Pinot Noir vs Shiraz – Let’s Compare Two Red Wines

Perhaps you enjoy a glass of red wine, but are a bit of a novice when it comes to choosing wine. If so, we’d like to introduce you to two popular red wines, Pinot Noir and Shiraz.  However, are there any major differences between the two wines? The answer is a resounding yes and in this article, we will be taking a look at both wines, talking about their differences and what food is best served with each one. This will hopefully make your choice easier.

What are the Major Differences Between the Two Wines?

Let’s first take a quick look at what the main differences between Pinot Noir and Shiraz are.

  1. Shiraz is  a full-bodied wine. This means that it has an alcohol content of at least 13.5% ABV.  Pinot Noir is a light-bodied wine and usually has an ABV of less than 12.5%.
  2. Shiraz benefits from being aged. However, Pinot Noir doesn’t and is best drunk young.
  3. Shiraz has flavours of dark berries such as blackberries, blackcurrants, and boysenberries. Pinot Noir on the other hand, has fresher berry flavours. You will taste strawberries and raspberries.
  4. Shiraz has earthy notes, and you might get a hint of smoke and pepper. Pinot Noir has herbaceous aromas and you might smell freshly-cut grass and herbs.

Similarities Between Pinot Noir and Shiraz

  1. Both wines are often recommended for the Christmas season because you may get tastes of spices such as cinnamon and cloves, as well as berries. 
  2. Both Pinot Noir and Shiraz balance out heavier foods, such as you might eat during the holiday season. The fruity notes of the wines also go well with fruity flavours you often have during this season. Think cranberry sauce, redcurrant jelly, and Christmas pudding.
  3. Both wines pair well with dark chocolate. This doesn’t mean that you can drink them with desserts, although a Pinot Noir may complement a bittersweet dark chocolate mousse.

What Do I Need to Think About When Choosing One of These Wines?

The first thing you need to think about is what food you want to pair the wine with. Then you can consider if you need a full-bodied or light-bodied wine. Consider how dry or sweet you want the wine to be. This refers to how many residual sugars are in the wine. A dry wine will have very little residual sugar. However, while Pinot Noir is considered to be a dry wine, it tastes sweeter because of the light fruit flavours. In the same way, Shiraz tastes drier than Pinot Noir because it has dark fruit flavours and higher tannins. 

Tell Me More About Shiraz

Another name for Shiraz is Syrah. They are both made from the same grape, but Syrah is usually produced in cooler climates and is more restrained. Shiraz is produced in warmer regions and is bolder and richer.

These wines are predominantly produced in France and Australia, but not exclusively. The grapes  are often used in red blends. An example is an Australian blend that combines Shiraz, Grenache, and Mourved.

What Does Shiraz Taste Like?

Shiraz is bolder than Pinot Noir.  However, the wine that is produced in cooler areas is more fruity in flavour. You will taste blackcurrants, blackberries, and boysenberries. The wines produced in warmer climates are more intense. You will get aromas of dark chocolate and violet and tastes of smoked meat and black pepper. 

Where are Shiraz and Syrah Produced?

Syrah has been around for centuries and was and still is produced mainly in France. The Rhone area is particularly famous for this wine. The Syrah grape was brought to Australia in 1832 and the wine was renamed Shiraz there.

Can I Serve Shiraz Chilled or Should it Always be Served at Room Temperature?

You may think that red wines should be served at room temperature, but this isn’t always the case. However, Shiraz is a full-bodied wine so it is best served at 18.3 C rather than any colder. Pinot Noir, on the other hand, is much lighter and can be drunk at a cooler temperature. 11.6 C is ideal. It is a good idea to have a dual-zone wine fridge so that you can store wines at different temperatures. 

Are There Any Wines That are Similar to Shiraz?

Malbec is probably the closest wine to Shiraz. It has a bold flavour and a full-body. It tastes of blackberry, plum, and cherry as well as violet flowers, milk chocolate, leather, and if it has been aged, tobacco. One taste that Malbec has that Shiraz doesn’t is liquorice.

Tell Me More About Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir originated in the Burgundy region of France between the third and fifth centuries A.D. It is highly likely that the vines were originally wild and then domesticated when the wine became popular. These days Pinot Noir grapes are grown all over the world as well as in France, for example in Spain, Germany, Italy, South Africa, the U.S., Canada, and Australia. In fact, it is the tenth most planted grape in the world. 

Pinot Noir is a variety of red wine grapes which are deep purple in colour. It is light-bodied and is a very popular wine the world over. Sometimes the wine is produced with  a small proportion of other grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and even Shiraz.

What Does Pinot Noir Taste Like?

When you first bring a glass of Pinot Noir to your nose, you might smell gingerbread spices and light herbs. When you taste it, you will get flavours of red berries such as redcurrants, strawberries, and raspberries. You will notice that it is a light and refreshing wine and isn’t as complex in flavours as is Shiraz.

Is Pinot Noir Worth Trying?

This is a subjective question. What one person likes in a wine, another might not. However, we feel that it is worth giving a go. It is a popular wine and with so many people praising it they can’t all be wrong. However, as with most wines, some varieties of Pinot Noir are going to be better than others. It is a good idea to check the price. If it is too cheap, it probably won’t be of as good quality as more expensive bottles although this is not always the case. 

We think that Pinot Noir is a very drinkable wine and one which wine novices might enjoy before moving onto more complex wines like Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Pinot Noir is an excellent wine to serve with a romantic dinner or at a dinner party. 

What is the Criteria for Comparing Wines?

When you want to compare wines, there are a lot of factors to consider. You first need to think if the wine is dry or sweet and then consider if the wine will pair with the food you are going to serve. Other factors to think about are acidity levels, the body of the wine, how high the tannins are, and the flavours of the wine. You should also consider where the wine has come from as if you are drinking the same varietal, it might taste different if it hasn’t been produced in the same region. Just think about Shiraz. It is bolder  if it is produced in a warmer climate rather than a colder climate like in Burgundy, France. 

If you still feel unsure about choosing a wine, it is a good idea to visit a winery. There you will be able to taste different wines, both white and red, and sometimes even rose. If you are very lucky, you will be able to taste sparkling wine. It might not be champagne, but there are a lot of excellent sparkling wines out there, for example, Cava from Spain and Prosecco from Italy.

Now, we will take a closer look at the differences between Pinot Noir and Shiraz.

What is the Difference in Acidity Between the Two Wines?

If a wine is acidic, it is zingy and tart. If it’s low in acidity, it is less zingy and is smoother.   White wines tend to be higher in acidity than red wines. However if a red wine has some acidity it tends to produce bright red flavours and a bright red colour. On the other hand, a red wine with low acidity tends to be darker in colour. So how does this relate to Shiraz and Pinot Noir? Well, PInot Noir is higher in acidity than Shiraz. It is light red in colour and has a crisp finish. The acidity matches the bright and low-key fruit flavours. 

Both Pinot Noir and Shiraz are high in acidity. Pinot Noir is crisp and light and you can taste the acidity. Shiraz does taste acidic as well, but it is not as acidic as Pinot Noir. Instead, it is higher in alcohol which can make it taste higher in acidity. It is peppery in taste and gives a bit of a kick.

What is the Difference in Body Between the Two Wines?

Full-bodied wines feel heavy, thick, and viscous in the mouth. Full-bodied red wines are usually lush and bold with complex flavours and a powerful aroma.  It is rare to have a full-bodied white wine. However, some red wines can have a lighter body, and these wines are refreshing and crisp. 

Shiraz is a full-bodied wine. It has a heavy feel to it and complex flavours. Not only does it taste of dark berries, but it also has a peppery twist. On the other hand, Pinot Noir is light-bodied. It is light and crisp and not too complex. It is a wine you can enjoy on a warm summer’s night even if you’re not eating.

What are the Flavours of Pinot Noir and Shiraz?

The flavours and aromas of these two wines affect the food pairings you might choose. Pinot Noir tastes of light berries like strawberries and raspberries, cherries, mushrooms and newly-mown grass. If it is aged in French oak, you will also get other flavours such as vanilla and baking spices, in particular cloves. You will look for a lighter meal to serve this wine with. Shiraz, on the other hand, can be paired with red meat. It is a bold and peppery wine which has flavours of dark berries, such as blackberries and blueberries. You may also taste mint, smoke, and tobacco.

What are the Tannin Levels of Pinot Noir and Shiraz?

So what are tannins? They are found in both edible and inedible plants including spices, nuts, seeds, tree bark, and what we are looking at here, fruit. Plants produce tannins to ward off pests. In addition, they give colour and flavour to plant food. You will find that they are mainly contained in the skin of grapes and when producing a white wine, the skins are generally not used. However, with red wines, the skins will be used at different levels.

Pinot Noir is low in tannins compared to many red wines. Yes, it has more tannins than white wine, but to produce it, grapes with thin skins are used. This means that it is lower in tannins than Shiraz which is made with grapes with thicker skins. This means that Pinot Noir is less complex than Shiraz, but it is also less bitter and is more easily drinkable. Shiraz, like Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, is more complex and structured unlike Pinot Noir, which is refreshing, Shiraz has spicy and smoky flavours.

Is Either Pinot Noir or Shiraz Better Aged?

Ageing wine can improve the flavour and can soften the tannins, but not all wines get better with age. Brighter berry notes don’t do well with ageing as the flavours are dampened. However, a heavier wine with dark berry notes can improve with ageing. This means that Pinot Noir doesn’t do well if it is aged. It has light and bright flavours and aromas so is best drunk young. If you do age it, the flavours diminish. If you buy a bottle of Pinot Noir, don’t keep it for too long.

Shiraz, on the other hand, does do well if it is aged. It helps the wine reach a complexity that it doesn’t have without ageing. It gets a layered effect of dark berries, black pepper, and smoke. It is best aged for between five and fifteen years. Other red wines such as Barolo, Tempranillo, and Nebbiolo can be aged for longer than Shiraz.

Food Pairings for Pinot Noir and Shiraz

It is always a good idea to pair your wine with the right food. The wine and food need to complement each other for maximum enjoyment.

  • Shiraz pairs best with strong flavours. It doesn’t go with white meats such as chicken ,nor  light seafood.  Barbecued food of all kinds including burgers, steak, and sausages are a good match. Gamey meat like venison and goat pair well as does lamb. Try lamb shanks in a red wine sauce or a beef and Guinness stew with bacon dumplings. If you are serving a cheese board at the end of the meal try this wine with aged cheeses. Aged cheeses are left to ripen anywhere between a few weeks and a few years. This gives the cheese a better flavour and a stronger structure. Aged cheeses include Asiago, Banon, and Bleu.
  • Pinot Noir is light-bodied and fresh and pairs well with white meat such as chicken and turkey, and white fish like cod. Try out roast pork loin with potatoes and herbs. This wine handles earthy herbs like oregano and thyme well. It pairs well with vegetarian and vegan dishes such as a bean stew or a mild vegetable curry. Pinot Noir isn’t a good match for really spicy food.  It also goes well with a cheese board which has lighter cheeses like a mild cheddar or a soft cheese. There are some Pinot Noirs that are medium-bodied and these will pair well with slightly darker meat. Try it with Peking Duck which gives a new Asian twist to traditional pairings. Surprisingly it does go with some desserts such as chocolate mousse or chocolate-covered strawberries. You can even nibble on a dark chocolate bar while drinking a glass of Pinot Noir.

What is the Difference in Price Between Shiraz and Pinot Noir?

All varieties of wine vary in price and Shiraz and Pinot Noir are no exception. Some reasons for this include the year it was produced, the region/country it comes from, and the way it was produced.

  • Shiraz. Shiraz can start as low as seven pounds and it can still be a good wine. In fact, bottles of Shiraz that are under 15 pounds have won awards.  However, you can spend thousands on a bottle. 
  • Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir can cost as little as 15 pounds, but can go up to 2,000 pounds. You are best  sticking with a wine around 35 pounds. 

We think that you can pay less for a Shiraz and still get a good wine. With Pinot Noir, you should pay just that little bit more.

How Can I Choose a Good Pinot Noir or Shiraz?

So you’ve decided to buy either a bottle of Pinot Noir or Shiraz. How do you choose which one to pick? You should ensure that it comes from an established vineyard, has excellent customer reviews, and has the characteristics you would expect from the varietal.

Let’s take a look at some wines that we would recommend.


  • Martin’s Pick-Up Shiraz: This wine is reasonably priced, but you would think it to be more expensive. It has light tannins with flavours of dark chocolate and dark cherries. You will get aromas of cherries, blueberries, blackberries, violets, and white pepper. This wine goes well with hard cheeses such as Pecorina, Manchego, Gruyere, and Emmental. The wine is also a good match for grilled meats.
  • Jean-Luc Colombo 2016 Terres Brulees Syrah: You get a taste of dark fruits such as blackcurrants and blackberries, as well as fiery spices like chilli, pepper, and cloves. It also has strong tannins.

Pinot Noir

  • King Estate Signature Collection Pinot Noir: This wine is made in Oregon in the US. It is bright and light with soft flavours of strawberries, raspberries, and cherries. You will also get herby and earthy aromas such as oregano and wet leaves.
  • FEL 2015 Vineyard Pinot Noir: This is a fresh wine with bright acidity and a touch of tannins You will get flavours of strawberry, raspberry, and cherry and aromas of cedar spices and baking spices such as cinnamon and clove. 

Where Can I Buy Pinot Noir and Shiraz?

  • Upper-end supermarkets and off-licences.
  • Online wine stores such as Winedirect or Majestic Wine. Most sites are easy to navigate and you can sort by price, region of production, varietal, or customer rating.
  • Vineyards or wineries. Many of them sell their wine on-site and wineries offer wine tastings so you try out the wine before purchasing them. Some will also offer online ordering.

Frequently Asked Questions?

Can you pair Shiraz and Pinot Noir with desserts?

Shiraz doesn’t pair well with desserts as it is too heavy and high in tannins. However, Pinot Noir will go with dark chocolate desserts.

Where did the name Shiraz come from? 

The name actually originated in Iran or Persia as it was known in the past.

Is Merlot Sweeter Than Shiraz?

Merlot seems to be sweeter because it is fruitier than Shiraz. However, it is high in tannins and is rich. Neither wine goes particularly well with a dessert, although you could drink a glass of Merlot with chocolate-covered cherries.

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