Pinot Noir Vs Pinotage: Battle of the Red Wine Titans

Pinot Noir vs Pinotage are two distinctive types of red wine. While Pinot Noir is made in a wide range of wine regions, South Africa’s famous Pinotage red wine is mainly produced in South Africa.

Pinot Noir Vs Pinotage: My Perspective

My adventure of wine discovery started with French wine. I have also enjoyed enjoying South African wines while visiting that country. Each grape variety and style of winemaking has something different to offer.

The South African wine industry has recently developed a superb range of styles. It’s inaccurate to assume bad winemaking is universal. Competition has led the country’s producers to produce more great wines.

With Pinot Noir, my introduction to this grape variety started with Canadian wines. Later, I explored wonderful French Pinot Noir from Burgundy and American Pinot Noir from the Pacific Northwest.

Pinot Noir Vs Pinotage

Wine Grape Comparison: Fruit Flavors, Acidity, Aroma

When you approach your wine glass, pausing and appreciating the wine is a great way to add enjoyment. Start with general phrases like fruity notes and then explore the specific fruits (e.g., boysenberry fruit, black cherry notes, and blackcurrant aromas).

Fruit Flavors

Pinot Noir, known for its elegance, presents delicate black cherry and red fruit flavors. Its refined taste profile is often highlighted by a bright acidity allowing fruitiness to shine through. In contrast, Pinotage, a South African creation, exhibits bold and intense dark fruit flavors reminiscent of blackberries and plums. Its distinctiveness stems from a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut, resulting in a wine that leans towards a deeper and more robust fruit profile.

Secondary Flavors

Pinot Noir displays various aromas beyond the primary fruit notes, such as floral undertones, earthiness, and subtle spice. These secondary flavors contribute to its complexity and allure.

On the other hand, Pinotage also offers an array of aromas, but it often veers towards more prominent smoky, toasty, and chocolate-like notes due to the oak aging process. Other choices in the winemaking process may add other flavors.

Acidity Levels

Both wines maintain a good level of acidity, but Pinot Noir generally has a more vibrant and zesty acidity that complements its fruit flavors beautifully. Pinotage can also display adequate acidity, although its riper and darker fruit profile may somewhat soften it.

For more insights on the influence of acidity on wine, see my post on Pinot Noir acidity.


Pinot Noir’s aroma is enchanting, featuring floral nuances like violets, red fruit notes, and sometimes a hint of forest floor or damp earth. In contrast, Pinotage captivates with its distinct bouquet, characterized by an intense combination of ripe dark fruit, coffee, and often a touch of sweet spice.


The tannins in Pinot Noir are typically gentle and silky, adding to its smooth mouthfeel. In contrast, Pinotage is renowned for its firm tannins, which can provide a robust structure to the wine and contribute to its aging potential.

In conclusion, Pinot Noir and Pinotage offer wine enthusiasts a delightful experience with their unique characteristics. Whether one prefers the elegance and delicate fruit of Pinot Noir or the bold, dark fruit notes and firm tannins of a well-made Pinotage, there is no shortage of enjoyment in each wine bottle.

Alcohol Content Comparison

Pinot Noir vs Pinotage wines exhibit distinct alcohol levels, each contributing to their unique characteristics. Generally, Pinot Noir tends to have lower alcohol content than Pinotage, resulting in lighter and more delicate wines. Pinot Noir typically ranges from 12.5% to 14.5% alcohol by volume (ABV), while Pinotage often falls within the 13.5% to 15.5% ABV range.

In the wine trade, relying too much on averages can be misleading. In reality, alcohol content needs to be understood in each bottle of wine context. With some practice, you can take a quick whiff of the wine and estimate the alcohol level. In summary, the alcohol levels in Pinot Noir and Pinotage significantly shape their respective profiles. Whether you prefer the lighter and delicate nuances of Pinot Noir or the bold and complex nature of Pinotage, both wines offer a delightful experience for wine enthusiasts and their discerning taste buds.

Pinotage Food Pairings

Food pairings for Pinotage wine can enhance its bold character and complement its oak notes while considering its balance of acidity and lighter style. Here are some delectable suggestions for meat dishes, vegetarian dishes, and dessert pairings:

Meat Dishes:

Grilled Lamb Chops: The robust flavors of Pinotage pair excellently with the rich, juicy taste of grilled lamb chops. The wine’s boldness can stand up to the meat’s flavors, and the balance of acidity cuts through the richness, creating a harmonious combination.

Smoked BBQ Ribs: Pinotage’s notes of oak complement the smoky flavors of BBQ ribs, resulting in a delightful interplay of tastes. The wine’s bold nature holds up well to the hearty and savory profile of the dish.

Vegetarian Dishes:

Portobello Mushroom Burger: Pinotage’s lighter style and balance of acidity make it an ideal partner for a Portobello mushroom burger. The earthy notes of the mushrooms harmonize with the wine’s dark fruit flavors, creating a delightful vegetarian pairing.

Eggplant Parmesan: The boldness of Pinotage can enhance the flavors of this classic Italian dish. Its dark fruit notes and a touch of oak complement the richness of the eggplant and tomato sauce, creating a well-balanced and satisfying combination.

Dessert Pairings:

Dark Chocolate Truffles: Pinotage’s bold and dark fruit flavors match dark chocolate in heaven. The wine’s smooth tannins and balanced acidity complement the sweetness of the truffles, resulting in a luscious dessert pairing. Other chocolate desserts can work if they feature dark chocolate.

For more tips on enjoying wine with dessert, see my post on wine chocolate pairing.

Blackberry Tart: Pinotage’s fruity profile, with oak notes, pairs wonderfully with a blackberry tart. The wine’s bold character enhances the fruitiness of the tart while providing a pleasant contrast to the buttery crust.

As a specific recommendation for a memorable Pinotage experience, consider trying the renowned Kanonkop Wine Estate‘s Pinotage with a dish of your choice. Kanonkop is well-known for producing exceptional Pinotage wines that perfectly showcase the grape’s bold and distinctive character.

When pairing food with Pinotage, remember to consider its boldness, balance of acidity, and oak notes, which can elevate the dining experience and create delightful harmonies on the palate.

Pinot Noir Food Pairings

Unlike the South African wine Pinotage, Pinot Noir is made in many different wine regions. In addition, Pinot Noir is an easy to drink red wine due to its approachable tannin profile (i.e. it has low tannins).

Meat Dishes:

Roast Duck: Pinot Noir’s fruity and medium-bodied nature complements the rich flavors of duck.

Grilled Salmon: Pinot Noir’s range of foods makes it an excellent match for the delicate yet flavorful fish.

Vegetarian Dishes:

Mushroom Risotto: The earthy flavors of mushrooms harmonize with Pinot Noir’s varietal wine notes.

Eggplant Parmesan: The bold and fruity nature of Pinot Noir complements the richness of this dish.

Lentil and Vegetable Stew: The fermentation process in Pinot Noir brings out its complexity, pairing well with the hearty stew.

Dessert Pairings:

Dark Chocolate Mousse: Pinot Noir’s fruity and bold profile balances the richness of dark chocolate.

Mixed Berry Tart: The fruity wines and varietal wine characteristics of Pinot Noir complement the sweet-tart flavors of the berries.

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta: The smooth texture of this dessert pairs elegantly with the delicate and range of foods found in Pinot Noir.

Now you know the basics of Pinot Noir Vs Pinotage wines, it’s time to try both wines and see which one you like best.

Pinot Noir Vs Pinotage: Battle of the Red Wine Titans
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