While it is still glorious red wine weather in the Cape Winelands, Shiraz SA revealed its Shiraz Challenge winners this week and we celebrated International Pinot Noir Day. The focus on these two contrasting varieties reminded me of a quote by John Stimpfig: “For me, top class Syrah has the perfume and freshness of Pinot Noir without the tantrums in the vineyard.”
Just as John, I’ll happily call myself a Syrah-aficionado. I love a cool and elegant Syrah made from slow-ripening grapes, grown in a cool climate. As South Africa’s second most planted red variety, Shiraz can be found in all the wine growing areas and therefore also in a wide variety of styles – riper wines from the warm areas and more delicate versions from the cooler parts, like the Cape South Coast. Shiraz is easier to grow and produce than Pinot Noir and perhaps, this is why it sometimes ends up in less flattering wines too. Pinot Noir is like the difficult friend everyone tries to please. Around Pinot Noir, everyone is on their best behaviour to avoid disaster. Because Shiraz is more tolerant, it is expected to deal with whatever is thrown its way. Life is not fair – even if you are a grape variety!
Shiraz is friendlier, better liked and blends well with other varieties, especially its friends from the Rhône. Who can resist the extended circle of friends in a Châteauneuf-du-Pape?! Pinot Noir is less social and does not embrace blending partners that well. It prefers Chardonnay and is happy enough if you can make it into Champagne – perhaps with a touch of Pinot Meunier… (Read more)
When treated with the utmost respect by everyone (from the weather to the cellarmaster) and everywhere (from vineyard to maturation cellar), princess Pinot Noir will make you fall in love. You’ll ignore its price tag, you’ll make sure you serve it at the optimum 13°C and you’ll get your crystal Burgundy glasses from the top shelf to release all of its wonderful dimension and complexity. Of course not all Pinot Noirs will have you so blinded with love, but that would only be because it has been wronged somewhere along the line…
Why is Pinot Noir so temperamental? It starts with its thin skin. And this is no idiomatic language! Its delicate consistency, together with tight clusters make it susceptible to heat damage and disease. It therefore prefers cooler climates as long as frost and hail are not part of the cooler weather, because remember, thin skin… (Read more)
It might be popular because of its likeable demeanour, but that doesn’t mean Shiraz is a push-over. It is a noble variety with plenty of structure and complexity. Imagine how it will reward you when you treat it with the same TLC as Pinot Noir! Shiraz just has this uncanny ability – and it seems willingness – to adapt and therefore it is easier to get along with – for winemakers, blending partners and dishes on the dinner table!
In a game of thrones, my bet would be on Shiraz. It is more robust, adaptable and has made friends along the way. But Pinot Noir plays its own game. It might be more delicate and vulnerable, but it never forgets – or let you forget – its noble status!