Learn about Syrah and Shiraz Wine

Syrah/Shiraz … tomayto/tomahto. What’s the deal with the name? Both names reference the same dark-skinned grape varietal that grows in many countries around the world. In the old world (France and Europe) along with many new world regions, the name used is Syrah. In Australia, they call it Shiraz.

While the regionality of the name generally holds true, it can also indicate the style of the wine. Syrah means elegance, tannin, and subtle fruit found in French (old world) style Syrah. While Shiraz references the fruit-forward, less tannic wine styles typical in Australian Shiraz.

Jump to these sections:
Top Regions, Tasting Recommendations, Tasting Notes, Rating System, Pairings  

Syrah and Shiraz Top Regions

Syrah is grown around the world just as the other noble grapes. Here are the largest producing countries for Syrah and Shiraz. The first 4 regions produce Syrah as a single grape varietal and the last 3 produce it as a blend.

  • France: Rhône Valley (named: Côte-Rôtie, Crozes-Hermitage, and Hermitage)
  • Australia: Barossa, McLaren Vale
  • California: Paso Robles, Santa Barbara, Napa Valley, Sonoma
  • Washington: Columbia Valley
  • Spain
  • Argentina
  • South Africa

French Syrah

Once again, Syrah originated in France and is grown in the Rhône Valley. Northern Rhône features Syrah as single varietal wines and can be found under the names Côte-Rôtie, Crozes-Hermitage, and Hermitage. Southern Rhone features Syrah in a blended wine style and is labeled with the names Châteauneuf du Pape and Côtes du Rhône.

California Syrah

California is a large producer of Syrah and typically models the style after the old world French. However, you will see some Shiraz labels, which is a tip off that it’s the more fruity style known in Australia.

Australian Shiraz

Australia is known for its Shiraz that is bold with strong black fruit flavors. It grows in a warmer climate, which typically means it will be a bit jammier than a cooler climate red wine.

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Syrah and Shiraz Tasting Recommendations

To become familiar with Syrah and Shiraz, compare styles from France, California, and Australia side-by-side.

Pre-Filtered links to Syrah/Shiraz on Wine.com.

Tasting Notes

To learn about the Syrah and Shiraz tasting profile, just follow these 3 tasting steps. See if you agree or disagree with the typical tasting profile described.

See

Take your glass and tilt it over a white napkin or paper at a 45-degree angle. Compare the color across all regions. Take note of the opacity levels. If you place your fingers between the glass and the napkin, how easily can you see them? These are all tells of what kind of wine you are drinking.

TASTING PROFILE:  Deep dark red in color, very opaque.

Sniff

Let’s see how aromatic Syrah is. Hold your glass at your chest and see if you can catch any scent. Then move it to your chin and try to smell. Then really put your nose in the glass and take a big sniff. What scents do you catch? Swirl the wine and then sniff again. What scents do you catch now?

TASTING PROFILE:  This is not an aromatic grape. You’ll have to stick your nose in the glass to smell the aromas of blackberry, coffee, and pepper.

Taste

Take a taste and swirl it in your mouth. What flavors do you taste? After you swallow, how long does the flavor linger and how would you describe those flavors?

TASTING PROFILE:

Fruit:  Black fruit, blackberry, plum, tobacco, pepper

Acidity:  Medium acidity (This is tartness in the wine and hits underneath the back of your tongue and throat.)

Tannin:  Medium-High tannin. (This is bitterness that comes from the grape skins.)

Oak:  Medium oak.

Body:  Full body. (This is how heavy or full the wine is. Think skim milk vs. whole milk.)

What is the difference between Syrah and Shiraz?

Shiraz from Australia has a bigger bolder taste and more jammy fruit. This is because the grapes are grown in a warm climate in Australia where they can develop that extra bold, fruity taste.

Syrah from France has a subtler fruit and overall taste. This is because the grapes are grown in a cool climate which keeps the fruit from becoming overly ripe and keeps the fruity taste in check.

Easy Rating System

After tasting each wine, give it a rating using this easy rating system. Add notes to help remember what you liked or didn’t like about the wine.

5pts   Love!
4pts   Like
3pts   Good, but not great
2pts   Meh
1pt     Not for me

Syrah and Shiraz Food & Cheese Pairings

Syrah and Shiraz pair well with fatty meats. The dry tannins wash the fattiness right down, providing a nice balance.

Food pairings:

  • Red meats: steak, lamb, burger, cured meats
  • White meats: BBQ pork, duck
  • Pepper
  • Tomato
  • Mushroom
  • Eggplant

Cheese pairings:

  • Asiago
  • Sharp or Smoked Cheddar
  • Gouda
  • Manchego
  • Monterey Jack
  • Muenster