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    The Difference Between Pinot Noir & Malbec

    Pinot Noir Vs Malbec Wine

    It’s Friday night and you want nothing more than a glass of delicious red wine to drink with dinner.

    The perfect way to celebrate making it to the end of the week.

    But which one to go for? Pinot Noir or Malbec? 

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    Pinot Noir vs Malbec: 7 Main Differences

    Pinot Noir and Malbec Wines

    How can you tell the difference between a Malbec and a Pinot Noir?

    They’re both red wines that make frequent appearances in every wine list and wine aisle you come across, so how can you compare one against the other?

    To help you choose we’ve compiled the 7 main differences between Pinot Noir and Malbec:

    1. Origins

    Bordeaux and Burgundy

    Both Malbec and Pinot Noir come from France, which can make it tricky to tell the two apart.

    • Pinot Noir - specifically originates from the Burgundy region of France and this can help us tell the two apart.
    • Malbec - on the other hand, can be traced back to Cahors in the southwest of France but is perhaps better known for making fantastic red wines in Argentina’s Mendoza.

    How do their respective origins affect the characteristics of Pinot Noir and Malbec?

    2. Grape Characteristics

    Malbec and Pinot Noir Grapes

    What are the characteristics of Malbec and Pinot Noir grapes?

    The main difference here is the thickness of the skin.

    • Malbec wine has a much thicker skin which makes it a very adaptable red wine grape which produces fuller-bodied wines.
    • In comparison, Pinot Noir has a much thinner skin which results in lighter, more delicate styles of red wine.

    Do these characteristics affect appearance? What do Malbec and Pinot Noir wines look like?

    3. Appearance

    Pinot Noir Vs Malbec Appearance

    A useful thing to know when telling wines apart from their appearance is that the thicker a grape’s skin the deeper the colour of the wine.

    Therefore, because PInot Noir and Malbec have grape skins with differing thickness, Pinot Noir will pour a much lighter red than the deep purple of a Malbec.

    So how does this difference of appearance affect the serving suggestions for Malbec and Pinot Noir?

    4. Serving

    Pinot Noir Vs Malbec Serving Temperature

    There is no right or wrong way to serve your wine.

    As long as you are enjoying yourself, that’s really all that matters.

    But different wines prefer different temperatures and even using glassware can help to get the most out of your glass.

    There are lots of different types of wine glasses out there, but you only have to focus on two when it comes to serving Pinot Noir and Malbec.

    The deeper and fuller-bodied a wine the larger the wine glass.

    This is to really help the wine open up and greet you with its full range of aromas and flavours.

    Pinot Noir, then, prefers a Burgundy, medium-sized, red wine glass for its lighter, delicate nature.

    The more powerful Malbec is better suited to a larger, Bordeaux style wine glass to help let the wine breathe once it’s been poured.

    5. Tasting Notes

    Pinot Noir Taste Profile

    What does Pinot Noir taste like? Does Pinot Noir taste like Malbec?

    • Because of its thinner skin, Pinot Noir grapes make a lighter, more delicate red wine. Think the cherries, chocolate and soft violet with hints of mushrooms and a forest just after it rains.
    • Malbec will have a more spiced fruit profile. Tasting notes for Malbec commonly feature lots of cherries and plums as well as hints of spice like cloves and star anise.

    So how do these tasting notes affect the foods Pinot Noir and Malbec go best with?

    6. Food Pairings

    Light and bright, Pinot Noir is a very food friendly wine.

    • Try Pinot Noir with slightly tricker dishes with ingredients like mushroom, brie and cured meats.
    • Malbec has a much fuller body so works wonders with richer dishes. Steak is a Malbec’s best friend, but also try a glass with deep, tomato based sauces.

    Malbec Food Pairings

    And last but not least, what about price? Is Pinot Noir more expensive than Malbec?

    7. Price

    Malbec tends to be slightly more affordable than Pinot Noir as the grapes are easier to grow and suited to a wider range of climates.

    Therefore, if you’re working to a budget, why not try a Malbec next time you’re red wine shopping.

    But what else can help you choose between Pinot Noir and Malbec?

    Price aside, which wine is better?

    Which Is Better: Pinot Noir Or Malbec?

    Whilst there are lots of ways to tell Pinot Noir and Malbec apart, the only person who can decide which is best is yourself.

    For a more fuller-bodied style of red wine, opt for a Malbec.

    Reach for a Pinot Noir when you’re in the mood for something softer and lighter on the palate.

    But ultimately the choice is yours, and the only way to really decide which is best is to try them both!

    Summary of the differences between Pinot Noir and Malbec

    Although the details of each wine can vary with production method along with the region of origin. Here's a summary of the differences between Pinot Noir and Malbec:

    Key Differences Pinot Noir Malbec
    Origins Burgundy, France Cahors (France) and Mendoza (Argentina)
    Grape Characteristics Thinner skin, lighter and delicate style Thicker skin, fuller-bodied style
    Appearance Lighter red color Deeper purple color
    Serving Temperature Served in a Burgundy, medium-sized glass Served in a larger Bordeaux-style glass
    Tasting Notes Cherries, chocolate, soft violet, hints of mushrooms Spiced fruit profile with cherries, plums, and hints of cloves and star anise
    Food Pairings Vegetable dishes, mushroom, brie, cured meats Richer dishes, steak, deep tomato-based sauces
    Price Generally more expensive Generally more affordable

    Before You Go... 


    We hope this article answers any questions you may have on Pinot Noir vs Malbec.

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    philip thompson Author: Philip Thompson
    Philip is the General Manager at Expert Wine Storage, and is very knowledgable about all things relating to wine and wine storage, including wine fridges. He is regularly featured in media outlets sharing his knowledge on wine. Connect on Linkedin