Shiraz and Syrah are both originally from the same clone, but various regions have chosen one name or the other. You’ll find my top 10 Shiraz reviews and ratings here.
5 Surprising Facts about Shiraz:
They both create rich, robust red wines with a smooth texture and signature aromas of spice, pepper, clove and licorice leading, followed by dark fruit such as blackcurrant, blackberry, plum and black cherry, as well as truffle, earth, violets, vanilla, smoke, sandalwood, cedar, cigar box, earth and leather.
The greatest of these wines can age for 25 years or more. The grape was originally believed to be from Persia, now Iran, from the city of Shiraz, but has since been proven to be indigenous to France, where more than half the world’s Syrah vines are planted.
The legendary wines of the Rhone Valley’s Côte Rotie and Hermitage are made from 100% Syrah. Syrah is also part of the blend in other Rhône wines, including Châteauneuf-du-Pape that often includes Grenache, Mouvèdre and up to nine other grapes.
This wine is also the flagship red wine of Australia, where it’s called Shiraz (easier to pronounce than Syrah), and is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon. Australia’s Barossa Valley is particularly famous for its complex, multi-layered Shiraz. It is also becoming South Africa’s leading red. California grows it successfully in Paso Robles where it’s usually called Syrah.
Shiraz and Syrah pair with robust dishes such as grilled meats and vegetables, stew, pizza, barbecued beef, bison steak, grilled or spice-rubbed chicken, fajitas, ostrich, game, lamb shanks, barbequed pork spareribs and Mexican Mole.
Shiraz originated in the Rhône Valley of France, where it’s called syrah and has been growing since 500 BCE. It’s usually the leading grape in the blend of wines such as Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie.
Although shiraz and syrah are the same grape, various wine-producing regions have chosen one name or the other. Australians went with shiraz, a variation on the original name they had for these vines—scyras—that was easier to pronounce, whereas California tends to use syrah because many feel their style is more European.
Shiraz thrives in Australia, the planet’s most arid continent, because the vine is so vigorous that it needs hardship to produce concentrated wine. What little rain falls in the Barossa evaporates quickly, and temperatures can average in the high thirties for weeks on end. Shiraz transforms these dry furnace conditions into the lyrical, liquid voice of this sun-drenched land.
This “overnight sensation” began in 1832, when a progressive governor, James Busby, planted the first scyras (shiraz) vines in the country in the Hunter Valley near Sydney. He believed that local wine would be less intoxicating than the rum that the early settlers, mostly convicts and gold rush speculators, brought with them.
Shiraz is often blended with cabernet sauvignon as power and elegance dance in the glass: Fred Astaire shiraz and Ginger Rogers cabernet. Australia is also famous for its “GSM” blends: grenache for lift and fruitiness, shiraz for body and flesh and mourvèdre for spice and structure.
You’ll get access to all of my reviews and ratings of shiraz wines when you join as a Paid Member of our community.