Malbec vs Pinot Noir


When it comes to red wines, many can taste similar unless you know what you’re looking for, like Malbec vs Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir has a lighter body, higher acid, and bright red fruit, compared to Malbec. Malbec has a medium to full body, rich flavor, and often a plush texture. Pinot Noir tends to be more expensive than Malbec. Both wines are widely available.

Comparing Malbec vs Pinot Noir is a must-try side-by-side tasting for newer red wine enthusiasts. These are both popular red wines you’ll come across regularly.

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Pinot Noir Basics: Focused Elegance

pinot noir wine infographic pinot noir vs malbec

Pinot Noir, a renowned grape variety originating from Burgundy, France, has gained international popularity due to its elegant and versatile nature. Today, it is considered an international variety and is planted in various wine regions around the world, including Oregon, California, and New Zealand. Pinot Noir presents a complex flavor profile with red fruit notes and often carries delicate hints of floral and earthy tones, making it a beloved choice among wine enthusiasts.

Being one of the world’s top Pinot Noir producers, Burgundy offers a wide range of Pinot Noir wines, catering to different budgets. You’ll also find higher-end selections crafted by renowned producers, showcasing exceptional depth and complexity.

Fun Wine Fact: Pinot Noir is often referred to as the “Heartbreak Grape” due to its challenging cultivation but exquisite and rewarding outcomes in the world of wines.

Helpful Tip: Here’s a complete guide to Pinot Noir.

Malbec Basics: Argentine Elegance

Malbec vs Cabernet Sauvignon - Malbec wine profile infographic

Malbec, a true Argentine wine, offers an accessible red wine experience. With its origins in France, Malbec is the most widely exported wine of Argentina. This grape variety showcases a distinct character with red and black fruit flavors and a lush, smooth mouthfeel. Malbec’s full body and flavors of ripe blackberries, plum, and sometimes a hint of vanilla pair wonderfully with grilled meats and hearty dishes.

Helpful Tip: Here’s a complete guide to Malbec wine.

Malbec is known for its medium to full body, providing a substantial weight on the palate. Its flavor profile, often influenced by the Argentine terroir, includes dark fruits and a unique richness.

Fun Wine Fact: Malbec gained significant popularity when it was introduced to Argentina in the 19th century. Today, Malbec has gained recognition beyond its Argentine origins, with vineyards in regions such as France, the United States, and Australia.

Wine Comparison: Malbec vs Pinot Noir

Here’s a quick side-by-side comparison that covers the most common styles of Pinot Noir and Malbec:

CharacteristicsPinot NoirMalbec
HueRed to rubyDeep violet to black
AromasRed fruits, floral, earthyPlum, black cherry, cocoa
TanninsLow to mediumMedium to high
Alcohol (%)12-14%13-15%
BodyLight to mediumMedium to full
IntensityMediumMedium to high
Key Growing RegionsBurgundy (France), Oregon (USA)Mendoza (Argentina), Cahors (France)
Classic PairingsRoasted chicken, grilled salmonSteak, barbecue, roasted meats
Price Range$20-$50$10-$30

Pinot Noir Wine Profile

  • Sweetness: Pinot Noir is typically produced in a dry style, offering minimal residual sugar.
  • Alcohol: Pinot Noir wines generally have a low to moderate alcohol content, ranging from around 12% to 14% ABV.
  • Body: Known for its light to medium body, Pinot Noir provides an elegant and nuanced drinking experience.
  • Tannins: Pinot Noir often has lower tannin levels compared to Malbec.
  • Flavor and Aroma Intensity: Pinot Noir exhibits delicate flavors and aromas, with notes of red fruits, floral hints, and subtle earthiness.
  • Flavors: The flavor profile often includes red cherry, strawberry, raspberry, with a touch of vanilla and spices. Well-aged Pinot Noir can develop flavors resembling tea leaves and forest floor. Underripe Pinot Noir may have more herbal notes.

Malbec Wine Profile

  • Sweetness: Malbec wines lean towards dryness, offering a range of dry to off-dry styles.
  • Alcohol: Malbec wines typically have a moderate to high alcohol content, higher than Pinot Noir, ranging from around 13% to 15% ABV.
  • Body: Malbec is known for its medium to full body, offering a rich and satisfying drinking experience.
  • Tannins: Malbec showcases moderate tannin levels.
  • Flavor and Aroma Intensity: Malbec boasts intense dark fruit notes and a plush mouthfeel.
  • Flavors: The flavor profile often includes plum, black cherry, cocoa, and sometimes a hint of vanilla.

Are Pinot Noir and Malbec Similar?

Both Pinot Noir and Malbec share red fruits and lower tannin levels than other red wines, like Cabernet Sauvignon. Bother Pinot Noir and Malbec are similar in that they’ll often be made with oak barrels to give them spice notes.

What Is the Difference Between Pinot Noir and Malbec?

Pinot Noir is different than Malbec due to its higher acid and bright red fruit, giving it a leaner feel in your mouth, compared to Malbec’s medium to full body. Malbec tends to have more tannins than Pinot Noir, but the tannins in both wines will be soft and approachable.

Pinot Noir vs. Malbec: Food Pairings and Serving Temperature

a steak with a side of salad and a glass of wine - Malbec vs Cabernet Sauvignon

Pinot Noir Food Pairing: Pinot Noir’s higher acid and bright red fruit profile make it an excellent pairing partner for cream-based dishes, like spaghetti carbonara, clam chowder, and risotto. Check out: Pinot Noir Cheese Pairing Guide

Malbec Food Pairing: Malbec, with its plush mouthfeel and ripe fruit notes, pairs exceptionally well with grilled steaks, roasted vegetables, and barbecued ribs.

Personal Note: Pinot Noir is the lighter wine and is a great wine to sip on a lazy afternoon cocktail style. I personally think Malbec is more of a food wine. It begs to be enjoyed with a meal and good company.

Both Pinot Noir and Malbec are best enjoyed at slightly below room temperature. Place them in a cool, dark place for 1 hour to 30 minutes before serving.

Which Is More Expensive, Malbec vs Pinot Noir?

bottles on brown wooden shelf  - malbec-vs-Pinot-Noir

When comparing the prices of Pinot Noir and Malbec, it’s natural to wonder about their relative costs. Pinot Noir tends to be more expensive than Malbec because it is a harder grape to work with in the vineyard and requires more labor.

Pinot Noir Cost

Entry-level Pinot Noir wines are typically affordable, ranging from $10 to $20 per bottle. If wine affordability is something you’re thinking about, you’ll find drinkable Pinots in most wine markets wherever you buy your wine.

If you look for premium Pinot Noir there are higher-priced Pinot wines available. These bottles, priced around $30 to $50 or higher, offer a more complex and nuanced drinking experience.

Helpful Tip: Burgundy in France and Oregon in the USA are both renowned for producing high-quality Pinot Noir wines, often falling in the premium to super-premium categories.

Malbec Cost

Similar to Pinot Noir, entry-level Malbec wines also fall within accessible price ranges, usually ranging from $12 to $20 per bottle. These wines are known for their rich fruit flavors that forefront the velvety mouthfeel, perfect for casual sipping and pairing.

On the premium side, Malbec will have more intense fruit flavors. You’ll immediately notice just how pronounced they can be. Premium Malbec wines sourced from renowned regions can have wine prices of $25 to $40 or more.

Fun Wine Fact: Premium Malbec from Argentina is often less expensive than premium wines from Bordeaux, France, and Oregon, thanks to favorable exchange rates and more affordable labor costs during production. Take advantage of this factoid to find outstanding bottles of Malbec wine!

Which Is Better, Pinot Noir or Malbec?

person holding clear wine glass - Malbec vs Pinot Noir

If you enjoy a delicate, elegant red wine with softer tannins and flavors of red cherry and subtle earthiness, Pinot Noir will be better for you. If you prefer a medium to full-bodied wine with a plush, fruit-forward mouthfeel and flavors of blackberry and plum, Malbec is the better choice. If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option without compromising on quality, Malbec is often less expensive for the quality level.

Helpful Tip: If you’re a new red wine drinker, my opinion is that Pinot Noir is more approachable and a nice stepping-stone to Malbec wine.

Final Thoughts – Malbec or Pinot Noir?

Both Pinot Noir and Malbec present delightful red wine options with their own unique characteristics.

I’m a big fan of side-by-side tastings to tease out the different wine characteristics. A great way to get started with these two wines is to do a side-by-side comparison.

Grab 2 bottles of similarly priced Pinot Noir and Malbec. Invite over a few friends and enjoy an evening of swirling and sipping.

Pinot Noir is a bright, fruit-forward, fun wine perfect for sipping or pairing with rich, creamy dishes. If you’re looking to pair a red wine with hearty meats and stews, then grab a bottle of Malbec wine the next time you’re at the store.

Thirsty for More?

I’m a big believer in doing side-by-side tastings to boost your wine knowledge. Here’s how to host your own wine tasting for beginners.

Check out this post on Merlot vs. Pinot Noir, another popular red wine comparison, along with Shiraz vs. Malbec.

You should be able to find delicious wines at every price point. Check out this post on how to find great wines under $50.

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