Syrah vs Pinot Noir: Full-Bodied Or Smooth, Which One’s Best For You?

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Last Updated: March 25, 2021

For red wine enthusiasts and anyone with a taste for bold flavors, Pinot Noir and Syrah (also known as Shiraz) are fantastic choices. But the differences between Pinot Noir and Syrah are quite extensive which is why they are so often compared to give you a variety of taste options. 

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Shiraz is ideal for balancing a heavy meal like a full-flavored steak or a rich roast dinner whereas Pinot Noir can be enjoyed on its own thanks to its subtle flavors. 

Many argue that Syrah vs Pinot Noir exhibits a more full-bodied flavor compared to the smooth taste of the latter which is why they make an ideal comparison. Both wines have their individual styles so to make it easier for you to decide which wine might suit you best, let’s take a look at the main differences between Syrah and Pinot Noir.

Main Differences Between Syrah And Pinot Noir 

The main differences between Syrah and Pinot Noir are: 

  • Syrah improves through aging, whereas many would argue Pinot Noir is better when it is still young. 
  • Pinot Noir is lighter, whereas Syrah has a full-bodied flavor and is more tannic making it heavier. 
  • Pinot Noir has red berry flavors, including raspberry and cranberry, whereas Syrah has notes of dark berries like blackberry as well as plums. 
  • Syrah has a darker purple color, whereas Pinot Noir is described as more brick red. 

Syrah Overview

Most people are familiar with the popular red wine Shiraz. Syrah and Shiraz come from the same wine grape, which also produces wines like Petite Sirah

This makes the two names interchangeable but which name is used on the bottle often depends on the region it is from with Syrah usually coming from the cooler climates of France whereas Shiraz is usually grown in hotter parts of Australia. 

The different regions in which the grapes are grown can also affect the taste of the wine. Here is everything you need to know about Syrah: 

Syrah Grapes

The Syrah wine grape originates from Rhone in France. However, it can be grown in warm and cooler climates around the world including Chile, California, and Australia. Wines from these cooler regions usually have a more savory taste giving Syrah its heavier feel.  

Shiraz Grapes

Conversely, for a fruity Shiraz, wine grapes are usually produced in warmer climates such as Southern Australia. 

Shiraz consequently made a name for itself with Australian producers and now most Shiraz wines come from this part of the world. Nevertheless, Syrah and Shiraz are created using the same grapes, the difference is in where and how they are grown.  

Flavors  

Seeing as the climate in which Syrah grapes are grown can make such a difference to the taste, the flavor notes can vary a lot in Syrah vs Pinot Noir which has more of a distinctive taste.

shiraz served

Generally, Syrah has savory notes of smoke and bacon often accompanied by dark fruits like blackberries. It ages well and if you’re lucky enough to get an oak-aged bottle you’ll also experience hints of vanilla. 

This is where Syrah has quite a different taste to Shiraz which is more fruity than savory but both versions pack more of a flavor punch vs a smooth Pinot Noir.  

Tannin  

The tannic content of wine really impacts the flavor. The higher tannins in Syrah make it more acidic vs Pinot Noir which contributes to its full-bodied flavor and ruby red color. It also enhances the dry taste although some younger versions of Shiraz can be sweeter. If you are looking for a red wine that contends with flavorsome foods, Syrah is a great choice.  

Food Pairings 

Syrah is a very diverse wine choice and goes well with a range of foods from roast dinners to tomato pasta dishes. It is also a great cooking wine for beef dishes like braised beef. Personally, I think it pairs well with duck breast in a red wine sauce. As Syrah ages well it also works with aged cheese like Gouda.  

Pinot Noir Overview 

Pinot Noir vs Shiraz is certainly seen as the more sophisticated choice. It is famed as a romantic wine and is perfect for a secluded steak dinner or can be enjoyed by itself. This wine is the best choice for special occasions but what makes Pinot Noir so special vs more common wines like Shiraz or Syrah?

Here is everything you need to know about Pinot Noir:  

Pinot Noir Grapes 

Originating in Burgundy, France, Pinot Noir is produced from a thin-skinned grape that is notoriously difficult to grow. Nevertheless, the popularity of the wine means that it is now grown all over the world despite the extra effort that goes along with producing this special wine; in fact, Pinot Noir grapes are now the ninth most planted grape in the world.  

Flavors  

Being grown in temperate climates like Burgundy, a classic Pinot Noir will have hints of ripe red berries like cranberry. Pinot Noir grapes are suited to being grown in cooler climates giving the wine herbier flavors. 

Depending on the region the fruity taste of this wine will vary in strength but Pinot Noir is generally known for a smooth finish which is always palatable. 

Although Pinot Noir doesn’t age as well vs shiraz, it can still improve over a shorter period of time and is best at 5-10 years old. When aged in French oak, Pinot Noir has delightful notes of vanilla and baking spice. 

Tannin  

With regards to its tannin content, Pinot Noir is lighter vs Syrah because of the lower amount of tannin. This makes Pinot Noir very smooth and easy to drink as well as being slightly less acidic vs the full flavor of a punchy Shiraz. Nevertheless, it is still a dry wine with moderate acidity.  

Food Pairings  

Because of its light body and more subtle tastes, Pinot Noir can be enjoyed on its own but also compliments a range of meals very well, which is why it is the perfect choice for a special dinner date. 

Unlike a lot of red wines, Pinot Noir pairs well with seafood like lobster or shrimp. It also compliments vegetarian dishes very well which is a big difference between Syrah and Pinot Noir seeing as Syrah works so well with meat dishes. 

I would recommend pairing it with a cool salmon with a slice of fresh lemon to get the most of the fruity flavors. 

Pinot Noir

Frequently Asked Questions  

When comparing these two wines, there are several key attributes that might help you to decide which one will suit you better. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about these two notorious wines.

Is Shiraz or Pinot Noir Lighter? 

Due to the lower tannins in Pinot Noir, it is usually described as the lighter of the two choices. 

Shiraz has higher tannins vs Pinot Noir which can make it heavier and more acidic. Because it is lighter, Pinot Noir is more refreshing which is also why it works with lighter dishes like salmon and other seafood. There are different versions from around the world so some might taste heavier than others but this is nothing compared to a full-bodied Shiraz.

Being a full-bodied wine, Shiraz can be a little more overwhelming which makes it a good match for flavorsome foods. If you have a heavily peppered steak, for example, a good shiraz will cut through some of the flavors so you can fully appreciate the variety of flavors on your dinner table.  

Is Pinot Noir Sweeter vs Syrah? 

Of course, the next big question with all these flavor notes is which wine is sweeter? Although I wouldn’t recommend either wine for a particularly sweet tooth, Syrah is drier vs Pinot Noir making it slightly less sweet. 

Pinot Noir also has more red berry notes which are sweeter compared to the dark and rich taste of the Syrah. Nevertheless, Pinot Noir is still quite acidic so you have to be a fan of strong red wine tastes to appreciate all the complex flavors.  

Which is better Pinot Noir or Syrah? 

As with all wines, the best one depends entirely on your taste preference. Even if you aren’t sure if either of these wines would suit your palate, I recommend trying versions from different regions and different years so that you can get a feel for the complexity of these two wines before making your final decision.

If you prefer a light wine that you can drink on a sunny evening, I would recommend a Pinot Noir. If you are looking for a full-bodied wine that can accompany a steak or a Sunday roast, I would choose the Syrah or Shiraz for a burst of flavor that will enhance any meal.  

Conclusion  

These two wines are equally enjoyable in their own rights. The right one for you will depend on your tastes and the occasion but I certainly recommend trying them both whether you are new to red wine or are a real enthusiast.

Personally, if I had the choice between the two, I would go for a Pinot Noir because it tastes special compared to more common wines. But no one can argue with the popularity of a Shiraz vs Pinot Noir and it has every reason to be popular.

Both Syrah and Pinot Noir can vary in taste depending on the region and age of the bottle, so it’s worth taking yourself on a tasting journey to get to know these two wines well. I’m certain you’ll find a bottle that suits you down to the ground.

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