Syrah/Shiraz

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.

  

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.

  

Regions

Syrah is grown around the world just as the other noble grapes. Here are the largest producing countries for Syrah/Shiraz. The first 3 countries produce Syrah as a single grape varietal and the last 3 produce it as a blend. We’ll keep our focus on the single varietal regions in France, Australia, and California.

  • France – Rhône Valley
  • Australia
  • US – California / Washington
  • Spain
  • Argentina
  • South Africa

Recommendations

Pick up a bottle from each region and taste them side-by-side. Remember, if you can’t find these selections, just look for a Syrah from these regions with a decent rating (80 and above) at your price point.

Domaine Gilles Robin-Crozes Hermitage le Papillon-Syrah-Rhone France | commongrape.com

France
Gilles Robin Crozes-Hermitage Cuvee Papillon 2016
Vintage:  2016
Varietal:  Syrah
Appellation:  Crozes-Hermitage, Rhone Valley
Winery: Gilles Robin
Rating:  NR
Avg Price: $23

Thorn-Clarke Shiraz - Terra Barossa Valley-Australia | commongrape.com

Australia
Thorn Clarke 2015 Terra Barossa Shiraz (Barossa Valley)
Vintage: 2015
Varietal: Shiraz
Appellation: Barossa Valley
Winery: Thorn Clarke
Rating: 91 Wine Spectator
Avg price: $19

Santa Barbara Winery - Syrah - California | commongrape.com

California
Santa Barbara Winery 2014 Syrah (Santa Ynez Valley)
Vintage: 2014
Varietal: Syrah
Appellation: Santa Ynez Valley, Central Coast
Winery: Santa Barbara Winery
Rating: 92pts Wine Enthusiast
Avg price: $20

Tasting Notes

Time to taste your Syrah and Shiraz! Just follow these three steps to become familiar Syrah from each region.

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 water vs. milk.)

Easy Rating System

After you taste 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

Pairing

Syrah pairs 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

Congrats! You’ve decoded Syrah. Share your accomplishment with your friends!

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