Pinotage vs Pinot Noir: Very Different Wines

Characteristics Pinotage Pinot Noir
Hue Deep purple to garnet Pale to medium ruby
Color Red Red
Aromas Dark berries, smoke, meat, earthy Red berries, cherry, floral
Sweetness Dry Dry
Tannin Medium + to high Low to Medium
Acid Medium Medium to high
Alcohol (%) 13-15% 12-14.5%
Body Full Light to medium
Intensity Pronounced Medium to pronounced
Key Growing Regions South Africa Burgundy, Oregon, New Zealand
Classic Pairings Grilled meats, spicy dishes, BBQ Pork, grilled salmon, mushroom dishes
Price Range $15-$40 $10-$60+

When it comes to red wines, some are widely recognized, like Pinot Noir, while others take you by complete surprise, like Pinotage.

Both Pinotage and Pinot Noir are both red wines. Pinotage is fuller bodied with dark berries, smoke, and meaty aromas. Pinot Noir has a red berry profile. Pinotage has higher tannins than Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir is more widely available than Pinotage.

Fun Wine Fact: Pinotage is a new wine grape that’s only been around for about 100 years. Pinot Noir is one of the parent grapes of Pinotage. The other is Cinsaut.

Here’s what a quick video then all you need to know about Pinotage vs Pinot Noir.

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Pinotage Basics: A Bold South African Gem

pinotage wine profile - pinotage vs Pinot Noir

Pinotage, hailing from South Africa, isn’t as widely known as other red wines. Often associated with regions like Stellenbosch and Paarl, Pinotage offers a robust flavor profile with pronounced dark fruit notes and a subtle earthiness. Pinotage is well-known for its full body, similar to Shiraz. (For a deeper dive into Pinotage wines, explore here.)

Pinot Noir Basics: Bold and Spicy

pinotage 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: Pinotage vs Pinot Noir

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


Pinotage Wine Profile

  • Sweetness: Pinotage is usually made in a dry style.
  • Alcohol: Pinotage wines generally have a moderate to high alcohol content, ranging from around 13% to 15% ABV.
  • Acid: Pinotage tends to have medium (-) acid, lower than Pinot Noir, giving it a plusher, rounder mouthfeel
  • Body: Known for its medium (+) to full body, similar to bigger red wines
  • Tannins: Pinotage tends to have firm tannins, more pronounced than Pinot Noir wines, contributing to its structure and aging potential.
  • Flavors: The flavor profile often includes dark berries, coffee, and a hint of smokiness, 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 Pinotage.
  • Body: Pinot Noir is lighter in body than Pinotage, medium or medium (-)
  • Tannins: Pinot Noir tends to low to medium tannins that are silkier than Pinotage.
  • 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 Pinotage and Pinot Noir Similar?

Pinotage 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 Pinotage and Pinot Noir?

Pinotage showcases more non-fruit aromas and flavors than Pinot Noir, such as meat, smoke, leather, and rubber. Pinotage has much higher tannins and a fuller body than Pinot Noir.

Pinotage vs Pinot Noir Winemaking

Both Pinotage and Pinot Noir can be oaked to impart toast, vanilla, or mocha flavors. Pinotage, however, is more challenging to work with in the winery than Pinot Noir, and winemakers need to be vigilant with fermentation temperatures. Without careful monitoring, Pinotage can develop off-putting rubbery notes.

Helpful Tip: Here’s what oak adds to wine.

Pinotage vs Pinot Noir Food Pairings and Serving Temperature

meat - pinotage vs pinot noir

Pinotage is a big red wine that demands big flavors – think red meat and fat. Grilled meats, aged stinky cheeses, stews, and chiles all work with Pinotage wines.

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 Pinotage 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 Pinotage 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, Pinotage vs Pinot Noir?

Pinotage and Pinot Noir differ in price points on the export market. Pinotage may not be as widely available as Pinot Noir, but entry-level Pinotage does exist depending on your location.

Pinotage Cost

Entry-level Pinotage wines are generally affordable, ranging from $10 to $18 per bottle. Premium Pinotage wines can reach higher price points, around $25 to $40, offering more complexity and depth.

Helpful Wine Buying Tip: Pinotage is one of those wines where you always want to purchase the more expensive bottle. Because of how challenging it is to work with, poorly made Pinotage is truly awful. Check out more in the full Pinotage guide.

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 Pinotage 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, Pinotage or Pinot Noir?

If you enjoy bold and robust red wines with tannin, meat, and tobacco, Pinotage is the better choice for you. If you prefer a more fruit-forward 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 – Pinotage or Pinot Noir?

Credit.New_.Zealand.Winegrowers.Inc - red wine pouring - pinotage vs pinot noir
Credit: Credit: New Zealand Winegrowers Inc

Despite their similar sounding names, Pinotage and Pinot Noir are very different wines. I have bottles of both in my cellar and love to find the perfect occasion for each. Pinotage is my wine for hearty meals. Pinot Noir is my go-to red wine for sipping and risottos.

Pinotage needs you to think a little more about what you want. From what label you buy to how you’re going to pair this unique red wine.

I always recommend doing a side-by-side tasting to fully untangle the differences between these two wines. Grab two bottles of similarly priced Pinotage 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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