Syrah (Shiraz) is a rich, powerful red wine that originated in the French Rhone Valley, but has since become the popular grape of choice in Australia. Usually, winemakers in cooler climate growing regions like France tend to call it Syrah. These include California, Yarra Valley & Chile. Shiraz is used in warm climates, like Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale & Adelaide Hills.
Full bodied, dry, medium-high tannin, it provides a good balance between black fruit flavors like blueberry & plum against earthy spice notes like tobacco & peppercorn, it pairs will with heavily spiced foods & red meaty cuts, as it brings out the fruit notes of Syrah
Some examples include:
- Indian Tandoori
- Asian Five Spice
- Pepper Crusted Steak
It makes some of the darkest red wines, and will give you a punch of flavor that finishes slowly into a spicy peppery note. Do note that depending on the style, some can be quite sweet, as they cut the fermentation process early to give the wine some luscious texture
Look to equally bold foods for pairings, such as blue cheese or barbecue meats. Particularly look for foods with fennel & thyme to complement an Old World Syrah, or something with a strong pepper & anise spice for the Australian Shiraz.
Most Syrah is grown on the top of hills where there is less soil, resulting in lower yield and more concentrated grapes. It's common proactice to cold soak the Syrah grapes to increase color & fruitiness of the wine, and reduce the harsh tannin & herbasceous flavors from their thick skins.
Usually, Syrah has medium to high levels of oak aging, which complement the dark fruit flavors, and give it a longer finish. Also, due to it's short & punchy profile, Syrah is often blended with grapes that add more mid-palate, such as Cabernet Sauvignon. This helps to create a more complete blend with a long finish to match the initial notes.
Common blends for Syrah include the famed GSM blend from Rhone Valley, or a Cabernet-Syrah blend, which is now popular in Australia & America
Rhone Valley, France
Traditional French Rhone Valley Syrah is blended with Grenache & Mourvedre to create the classic Côtes du Rhône blend, or GSM as it's known more contemporarily. Some of the most expensive Syrah in the world come from Hermitage, which are known for floral & smoky aromas of blackberry & grilled meat.
Typically, the French Syrah will be more restrained, while still remaining bold. Look for Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage, Cornas, Saint-Joseph for quality Syrah.
Barossa Valley, Australia
The climate here is warm to hot, so the Shiraz here would have extra ripe flavors of cooked fruits. Close to Adelaide, the Barossa Valley has a similar terrain as the Central Valley in California. It's the birthplace of some of the msot sought after Shiraz in the world, and has some of the oldest living Shiraz vineyards as they were not affected by the European root louse.
Look for single varietal styles, or Cabernet blends.
California offers the perfect climate for growing quality Syrah, and the lack of winemaking requirements allows for varied expressions of the grape. You can find wines across the spectrum, from big punchy Barossa to restrained Rhone. Particularly look for those from Monterey, Santa Ynez Valley, Mendocino County, and Calistoga.