Pinot Noir vs Shiraz – Showdown of Two Popular Red Wines!

Main Differences Between Pinot Noir vs Shiraz:

The main differences between Pinot Noir vs Shiraz are:

  • Pinot Noir features bright berry notes (strawberries, raspberries), whereas Shiraz has dark, jam-like flavours (blackberry, boysenberry).
  • Pinot Noir is best drunk young and fresh, whereas Shiraz develops complexity with age.
  • Pinot Noir exhibits a light body, whereas Shiraz is known for its lush, full-body.
  • Pinot Noir has herbaceous accents, whereas Shiraz has smoky and peppery accents.

As two of the most popular red wines, there’s little wonder that Pinot Noir vs Shiraz is frequently compared. Yet few actually know the difference between them.

It also just so happens, as the holiday season goes into full swing, Pinot Noir and Shiraz (also known as Syrah) are frequently recommended for festive wines. Not only do they both exhibit signature red hues and festive notes such as clove, cranberry, berries, and pepper, but they also are versatile.

Both Syrah and Pinot Noir also happen to offer a nice complement to sweets, without the weight of dessert wine. Marnie Old, the wine writer for The Inquirer, recommends the two classic red wines as a way to balance heavier foods that are commonly served with the holidays–and add fruity notes sure to delight.

But food pairings and festivities aside, it can be difficult to decide on Pinot Noir vs Shiraz, especially if you don’t understand the key differences. This guide will answer your frequently asked questions, provide a direct comparison between Pinot Noir vs Shiraz, and finally tell you where you can buy Pinot Noir and Shiraz.

Which Factors Should I Consider Before Choosing One?

Is Pinot Noir Dry or Sweet?

How dry or sweet a wine is referred to the level of residual sugars, with dry containing little to no residual sugars. Sweet wine, or dessert wine, can contain as much as seven or eight grams of sugar per 3.5 fluid ounce glass. Pinot Noir is a dry wine, meaning it has few sugars, but it can give the impression of being sweeter than it is, due to its fruit-forward profile.

What kind of wine is Pinot Noir?

Pinot Noir comes from Pinot Noir grapes, which happen to be the tenth most planted grape worldwide. Coming from the French words for ‘pine’ and ‘black,’ this grape is grown in regions as wide-ranging as Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, United States, South Africa, Spain, and countless other locations. Pinot Noir is considered among the most popular, light-bodied red wines.

How does Pinot Noir taste?

Pinot Noir is a light red wine, meaning it is more refreshing than complex in flavour. We’ll touch more on specific details later, but soft red berries with light herbs compromise the main flavour profile.

Is Pinot Noir a good wine?

Categorizing an entire wine as good and bad is limiting. The fact is that different wines inevitably appeal to different tastes and different people. Like all wines, Pinot Noir can range in quality. Despite its strong association with romantic dinners and widespread popularity, it’s equally true that Pinot Noir is not inherently better than other wines. However, the light body and soft berry notes tend to be less polarizing than some more complex wines. While Pinot Noir is not for everyone, it’s considered a fairly drinkable wine, safe for entertaining.

What kind of wine is Shiraz?

Shiraz, also known as Syrah, is also red wine, but with a more full body. It’s most prominently planted in Australia and France. Compared with Pinot Noir, Syrah/ Shiraz is often used for red wine blends. A Rhone Blend, for instance, is made by combining Shiraz, Grenache and Mourvèdre.

What is the taste of Shiraz wine?

Shiraz wine is notably more bold, with a peppery finish, bull body and jam-like fruit flavours. In this way, it’s more a statement wine than Pinot Noir, and may appeal more to regular wine drinkers but may be less approachable than Pinot Noir in terms of everyday food pairing or those less accustomed to statement wine.

Why is Shiraz wine called Shiraz?

Note that Syrah and Shiraz names are used interchangeably. Shiraz was adopted when it first came to Australia, while Syrah originates from France.

Should Shiraz be chilled?

While many red wines should be served chilled to be enjoyed to their fullest, it’s not universal. The type of red wine will impact what temperature it should be served at. Lighter body red wines, such as Pinot Noir, do best served on the cooler side, around fifty-three degrees or cooler, while Shiraz is best served around sixty-five degrees Fahrenheit. The warmer temperature helps amplify the peppery notes.

What is Shiraz similar to?

Shiraz is certainly unique in many ways, yet it is most commonly compared with Malbec. Malbec, like Shiraz, has a prominent, full body with a rich, bold flavour. Both contain darker flavour notes; in the case of Malbec, you’ll notice note more like liquorice, which may appeal to those who enjoy the dark, jam-like notes in Shiraz.

How do I compare wines? 

Comparing wines means truly analyzing what makes a wine unique. In general, you’ll want to pay attention aspects including tannins, level of acidity, flavour notes, finish, body, level of sweetness, origin, food pairings, and overall aesthetic.

When in doubt, consider attending a wine tasting, a local vineyard, or even a small wine seller. You can sample different types of wine, from white to red to rosé and get a sense for what general wine types you like, and for what purposes. This is an especially helpful step before you make a larger investment, such as a wine club or subscription service.

How Does Pinot Noir Compare with Shiraz? 

Now onto our analysis. We’ll be comparing Pinot Noir vs Shiraz on key criteria we listed above, and help you decide which wine is most suited for your next occasion.

How does Pinot Noir vs Shiraz compare in level of acidity?

Acidity produces a more tart, zingy and bright wine, while wines with lower levels of acidity tend to be more smooth and less sour. On a side note, acidity actually also tends to affect the hue of the wine. Red wine with higher levels of acidity tends to present more bright red flavours, such as ruby, while wines with lower levels tend to be darker or duller reds, with muted undertones.

  • Pinot Noir is known for its bright acidity. A crisp, red wine, it has among the highest levels of acidity for its kind (white wines tend to be more acidic). The acidity nicely complements the bright but subtle fruit flavours.
  • Shiraz is also known for its acidity, but its described as ‘brisk’. While Shiraz also exhibits acidity, it’s more noted as a compliment with a peppery finish. While the acidity in Pinot Noir acts as a way to provide crisp, refreshing notes, the acidity in Shiraz tends to provide a bit of a kick, so to speak, for more pronounced flavours.

How does Pinot Noir vs Shiraz compare for wine body?

Wine body refers to the mouthful or sensation as you drink. A full-bodied wine will have a more lush sensation, often described as rich or luxurious. Light body wines are often are described as refreshing and crisp.

  • Pinot Noir is known to be a crisp, light body wine. Pinot Noir is refreshing and bright, but not overly complex, with a light body. In some cases, it can be a little fuller, up to a medium body.
  • Shiraz, on the other hand, is noted for its full body. Shiraz has a heavier feel, with a full body and richer impact. The full-body complements dark flavour notes and a peppery finish.

What are the main flavor notes for Pinot Noir vs Shiraz?

Flavour notes are often tied to other characteristics of the wine, including the acidity and body, and play a key role in food pairings. Also important are aromas, which impact your overall experience of wine.

  • Pinot Noir is a light, refreshing, and fruit-forward experience. The main flavour notes and aromas perfectly complement a light body and high level of bright acidity. Light red berries, such as strawberries, cherries, raspberries, and occasional light touches of herbs. Aged Pinot Noir will have vanilla and clove hints.
  • Shiraz is a bold, peppery wine, with deeper, jam-like fruit. A signature peppery, almost spicy touch complements the dark berry notes. Blackberries, blueberries, and even boysenberry produce rich, jam-like notes with spicy accents such as mint, smoke, pepper, and tobacco.

How prominent are tannins in Pinot Noir vs Shiraz?

Tannins actually play quite an important rule in how we experience and select wine. Tannins are a naturally occurring substance which, first and foremost, bring forth bitterness. That bitterness also brings with it a drying element, along with texture to make wines taste more layered and complex. A wine light in tannins not only tends to be less bitter, but less layered and more simplistic. Red wines, in general, have higher levels of tannins than white wines.

  • Pinot Noir, compared with most red wines, is low in tannins. While you’ll find more tannins in Pinot Noir than white wine, and while some versions of Pinot Noir do have different levels of tannins, Pinot Noir is generally light on tannins. The effect is that it tends to be less complex, less bitter, and more universally drinkable.
  • Shiraz, on the other hand, exhibits prominent tannins. Like Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec, tannins play a key role in making Syrah a structured, complex wine. The bitterness plays well with the deeper, jam-like notes and amplifies spicy and smoky flavours.

Is Pinot Noir or Shiraz better aged? 

Ageing has long-held prestige when it comes to wine, but it’s also true that not all wine is better with age. As a general rule, ageing softens tannins and develop more complex flavours. When wine is barrel-aged, it can also develop vanilla and toasted notes. For brighter, fresh berry notes, ageing tends to dampen flavours, while darker notes tend to improve with age.

  • Pinot Noir does not age well and is better drunk young. Crisp acidity and bright, fresh fruit flavours are best young. Ageing does little to enhance flavours and diminishes the crisp, refreshing appeal. Most experts suggest it’s drunk within a few years.
  • Shiraz, on the other hand, becomes more complex with age. Ageing Syrah helps develop more complexity and adds to a layered effect for dark berry notes and peppery and smoky accents. However, Shiraz doesn’t age as long as some red wines, like Nebbiolo and Tempranillo. Guidelines often indicate that Syrah is best when aged five to fifteen years.

What are the Best Food Pairings for Pinot Noir vs Syrah?

Food pairings are meant to enhance dishes by complementing flavours and characteristics, including not only flavour notes but also body and acidity.

  • Pinot Noir is considered versatile, and pairs best fish and light meat entrees. What pairs best with Pinot Noir does depend on the specific Pinot Noir, but the fruity and light notes are suited with chicken, pork, and whitefish. The lightest Pinot Noir pairs with simple steamed vegetables and chicken, while especially fruit-forward Pinot is suited for cheese trays and pork. Medium body, more lush Pinot can pair with slightly darker meat that isn’t too pronounced, such as duck. Fruit-based and citrus accents are good picks, while anything too heavy or overly spicy is not the best pairing for Pinot Noir.
  • Shiraz is also versatile, but pairs best with more pronounced gamey and aged flavours. Heavier dishes with pronounced flavours suit the spicy and deep jam notes of Shiraz. Barbeque of all kinds, grilled foods, game meat, and meat with robust flavours, such as lamb, are all excellent choices. Aged cheese and stews are also nice options, but shy away from light seafood, mild chicken, or other dishes featuring delicate textures and flavours.

How Expensive is Pinot Noir vs Shiraz?

As with most wine, the price range of Pinot Noir and Shiraz can vary considerably depending on the year, region, and method of production.

  • Pinot Noir ranges from under twenty dollars to over two thousand, but most suggest going with bottles around fifty dollars. While the market is flooded with cheap Pinot Noir under twenty dollars, you’ll get the brightest flavours around fifty dollars and up. Still, the good news is that Pinot Noir is available at nearly every price point.
  • Shiraz also has an expansive range of prices, from ten dollars to several thousand, but you can go a bit on the cheaper side. While many experts content Pinot Noir is best when you pay a bit more, they are more divided when it comes to Shiraz. Shiraz has many bottles that are of value at thirty to fifty dollars, but some bottles for as little as under twenty dollars have won awards. The bottom line is that you can get buy with paying less for Shiraz vs Pinot Noir.

What are my Best Options for Shiraz or Pinot Noir? 

Your best options for Shiraz and Pinot Noir include wine that comes from established vineyards, contain the signature characteristics we’d expect and have accrued reputable customer reviews, and perhaps even earned recognition. Here are a few to start with.

  • Budget-Friendly Pinot Noir: Try a wine like King Estate Signature Collection Pinot Noir 2012. At around just thirty dollars a bottle, it’s on the lower end of what we might normally suggest, but welcome addition to Pinot Noir you can consider for the holidays. Produced in Oregon, it’s what Pinot Noir is known for bright, playful but soft flavours, featuring cherry, raspberry, and herbaceous notes. Allspice and present tannins add a more graceful touch. Buy Here.
  • Sophisticated Pinot Noir: While we recommend not skimping too much on the price for Pinot Noir, at the same time there’s no need to spend top dollar. Consider a rendition like FEL 2015 Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noir. Bright acidity, punchy tartness, and fruit-forward, with classic notes of raspberry, cherry, and strawberry, it’s overall quite fresh and inviting. Buy Here.
  • Budget-Friendly Shiraz: Shiraz you can get at a pretty affordable price, and that’s proved by a wine like Martin’s Pick Up Shiraz. While it’s not the most elegant or sophisticated, it’s a great value for just over ten dollars a bottle, featuring dark cherries, peppery notes, and a rich finish. Buy Here.
  • Sophisticated Shiraz: If you have a larger budget in mind, consider Shiraz like Jean-Luc Colombo 2016 Terres Brulées Syrah. Still, within a reasonable budget at fifty-six dollars, black fruit, structured tannins, and what’s described as fiery spices create a complex and statement wine. Buy Here.

Where to buy: Interested in Shiraz or Pinot Noir but aren’t set on a specific kind? Here are some places you can buy these wines:

  • Total Wine and Drizly are online wine stores that have a large selection of wine from all around the world. You can sort by category, average customer rating, price point, location, and more.
  • Individual Vineyards are always a great choice, especially if you’re interested in terroir and/ or small-batch wine. You can find these by perusing wine feature list, searching for a location near you, or use a search engine like EveryVine, where you can look for vineyards. And keep in mind many offer online orders.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which wine is sweeter Merlot or Shiraz?

Merlot can be perceived as a sweeter option, but it is not because of a high level of sugar but because of its fruity character. Shiraz, on the other hand, has a bolder, and earthy profile. If you’re looking for a wine with a sweeter appeal, Merlot will come across as tasting a bit sweeter than Shiraz. Due to the bold intensity of Shiraz, it comes across as far more dry and less fruit-forward.

Is Pinot Noir a good wine to pair with dessert?

As we mentioned before, Pinot Noir is well known to pair with light meals such as fish. It might not be the best option for sweet desserts but, it can be a good match to enjoy dark chocolate.

Why is it called shiraz wine?

The name Shiraz, comes from a very antique tradition of wine produced in Persia/Iran. Now, the Shiraz grape is identical to Syrah and it is produced mostly in southern France.

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Erin Jamieson

Erin Jamieson brings the latest information to you on wine flavors and types so you can enjoy your next glass to the fullest. In the past, she covered wine selections for weddings and engagement parties. She also previously worked with a private chef company to suggest the perfect wine pairings and believes there is a flavor for every occasion. Erin Jamieson holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Miami University of Ohio.

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