Carignan vs Pinot Noir: What’s the Difference


When it comes to red wines, some are widely recognized, like Pinot Noir, while others aren’t quite as common, like Carignan.

Both Carignan and Pinot Noir are red wines with red fruit aromas. Carignan is fuller bodied with meat and licorice. Carignan has higher tannins than Pinot Noir.

Carignan Basics: The Common Man’s Wine

carignan wine profile infographic - carignan vs pinot noir

Carignan has a reputation for being a robust, everyday drinking wine. Plantings surged post-WWII to slake the thirst of France. Quality, however, has never been one of Carignan’s key features. Today closely linked to regions like Languedoc and Catalonia, Carignan presents a rich flavor profile with dark fruit notes and hints of earthiness thanks to better viticulture and winemaking science. It is renowned for its full body, offering a rustic drinking experience. (Here’s a deep-dive into Carignan wines.)

Fun Wine Fact: Carignan is often used in blends, adding depth and structure to many wines.

Pinot Noir Basics: Liquid Elegance

carignan vs pinot noir - pinot noir wine infographic
Grape Profiles – 61

Fun Wine Fact: Pinot Noir can go be Red Burgundy. If you ask for a Red Burgundy at a restaurant or wine shop, you’ll get a Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir is originally from the Burgundy region of France and today you’ll find wines made from Pinot Noir made around the world, including Oregon, California, Chile, New Zealand, and Australia. Pinot Noir is an aromatic red wine grape known for its red cherry and cranberry aromas, along with a floral profile. (Check out this comprehensive guide to Pinot Noir wines.)

Wine Comparison: Carignan vs Pinot Noir

Here’s a quick side-by-side that covers the most common styles of Carignan and Pinot Noir.

Characteristics Carignan Pinot Noir
Hue Deep purple to ruby red Pale red to deep garnet
Color Red Red
Aromas Red berries, spice, earth, meat Red berries, floral, earth
Tannins Moderate to high Low to moderate
Acid Moderate Moderate to high
Alcohol (%) 13-15% 12-15%
Body Medium to full Light to medium
Intensity Moderate to Pronounced Moderate to pronounced
Key Growing Regions France, Spain, Italy France, USA, New Zealand
Classic Pairings Grilled meats, stews, hard cheeses Duck, lamb, mushroom dishes
Price Range $15-$40 $20-$60

Carignan Wine Profile

  • Sweetness: Carignan is usually made in a dry style.
  • Alcohol: Carignan wines generally have a moderate to high alcohol content, ranging from around 13% to 15% ABV.
  • Acid: Carignan tends to have medium acid, a little lower than Pinot Noir, giving it a plusher, rounder mouthfeel
  • Body: Known for its medium (+) to full body, similar to bigger red wines
  • Tannins: Carignan tends to have firm, stalky tannins, more pronounced than Pinot Noir wines, contributing to its structure and aging potential.
  • Flavors: The flavor profile often includes red berries, licorice, and meat, or leather.

Pinot Noir Wine Profile

  • Sweetness: Pinot Noir is almost always made in a dry style unless it is an inexpensive bulk wine
  • Alcohol: Pinot Noir wines typically feature moderate alcohol content, around 12%-14% ABV
  • Acid: Pinot Noir tends to have medium to medium (+) acid, higher than Carignan.
  • Body: Pinot Noir is lighter in body than Carignan, medium or medium (-)
  • Tannins: Pinot Noir tends to low to medium tannins that are silkier than Carignan.
  • Flavor: Vibrant red fruit flavors like cranberry, raspberry, and red cherry, accompanied by floral notes and sometimes even a wet earth and tea leaf.

Helpful Tip: If you’re unsure about serving temperatures, here’s a breakdown of wine serving temperatures for different wine styles and occasions.

Are Carignan and Pinot Noir Similar?

Carignan and Pinot Noir are both red wines crafted in a dry style. Both wines do well with oak, giving them spice notes.

What Is the Difference Between Carignan and Pinot Noir?

Carignan showcases more non-fruit aromas and flavors than Pinot Noir, such as meat and licorice. Carignan has much higher tannins and a fuller body than Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir will be more aromatic than Carignan.

Carignan vs Pinot Noir Food Pairings and Serving Temperature

carignan vs pinot noir - risotto

Carignan is a big red wine that demands big flavors – think roasted chicken, turkey, pork chops, smoked cheeses.

Pinot Noir is a more delicate wine with nuanced red cherry flavors. Look to dishes that can use a little brightening up, like risotto, salads, and roasted white meats.

Both Carignan and Pinot Noir are best enjoyed at a slightly cool temperature. Place them in the refrigerator for about 10-15 minutes before serving.

Note: You may need to decant both Carignan and Pinot Noir if they are made in a fuller-bodied style. If your wine seems closed when you first take a sip, give it a good swirl or let it sit for about 10 minutes to see if it opens up.

Discover More:
Pinot Noir Cheese Pairing Guide

Which Is More Expensive, Carignan vs Pinot Noir?

Carignan and Pinot Noir differ in price points on the export market. Carignan may not be as widely available as Pinot Noir.

Carignan Cost

Carignan wines from Languedoc come from a region in France that produces a variety of Carignan wines in large volumes, this can reduce per-bottle cost.

Entry-level Carignan wines are generally affordable, ranging from $15 to $20 per bottle. Premium Carignan wines can reach higher price points, around $30 to $40, offering more complexity and depth.

Pinot Noir Cost

Pinot Noir wines are widely available at various price points. You’ll find budget-friendly Pinot Noir starting around $5 USD. These wines, while more affordable, are typically made in an off-dry (slightly sweet) style.

Pinot Noir starts to get interesting around $18-$25 USD. Premium Pinot Noir wines, sourced from renowned regions, can easily cost you $45 – $80+ USD, well above premium Carignan wines.

Helpful Tip: Here’s how a bottle of wine gets priced. This post is a little nerdy, but it’s quite complicated and nuanced depending on where you are in the world and where you’re buying your wine.

Which Is Better, Carignan or Pinot Noir?

If you enjoy bolder and robust red wines with tannin, meat, and licorice, Carignan is the better choice for you. If you prefer a more fruit-driven wine, then Pinot Noir may be a better option. If you’re a newer red wine drinker, you’re probably better off starting with Pinot Noir.

Final Thoughts – Carignan or Pinot Noir?

carignan vs pinot noir - red wine
Check out the seductive ruby color in this Pinot Noir. I’m in besotted.

Both Carignan and Pinot Noir present distinctive red wine options with their own unique characteristics.

Personal Note: I’m not a huge Carignan drinker and don’t seek these wines out, but when a good one crosses my path, it makes my day.

I always recommend doing a side-by-side tasting to fully untangle the differences between these two wines. Grab two bottles of similarly priced Carignan and Pinot Noir, invite a few friends over, and enjoy an evening of swirling and sipping.

Thirsty for More?

I believe in enhancing your wine knowledge through side-by-side tastings. Here’s a guide on how to host your own wine tasting for beginners.

Check out this post on Malbec vs Pinot Noir another popular strong red wine, along with Cabernet Sauvignon vs. Merlot.

You can discover delicious wines at every price point. Explore this post on finding great red wines under $50.

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