As a wine drinker, choosing between Malbec vs Pinot wine types can be tricky. There are cool climates, warmer climates, sunny climates, and potential health benefits to consider. To help you sort through the wide range of Malbec and Pinot Noir wines, this guide will get you started.
Malbec vs Pinot Noir: Typical Flavors
As you develop your wine knowledge, knowing the fundamental differences between Malbec and Pinot Noir in flavor is helpful.
Pinot Noir Flavor Profile
As a wine grape variety, Pinot Noir is a thin-skinned grape variety. Unlike Malbec, Pinot Noir is not a full-bodied red wine; instead, the wine is light or medium-bodied. For more insight on the typical taste of Pinot Noir, check out the following.
- Primary Notes (or Primary Taste). Pinot noir wine typically tastes like red fruits (e.g., cranberry, cherry, and raspberry).
- Secondary Flavor. You might taste hints of mushroom and hints of the forest floor. Sometimes you will taste baking spice and vanilla in the glass.
- Acidity. Pinot Noir is considered a medium-high in acidity, which gives balance to the natural levels of tannins.
- Alcohol Content (i.e., Alcohol By Volume). It varies depending on the region. On the low end, French and German Pinot Noir is 12%. However, you can find higher alcohol content Pinot Noir – up to 13.5% to 15% – from warmer climates like Australia and California.
- Calorie Count In A Five-Ounce Glass. Alcohol content is a crucial factor: a wine glass of 13.5% Pinot Noir has a 113 calorie count while a 14.2% has a 119 calorie count.
Malbec Flavor Profile
In my wine journey, I have fond memories of drinking Malbec wine while visiting Buenos Aires. As a wine grape variety, Malbec is generally considered a full-bodied red wine. Keep reading to find out more about the typical taste of Malbec wine.
- Primary Notes (or. Primary Taste). Your taste buds will detect blackberry and red plum.
- Secondary Flavor. You might also notice dark chocolate, vanilla, and tobacco flavors.
- Acidity. Malbec wine has a medium level of acid and medium tannins, so it will not dry your mouth like more acidic wines (e.g., Riesling)
- Alcohol Content (i.e., Alcohol By Volume). Typically, Malbec wines have a 13-14% alcohol content.
- Calorie Count In A Five-Ounce Glass. Assuming you are drinking a wine glass of 14% alcohol content Malbec, a single glass has a 118 calorie count.
Malbec vs Pinot Noir: Average Price
When you go to a wine shop to pick up an exciting bottle of wine, you need to think through your price range. For moderate consumption, I recommend choosing a higher price wine ($30 to $100 – I don’t have much experience with wines over $100) and enjoying each glass of wine.
Malbec Average Price
Thanks to the fantastic data compiled by Wine Searcher, you can find the average price for a Malbec bottle of wine. For the following data, I looked at a few categories to give you price range insights
- Malbec Best Value. The price range goes from $53 at the high end to $21 on the low end.
- Malbec Most Popular. The price range varies widely! At the bottom end of the price range, $11 is the average price for Casa Montes Ampakama Malbec, San Juan, Argentina. At the top end, there are multiple wines over $100 per bottle like Devil Proof Malbec, Alexander Valley, the USA, and Catena Zapata Adrianna Vineyard ‘River Stones’ Malbec, Gualtallary, Argentina.
There are plenty of affordable options like Chateaux de Gadou Cahors, which sells for $32 in some online wine shops if you prefer French Malbecs.
Pinot Noir Average Price
Once again, let’s use the significant data compiled by Wine Searcher to help you make a good choice at the wine shop.
- Pinot Noir Best Value. The average price is $41 with multiple wines under $30 and some wines over $50 like Ata Rangi Pinot Noir, Martinborough, New Zealand.
- Pinot Noir Most Popular. Are you sitting down? That’s good because Pinot Noir prices can be astonishingly high. For wine regions like Romanee-Conti, you could spend over $20,000 for a single bottle of wine! It isn’t easy to find op quality French bottle of Pinot Noir for less than $100.
Pinot Noir From US Wine Regions
There are plenty of good Pinot Noir made in the US. If you like Pinot Noir from the US wine regions, there are several good options on the market.
- Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. According to Wine Enthusiast, Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is one of the best places to find Pinot Noir in California. You can also find Pinot Noir Napa Valley wines if you look!
- Washington State. In Washington State, look for Pinot Noir from Puget Sound and Columbia Gorge wine regions to experience the flavor profile of cooler climates. You can even organize a wine tasting focused on cooler climates (e.g., a Pinot Noir from Washington State and Canada).
Malbec vs Pinot Noir: Food Pairings That Work
To enjoy your Malbec and Pinot Noir wines, use this quick guide to the best food pairings
Malbec Food Pairings
As a full-bodied red wine, Malbec wine with steak is an excellent choice with lean meats.
- Meat Options. Start with leaner cuts of meat for the best dining experience with Malbec. Specific ideas include steak (e.g., flank steak), turkey, pork, and lamb. You can also try game birds with Malbec.
- Cheese. The wine pairs with blue cheese and melted cheese.
- Olive Oils. Think about your favorite dishes that include olive oils and pair that dish with Pinot Noir. Olive oils are an excellent way to balance the level of tannins you find in Pinot Noir.
Pinot Noir Food Pairings
Check out the following ideas to enjoy your next glass of Pinot Noir
- Spicy Food. Pinot Noir goes well with spicy food. That said, a sweet Riesling would be an even better choice.
- Mushrooms. Whether you have a mushroom pizza or a mushroom risotto, this is an excellent pairing with Pinot Noir wine. If possible, ask for a white pizza.
- Trout and Salmon. It might sound surprising, but Pinot Noir can pair well with some fish dishes. Any freshwater fish can go well with Pinot Noir. Sushi rolls also go well with Pinot Noir. For more insight on pairing wine with sushi rolls, check out my post, “Red Wine With Sushi: 7 Tips For A Great Meal.”
- White Meats. Pork, chicken, and turkey tend to go well with Pinot Noir.
- Cheese. Pinot Noir goes well with goat cheese. If you have a full-bodied Pinot Noir, brie is a good choice.
Malbec vs Pinot Noir: Are They Dry Wines?
Pinot Noir is almost always made in a dry wine style. Likewise, Malbec wine is usually made in a dry style. This means that both wine varieties tend to have relatively low residual sugar in the wine bottle. That said, there are further nuances to keep in mind.
- Oak Aging. The effect of oak aging can add spices and vanilla to the flavor profile, which you may perceive as sweetness. This perception might be partly due to memory. When you taste spices and vanilla, you might think of desserts, cookies, and other sweet foods you’ve had in the past. However, aging wine in oak barrels does not add sugar.
- Dry Means Low Sugar. Dry wine still has some residual sugar which helps to add balance to the wine. Some people are susceptible to sugar, and you might notice the low sugar level. That said, sugar should be a secondary factor in a dry wine.
- Fruit Flavors. Both Malbec and Pinot Noir are commonly compared to fruit flavors. In some cases, you might perceive these fruit flavors as sweetness.
Malbec vs Pinot Noir: How should you serve the wine?
Serving Malbec and Pinot Noir is easy because they do not require extensive chilling. In general, keep the following serving temperature guidelines in mind.
- Pinot Noir Serving Temperature: 55 degrees Fahrenheit (12 Celsius)
- Malbec Serving Temperature: 59-64 degrees Fahrenheit (15-17 Celsius)
Before opening the bottle of wine, keep your local climate in mind. You may need to chill wine for five or ten minutes in the hot summer months if the outside temperature is high. In contrast, chilling Pinot Noir and Malbec are not necessary for the winter months.
Curious About Merlot Wine?
Keep learning about other famous red wines like Merlot Wine. Find out more in my wine comparison article: Cabernet Sauvignon vs Merlot: 6 Things Every Wine Beginner Needs To Know.