. It was discovered in the 17th century at about the same time as Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc were blended. 

The grapes used to make Cabernet are thick-skinned and small. The thick skins give the wine plenty of tannins. The grapes are small and the flesh is sweet. The wine tastes of black and red fruit like raspberries and blackberries and it is full-bodied and rich.

How do you Cultivate Cabernet?

Cabernet vines are strong and hardy and can grow in many different terrains and climates, unlike Pinot Noir. Because the skins are so tough the grapes can cope with any sort of severe weather like snow and frost. It is easy to produce so many vintners are growing the Cabernet grapes. Cabernet is a very popular wine the world over so it is advantageous that the grapes grow so easily.   

It is not only Bordeaux where this wine is produced. It is grown in the US as well in Napa Valley, California. While in America, the wine is made as a single red varietal, in Bordeaux it is often blended.

The Taste of Cabernet

Cabernet tastes differently when it is produced in different climates. If the grapes are grown in a warm climate, they taste of red fruits like raspberries and they are acidic. Sometimes the wine grower cuts down the leaves of the wine so that the grapes can get more benefit from the sun. The grapes grow quicker in a warm climate compared to a cold climate. When the wine is grown in a colder climate, the wine tastes like black fruits, such as blackberries and blackcurrants.

Structure and Body

Cabernet can vary in structure and body, depending on where it is produced. Generally, however, wherever it is produced, it is a full-bodied and dry wine. It varies the most when it comes to flavour and aroma. Old World wines, like those produced in Bordeaux, are earthy and taste a little like liquorice. You can smell floral and herbal notes like violets and the taste is of light fruits such as raspberries. Cabernet produced in the New World, such as Napa Valley in California have deeper fruit flavours like cherries and blackberries. There are also hints of black pepper, liquorice, and vanilla. Old World Cabernets contain more tannins and are acidic in comparison with New World Cabernets. However, New World Cabernets contain more alcohol. You might not taste all these flavours as Cabernet is produced in stainless steel vats that can dim some of the flavours.  Cabernet also contains pyrazines which give off a green pepper aroma.

Because Cabernet has a lot of tannins, it can be drunk with any meat and poultry dish as well as vegan and vegetarian dishes. The fruit in the wine goes well with lamb and filet mignon for example. 

Sometimes Cabernet is sometimes aged for a long time, from eight to twelve years. In this case, it has fewer tannins and is more of a mellow wine.

Food Pairings Pinot Noir vs Cabernet

We are now going to take a look at what foods go well with these two wines. You will see that both are versatile wines and that they pair with many dishes.

The Best Food Pairings for Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir can be paired with red meat, fish, and poultry so it is a good choice if you and your dinner companion are eating different types of meat or fish. 

Some ingredients pair especially well with Pinot Noir and that includes duck and mushrooms. A lot, however, depends on the style of Pinot Noir that you are drinking. 

Remember to drink the wine chilled which may be strange for a red wine, but it really works as it is a light wine. However, if you are drinking a mature Pinot Noir, serve it at room temperature. 

Here we’ll take a look at what food goes best with different t styles of Pinot Noir.

Let’s now take a look at the different styles of Pinot Noir and what they pair well with.

Light and Fresh Pinot Noir

Examples of light and fresh Pinot Noir include Burgundy and Alsace Pinot. They go well with ham and other cold meats. What would be nice is to have a plate of cold meats and some hard cheeses. Pates and terrines pair with this Pinot Noir.

French dishes go well with this Pinot Noir, especially if they are in a creamy sauce. Why not pair the wine with rabbit in a mustard sauce.   

Vegetarians don’t need to feel as if they have been left out. Grilled asparagus and artichokes are great vegetables to have with this Pinot Noir. It also goes well with goats cheese so you could have baked goats cheese on a salad of rocket leaves. Spring vegetables like peas and beans are also a good pairing.

Sweet and Fruity Pinot Noir

Sweet and fruity Pinot Noir is usually produced in Chile, California, and New Zealand. It has a strong berry taste and pairs well with seared tuna, salmon, crispy duck pancakes, and grilled quail. It could also go well with a mushroom risotto for all the vegetarians out there. Roasted beetroot is another option. This wine is a good addition to a barbecue. A hint of spice in the food wouldn’t go amiss either. You might like to have it with a mild curry like a korma. This wine also goes well with a dish that contains figs or cherries. Try it with a dish of goats cheese and figs or duck with cherries.

Elegant Pinot Noir  

These Pinot Noirs include the top red Burgundies. It goes well with garlic roasted chicken, pigeon, and guinea fowl  It also pairs with a pink and rare rack of lamb, fillet steak and carpaccio. Pork with fennel is a good match as is beef wellington, poultry sausages, sweetbreads, and calves liver. If you enjoy seafood, lobster can be eaten with this Pinot Noir. Vegetarians don’t need to feel left out as mushroom risotto and in fact, any mushroom dish goes well with elegant Pinot Noir. Why not roast a couple of portobello mushrooms in olive oil for the vegetarian guest. 

Full-Bodied and Rich Pinot Noir

A rich full-bodied vintage or a bottle from Central Otago is the perfect match for meat. Meat lovers out there who enjoy chargrilled steak or butterflied lamb won’t go far wrong pairing their food with a rich Pinot Noir. Other good dishes include glazed ham, goose, hare, duck and cassoulet with olives are also good pairings. If you enjoy coq au vin, why not cook the chicken in Pinot Noir. Vegetarians don’t need to feel left out as this wine pairs well with cheese, especially blue cheese.

Truffley Pinot Noir

Truffley refers to the older vintages of Pinot Noir. They go well with game such as partridge, grouse, and pheasant. It would also make a nice pairing with a cold game pie over the Christmas period.

Cabernet Wine and the Best Food Pairings

Cabernet is easy to pair with food. It goes well with any red meat for a start, but vegetarians don’t need to feel left out. As with Pinot Noir, Cabernet goes well with cheese and with mushrooms

As with Pinot Noir, there are different types of Cabernet out there. Old World Cabernet from Bordeaux is refined and is often blended with Cabernet Franc and Merlot. New World Cabernets from countries such as California and Australia kick a punch and taste a lot like cassis fruit.

Young Cabernets go well with foods with a hint of spice added. Older Cabernets pair with European dishes such as beef bourguignon or stroganoff. Cabernets also go with meat cooked in red wine. It is a good idea to use the same wine that you are drinking to cook with. There’s no point in using a cheap wine to cook with as you will be able to tell that the wine is sub-standard.

Put some roast potatoes cooked in rosemary and garlic on the plate. Cabernet likes herbs. Mint is also a way to go and can be used in a lamb dish. A combination of meat and cheese goes well with Cabernet. Try it with beef lasagna.

Now let’s take a more detailed look at some of the foods Cabernet goes with.

  • Steak: Steak cooked rare or medium-rare is the best choice. Use sirloin or rib-eye. You may think of beefburgers as fast food, but they can be really jazzed up. Why not make your own burgers with minced beef. Serve with crispy onions, a hot sauce, and a good layer of melted cheese. New World Cabernets go best with burgers as they have a kick to them. 
  • Other Beef Dishes: You could serve Cabernet with a roast beef dinner with all the trimmings. Braised beef is another choice or you could use venison instead.
  • Roast Lamb: Another popular Sunday lunch is roast lamb. You could serve it with a mint sauce and potatoes cooked in rosemary and garlic. Gratin Dauphinoise goes well with lamb. In fact, any type of lamb will work well. Try Cabernet with a lamb steak for example. Old World Cabernet goes best with lamb.
  • Mushrooms: Mushrooms are a great fit. You can make a beef wellington or for vegetarians, a mushroom wellington. Portobello mushrooms taste particularly good served with Cabernet. All you have to do is drizzle them with olive oil and roast them in the oven. A pasta with mushrooms in a rich tomato sauce would also go well.
  • Cheese: Perhaps you enjoy having a cheeseboard after your meal, especially if you are entertaining. You might choose port to go with the cheese and biscuits, but Cabernet makes an equally good choice. Blue cheese particularly goes well with Cabernet, as does a mature cheddar or gouda. 

Cheese dishes are also a good fit for Cabernet. Tey cauliflower cheese or cheesy polenta.

  • Vegetables: If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you will want to know the best vegetables to eat with Cabernet. Good choices are broccoli, courgettes, grilled radicchio, and brussel sprouts. Add herbs to them such as thyme, rosemary, or basil. 

Health Benefits of Pinot Noir

We hear differing opinions about whether we should drink alcohol or not. Is it unhealthy and will it lead to all sorts of illnesses, like cancer and heart disease? Well, the answer lies in drinking in moderation and in what you drink. There seems a general consensus that drinking red wine can have health benefits, much more so than white or sparkling wine. It is also healthier than drinking spirits or beer which is jam packed full of carbs.

However, do all the varieties of red wine have the same benefits? The answer is no. Some have more health benefits than others. This is because different varieties of grapes have different nutrients. 

What we can say is that Pinot Noir is a wine that has more health benefits than others. It has the highest concentration of resveratrol compared to any other red wine. Resveratrol, which is an antioxidant, can help to fight cancer and reduce the risk of getting heart disease. In addition, Pinot Noir contains other antioxidants which help to fight disease. 

The Pinot Noir grapes contain very little sugar so the wine isn’t overly sweet. This also means that it has fewer calories than Cabernet and contains less alcohol. Choosing Pinot Noir over Cabernet will keep you trim as long as you don’t drink too much.

Pinot Noir has fewer tannins than Cabernet.  Tannins do have a few health benefits, but they can bring on heartburn and a feeling of sickness. 

Let’s now take a more detailed look at the health benefits of Pinot Noir.

Prevention and Treatment of Cancer

Cancer is a frightening disease and something that we all fear. There are treatments of course, but not all of them work. You may be surprised to hear that Pinot Noir can help to ward off cancer and aid treatment as long as you drink just a glass or two each day. Drinking too much can have detrimental effects on your health.

It is the resveratrol and other antioxidants in Pinot Noir that help to both prevent and treat cancer. It can protect against the damage done by the carcinogens in your body and can stop cancerous tumours from growing or starting to grow. It can slow down the spread of cancerous cells in your body. Perhaps you just have one type of cancer, but it can easily spread. Pinot Noir can help to stop this from happening. The final thing that resveratrol does is stop the mutation of cancer cells. If this happens, you could become resistant to chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

Better Levels of Cholesterol

As you probably know, there are two types of cholesterol, HDL, which is the good kind, and LDL, which is the bad kind. Some years ago, it was thought that you shouldn’t eat eggs because they were full of cholesterol, but now we know that they are filled with HD cholesterol.

Red wine, in particular, Pinot Noir helps to keep the levels of your HDL cholesterol at the right level and they don’t raise levels of LDL cholesterol.

There was a study in 2015 in which the volunteers were told to drink either a 5 oz. glass of white wine, a 5 oz glass of red wine, or a glass of mineral water. The red wine included Pinot Noir and the people ate a healthy Mediterranean diet. At the end of the study, it was found that those who had drunk the red wine had better HDL levels than the other people.

Better Mental Health

Drinking a moderate amount of Pinot Noir can make you feel better mentally. It can even reduce mild depression. In addition, it reduces the risk of getting dementia so Pinot Noir is helpful as you get older and are more at risk from such illnesses as Alzheimers. The antioxidants, resveratrol, catechin, and quercetin which are all in Pinot Noir, help with mental health. 

A Longer Life

Moderate amounts of Pinot Noir can help you age less quickly and can even increase your lifespan. An article in Heart Failure Review stated that the resveratrol in Pinot Noir worked on the genes that control how long we live. The wine can also have a beneficial effect on the natural ageing process. Perhaps you will have fewer lines on your face, or maybe your heart will be stronger. 

There are positives and negatives related to this projection. A test was done on mice in which they didn’t live any longer, but then mice are completely different from us and the effects of alcohol could be detrimental to them. On the other hand, in certain parts of France where red wine is drunk regularly, the people tend to have long lifespans. People in France are brought up with wine and generally don’t abuse it. 

Less chance of metabolic syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of health conditions that happen at the same time such as high blood sugar, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and excess fat around the waist. If you have metabolic syndrome, the chances are high that you might get diabetes, have a stroke, or suffer from heart disease. 

The Annals of Internal Medicine did a study that proved that red wine drinkers could escape from some of the components that bring about metabolic syndrome.

There was another study, this time in the British Journal of Nutrition. It stated that drinking Pinot Noir definitely reduced your risk of getting metabolic syndrome. They also said that the people who would be likely to benefit were women under 70 and those who were smokers or still smoked. 

Stopping Tooth Decay

Quite a few drinks and foods help to prevent tooth decay. Apples are one of these. You’ve probably heard the saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away’. The same could be said for dentists. If you drink Pinot Noir on a regular basis without overdoing it, you can reduce the number of cavities you will get.

Reducing inflammation

There is a study published in the American Journal of Biomedical Sciences that states that drinking red wine on a regular, but moderate level, helps to reduce the effects of inflammations caused by severe infections. Pinot Noir has been proved to be the best red wine if you want to reduce inflammation. This can even stop long-term damage.

Diabetes prevention

A review of an article that had been published in the Journal of Medical Biochemistry stated that the moderate, but regular consumption of Pinot Noir helps to reduce the likelihood that you will get diabetes.

There is still research going on into the effect of red wine on diabetes. The scientists are looking into how red wine affects those who already have diabetes and if it really does stop diabetes from starting.

Blood clot prevention

Blood clots can lead to strokes which can interfere with your mobility and speech. You often get blood clots if you are sitting down for a long time on a daily basis. It is always best to have a few breaks where you can walk a little. Also, adding a glass of Pinot Noir to your routine can also help to prevent blood clots. 

What Amount of Red Wine Should You Drink?

Yes, red wine, in particular, Pinot Noir, has health benefits, but scientists have said that you should only drink in moderation. If you drink too much, you will be at risk of illnesses like cancer and stroke. Too much wine can also have an adverse impact on your heart.  You can also easily put on weight and maybe even become obese which is not healthy. 

So how much red wine should you drink on a daily basis so that it benefits your health? Well, unfortunately for women, men metabolize alcohol quicker than women do so they can drink more. It is recommended that women only have one 5 oz glass of red wine in one day. Men, on the other hand, can drink up to two glasses. Yes, men get all the luck!

If you don’t drink, there is no compulsion for you to consume alcohol. If you follow a healthy diet, you should be getting all the antioxidants you need, as well as minerals and vitamins.

If you haven’t drunk red wine before, it is better to go and see your doctor so he can rule out any health conditions you have. Don’t force yourself to drink red wine if you don’t like it.

What are the Benefits of Drinking Pinot Noir?

We have shown that there definitely are health benefits from drinking red wine, especially Pinot Noir. However, having said that, Cabernet has similar health benefits, but they are not quite as great as Pinot Noir.

It must be said again, that these health benefits won’t work if you drink too much. You will put yourself at risk of all sorts of health issues, some of which are serious. Not only could you get cancer, but you might have a heart attack or your liver could easily be damaged. Your sleep cycle may also be disrupted. Perhaps alcohol will make you drop off quickly, but there is a chance you might wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to get back to sleep. You may also feel sluggish in the morning and perform badly at work.

However, if you do like a couple of drinks each night, who are we to criticize. The only thing we will say is that you should get lots of folates from your food. They will help to minimize the effect of alcohol. Folate is a B vitamin found in such foods as bread, legumes, and pasta. It helps with cell growth and cell reproduction. It also helps to slow down the absorption of alcohol which means that your liver won’t be bombarded with alcohol all at once.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I drink Cabernet with a dessert?

Cabernet is a rich and full-bodied wine and goes best with meat or a cheeseboard. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t drink it with a dessert. You just have to know which dessert is best to pair it with. A dessert that has dark fruits is a good choice. Perhaps have it with plum crumble or blueberries with ice cream. A blackberry pie with shortcrust pastry is also a good choice. What you shouldn’t pair a Cabernet with is a citrus dessert or a dark chocolate mousse. Both of these will leave a strange taste in your mouth and you won’t enjoy the rest of the wine.

Can I drink Pinot Noir with a dessert?

Because Pinot Noir is a lighter wine than Cabernet, it goes better with desserts. Try a lemon meringue pie or an apple crumble.

Is it acceptable to mix wines?

The simple answer is yes. You need to try other wines, not only the ones you think you like. There are some great blends out there made from all different types of grapes which are worth trying.

It is also worth noting that at dinner parties, quite often different wines are served with each course. You may get a dry white wine to go with the appetizer, then a full-bodied red wine with the main course. With the dessert, you could get a sweet dessert wine and with the cheese and biscuits, port. The different wines won’t make you ill if they pair well with the food they are served with.

How do you know if wines can be stored?

You may want to buy wine to keep for a while in your cellar for later use. Perhaps you belong to a wine club which sends you 12 bottles of wine every couple of months. Well, if wine is stored for too long, it can start to lose its alcohol level, so you are best off storing wines that are high in alcohol. Don’t worry though/ It does take some time for the alcohol level to go down.


Pinot Noir and Cabernet originally come from the same region, that is France, although they are now produced in other countries all over the world. This being said, there are a lot of differences between the two wines. Cabernet is a full-bodied wine that packs a punch, while Pinot Noir is subtle. 

Both Pinot Noir and Cabernet have health benefits as they are red wines, but Pinot Noir is by far, the healthiest of the two. It can help to prevent heart disease, cancer, blood clots, and strokes. It is definitely the number one wine for antioxidants. 

You can buy Cabernet more easily than Pinot Noir. This is because Pinot Noir grapes are difficult to cultivate and can only be found in select areas. Perhaps this will make you buy Cabernet more regularly but persevere. It is definitely worth sourcing Pinot Noir.

Out of the two, our favourite is Pinot Noir. It can be paired with almost any food, even desserts and is a light and delightful wine.


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