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.
Syrah is grown around the world just as the other noble grapes. Here are the largest producing countries for Syrah/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
- South Africa
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 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.
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.
To become familiar with Syrah/Shiraz, try comparing a French, California, and Australian Syrah/Shiraz side-by-side. To make it simple, I’ve included links to great options from these regions below.
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To learn about the Syrah/Shiraz tasting profile, just follow these 3 tasting steps. See if you agree or disagree with the typical tasting profile described.
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.
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.
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?
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.)
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.
3pts Good, but not great
1pt Not for me
Food & Cheese Pairings
Syrah pairs well with fatty meats. The dry tannins wash the fattiness right down, providing a nice balance.
- Red meats: steak, lamb, burger, cured meats
- White meats: BBQ pork, duck
- Sharp or Smoked Cheddar
- Monterey Jack