Better Know A Varietal – Syrah/Shiraz

Syrah, AKA Shiraz is a red wine grape most identified with the northern Rhone region of France, and as Shiraz Australia. Legend has it that it was brought to France from the middle-east by a knight returning from one of the Crusades.

In the northern Rhone it is usually vinified alone or with very small amount of other grapes. These wines tend to be big bold wines with spicy and woodsy flavors and powerful tannins. Wines made from Syrah in the Cotes Rotie and Hermitage are among the best red wines in the world. Unfortunately they are also expensive. Less prestigious regions such as Crozes Hermitage can make some fine wines from Syrah but you have to pick with care. In the central and southern Rhone Syrah is most often blended with grapes such as Grenache, Mourvedre, and Cinsuult. The most prestigious of these wines is probably Chateaueneuf D’ Pape. In a blend it ads considerable structure while the other grapes can add fruit and some softness.

Syrah is also grown to the west of the Rhone in Langduec and Roussillon and to the south in Provence. Some excellent wines are made here but even more than in the Rhone you have to pick by producer.

In the 19th century Syrah was brought to Australia were it is known as Shiraz. Australian Shiraz range from very fruity, slightly spicy factory wines to some harder to find examples that can hold there head up with the finest offerings from the Rhone.

Syrah is popular with some northern California wineries who believe that it is more suited to the warm dry climate than the ever popular Cabernet Sauvignon. As in Australia, the style can vary widely.

Recently there has been a trend to use the traditional southern Rhone blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, making wines called “GSM”, in places such as California, South Africa, and Australia. The few I have tasted I have enjoyed.



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