On the face of it, one would assume Pinot Noir and Shiraz (in France Syrah) are the most unlikely of bed-friends. In reality, these two varieties combine to produce a harmonious, balanced and delicious wine which carries a long history in Australia.
Pinot Noir has rocketed in popularity over the past decade. First planted in Australia over 100 years ago, when most Pinot Noir grown was destined for sparkling wine production. A few brave winemakers produced dry red wine from the 'Bugundy' cultivars of Pinot Noir, though the market was after 'bigger' wines back then. As dry red wines became popular post World War II, winemakers looked to Pinot Noir to meet growing demand. However the pale, acidic and lean wine which resulted from the sparkling Pinot Noir cultivars wasn't popular. Winemakers turned to Shiraz to fill the wine out, unwittingly creating some of Australia's most legendary wines, many of which are still made today.
As time went by and the industry matured, booming on the back of sky rocketing exports to the UK and USA, who loved the 'sunshine in a glass', stronger and richer Shiraz based wines - Pinot Noir Shiraz blends gradually gave way, other than a few iconic labels.
Meanwhile, growers and makers had been steadily replanting old Pinot Noir vineyards and starting anew with 'Burgundy' cultivars better suited to dry red wine production. These vineyards are now mature, producing the fabulous Pinot Noir wines we all know and love.
From relative obscurity, to relative scarcity - right now we can't grow and make enough Pinot Noir in cool climate regions to satisfy demand. Pinot Noir growers and makers from Tasmania, Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, Geelong, Orange, Hunter Valley, Adelaide Hills and all the way to Pemberton and Margaret River in WA are scrambling to plant more.
As is so often the way, everything old is becoming new again. Trends are clearly favouring lighter and brighter red wines with vibrancy and purity of fruit. Winemakers are rediscovering the blend of Pinot Noir and Syrah as a great way to achieve a harmonious red wine style which really is more than the sum of its parts.
I have blended and bottled three Pinot Noir Syrah blends and am delighted with each of them.
Try for yourself with the delicious 2022 wine from the Adelaide Hills
Richard aka The Nimble Vintner