Pinot noir syrah blends are continuing to gain traction in Victoria’s Yarra Valley, where the cool climate produces a style of shiraz better suited for marriage with delicate pinot noir.
Yarra Yering winemaker Sarah Crowe got the ball rolling back in 2015 with the Light Dry Red Pinot Shiraz.
Following in 2017 was Giant Steps Wines – founded in 1998 by Drinks Adventures podcast alumnus Phil Sexton – with its LDR, shorthand for light dry red.
The style is on the rise in Tasmania, too. Devil’s Corner has a 70/30 syrah-pinot in the Mt Dove, and Meadowbank does a super fresh, drink now ‘nouveau’ version.
The latest winery joining the groundswell is Soumah, which released the Single Vineyard Hexam Pinot Noir Syrah 2021 (RRP $35) in June this year.
The inaugural blend spent 11 months in French oak, about 20% of which was new, with both varietals sourced from the Hexam Vineyard in the Gruyere district.
“We thought it would be a bit of fun,” says Soumah winemaker Scott McCarthy. “It’s not well known, but pinot syrah has a lot of history in Australia.”
McCarthy credits legendary Hunter Valley winemaker Maurice O’Shea for “inventing” pinot syrah blends back in the 1940s.
“No one really knows… but the theory goes he had a weaker vintage for pinot and he added a bit of shiraz to give it more body.”
Mount Pleasant’s Mount Henry Shiraz Pinot Noir continues the tradition today. In an upcoming interview on the Drinks Adventures podcast, winemaker Adrian Sparks says the 2021 vintage will be released this month.
“Every [pinot syrah blend] is testament to what O’Shea did back in the ‘30s and ‘40s,” says Sparks.
Australians weren’t really into dry table wines back then, and the Mount Henry was shelved for about 40 years until then Mount Pleasant winemaker Phil Ryan picked it back up in the mid 90s.
“We get some bright, red fruited shiraz from Old Hill to balance out the strength and tannin and dark fruits from Mothervine Pinot and just blend them into balance,” says Sparks.
Soumah’s McCarthy hopes its pinot syrah blend will drive interest in Yarra Valley Syrah, which he says is not as popular as it should be.
“For us, it’s really a stand-alone wine — if you taste it, it’s not obvious that it’s a blend, it really creates its own entity.”