The happy marriage of pinot and shiraz
Blending shiraz and pinot noir is a tradition in the Hunter Valley, albeit a fringe activity. Maurice O’Shea, winemaker at Mount Pleasant 1925-1956, made such blends famous with legendary wines such as the 1952 Mount Pleasant Pinot Hermitage. It’s likely the fact that pinot noir is seldom very satisfactory as a stand-alone variety in the Hunter is part of the reason why the blend endures in that region, but seldom elsewhere. That said, NSW-born winemaker Charlie Melton maintains the tradition at Charles Melton in the Barossa and more latterly, ex-Hunter winemaker Sarah Crowe has kept the flame alive at her current gig, Yarra Yering.
It was at a recent winemakers’ dinner in the Hunter that I chanced to taste a local pinot shiraz that hit me like a bolt of lightning. It was near going-home time when highly-acclaimed First Creek winemaker Liz Silkman sloshed some of her 2014 Silkman Reserve Shiraz Pinot Noir into my glass. Fragrant, medium-bodied, silky tannins, utterly delicious. The next morning, I bought a case of it.
As usual, this unassuming winemaker smiled brightly and seemed surprised that I liked what she seemed to regard as a fairly humble offering. I inquired where the pinot noir had been grown, and she replied “It’s from Broke”, her grin conveying acknowledgement of how unlikely this was. Delicious pinot from Broke: who woulda thunk it, but it works with this shiraz.