It’s time to put the spotlight on one of the most popular wine varieties in all of Australia: Syrah wine. Syrah red wines have a rich history, and they’ve been making waves in the Australian wine industry for centuries. If you’re fond of drinking full-bodied red wines, you may just fall in love with Syrah wine. Read on to learn more about this classic wine, its history and how to best enjoy it.
The Syrah Grape
The Syrah grape is a red grape that is grown all over the world. It’s heavily grown in the Northern Rhône Valley, a region located in the south eastern part of France. Close to 70,000 hectares of Syrah vines are planted across the globe, and most of the vines can be found in France. However, Australia also has many Syrah vines planted across the country, making the grape fairly popular in the region as well.
What is Syrah wine?
Currently, the Syrah grape is the world’s seventh most popularly grown grape. Its wine has a strong taste and is fruit-forward. Because of its rich and bold flavours, it’s used as a base for many popular wines today.
The History & Origins of the Syrah Grape
The exact origin of the Syrah grape variety is unknown, but the fruit does have a long-documented history in Rhône. There are many myths that surround how the Syrah grape rose to popularity, but the most popular are these two theories:
- Syrah grapes originated from a Roman emperor back in 280 A.D.
- The grapes were brought over from Iran to France by an Iranian winemaker back in 600 B.C
The grape has been an integral part of French winemaking for centuries, and it first rose to popularity back in the 18th century in a little town in France called Hermitage. The town was famous for producing delicious, high-quality wines.
Soon, the grape was introduced to other parts of the world. The father of the Australian wine industry, James Busby, was said to have visited France back in 1832 to research on wine. On his way back, he brought home a few Syrah vine clippings, and when these were planted on Australian soil, the region’s climate proved to be ideal for the grape.
Since then, researchers have found that the Syrah grape variety is a cross between the Dureza, a dark-skinned berry, and the Mondeuse Blanche, a white-skinned berry. This is interesting to note because neither grape variety was particularly popular—in fact, both are rather obscure grapes. Neither the Mondeuse Blanche nor the Dureza are widely sold commercially, and it’s rare to find either of these grapes in the wild.
Distinguishing Between New World Style and Old World Style Syrah Wines
New World and Old World wines are differentiated using their winemaking style. Typically, New World wines are fuller bodied, have a higher alcohol content and a lower acidity than their Old World counterparts. Additionally, New World wines have heightened, bold fruit flavours, making them more desirable to wine drinkers who prefer fruitier wines. Old World Syrah wines, on the other hand, are lighter and have lower alcohol content. They also have a higher acidity and have a less fruity taste.
Local traditions often influence how wine is classified more than its geographical origin. Old World wines highlight traditional winemaking practices and are the shoulders that New World winemakers stand upon as they innovate and experiment with new ways to produce wines. Other factors that determine how Syrah wines are classified are terroir, which is French for “sense of place,” and the types of soil that the Syrah grape is grown in.
Getting to Know the World’s Oldest Shiraz Vines
Australia is said to be home to the oldest Shiraz plants that have been continuously productive since they were first planted. The region hosts vineyards that date back to 1843, 1847 and 1860, with most grapes cultivated during the early part of the 19th century. Perhaps the areas in Australia that are most popular for their Shiraz vineyards and wines are Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale.
The Syrah Wine Regions in Europe and Australia
Here are the different Syrah wine regions across the world. These are organised according to the country with the biggest Syrah crop and the main regions where these crops are grown.
|France||169,000 acres of Syrah grapes||Cornas, Hermitage, Saint Joseph, Côte-Rôtie|
|Australia||105,000 acres of Syrah grapes||Barossa, Clare Valley, Hunter Valley, McLaren Vale|
|Spain||49,000 acres of Syrah grapes||Priorat, Levante, Montsant|
|Argentina||32,000 acres of Syrah grapes||Lujan de Cuyo, Salta|
|South Africa||25,000 acres of Syrah grapes||Stellenbosch, Robertson, Swartland|
|United States||23,000 acres of Syrah grapes||Santa Barbara, Napa, Sonoma|
|Italy||17,000 acres of Syrah grapes||Tuscany, Sicily|
|Chile||15,000 acres of Syrah grapes||Maipo Valley, Colchagua Valley|
The Characteristics of the Syrah Grape
The Syrah grape is small, dark-skinned and shaped like an egg. It typically grows in small bunches. When the Syrah grape is turned into wine, it takes on a deep red or purple hue. Syrah wine appears darker than Cabernet Sauvignon, and younger wines produce a bolder colour. As Syrah wine ages, its colours change, appearing more garnet. They also become less concentrated.
Are Shiraz grapes and Syrah grapes different from each other?
Technically speaking, Shiraz grapes and Syrah grapes are one and the same. The name depends on the geographical location where the grapes were grown and cultivated. If they were grown in a cooler climate, then they are known as Syrah. If the grapes were grown in warmer climates, then they are known as Shiraz.
Additionally, leaner, more acidic wines are often called Syrah. This is because they’re reminiscent of the classic wines of Old World France. In Australia, Syrah wine is best known as Shiraz. There’s no ultimate consensus on why or how the name change occurred. Some say it was due to a mistake in labels of the cuttings, while others point out differences in accents. Whatever the reason, the name stuck, and now the grape is predominantly called Shiraz instead of Syrah.
The Taste of Syrah Wine
Syrah wine is flavourful and strong. It’s velvety on the tongue, and it has an inky depth. The red wine tastes bold at the first sip and then gradually mellows out the more you drink it. It’s important to note that cooler regions and warmer regions greatly influence the flavour profile of the wine.
The Syrah Wine Profile
As mentioned, Syrah or Shiraz wines are full-bodied. Their typical, prevalent flavours are blackberry, black fruit, blueberry, dark chocolate, tobacco, black pepper and other exotic spices. These wines also tend to have medium to high tannins and a smoky flavour. The alcohol levels of the Shiraz wine change depending on the oak aging process that it undergoes.
If the Syrah grape was grown in a warmer climate, the resulting wine would have plum, black cherry and blueberry notes. Syrah grapes grown in a cooler climate would have black currant, blackberry and dragon fruit notes.
Is Shiraz sweet or dry?
Generally, Shiraz wine is dry. It produces a more robust flavour than other full-bodied reds. However, the dryness of the Shiraz wine depends wholly on how the wine was made and where you purchased it from.
Aging Syrah Wine
Most Shiraz or Syrah wines are aged in an oak barrel or casket. Fruitier and lighter wines are aged for six months, while traditional Rhone Valley wines are aged for 18 months. French and Australian winemakers alike prefer using American oak barrels because of the richer flavour they impart to the wine, while American winemakers prefer to use French oak.
Syrah wine can also be aged using its own bottle. Many winemakers leave it in for 15 years for a deeper, more profound flavour. Since Syrah wines have high tannins and acidity, they’re ideal for being aged in a bottle.
Food Pairing with Syrah Wine
Syrah or Shiraz wine is strong and punchy, so it can be a bit overwhelming to your palate when you first take a sip. For an optimal drinking experience, it’s then crucial to know which types of food go well with its flavours. Read below to see which foods you should prepare to best enjoy your Syrah wine.
As a rule of thumb, avoid any bland or flavourless foods when drinking these types of wines. Bland foods will be washed out and overpowered by the taste of the Shiraz or Syrah wine. Instead, flavour is key when thinking of ideal food pairings. Something well-seasoned, savoury and packed with flavour would be the perfect complement to a glass of Shiraz.
For instance, barbecue with lots of pepper, grilled lamb or spicy pork chops will pair well with Syrah or Shiraz. This is because food with a higher fat content makes wines with high tannins taste smoother. You can also choose foods rich in umami, which bring out the fruitiness of the wine. Bolder, more flavourful wines like Syrah make a great pair with grilled foods as well, such as grilled meats or veggies. Umami vegetables with low tannins are also ideal to pair with this kind of wine.
Here are some other food suggestions you can try with your next glass of Shiraz red wine:
- Dry-rub brisket
- Smoked meat
- All-meat pizza
- Roasted or grilled venison
- Roasted duck
Meanwhile, the best way to serve Shiraz or Syrah wine is at 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. You can stick the bottle in the refrigerator for a few minutes to chill your wine a bit. Remember to keep the cork in when you aren’t pouring the wine because this will allow it to preserve its flavour.
The Best Syrah Wines in Australia
Australia is home to some of the best Shiraz wines in the world. The region has one of the largest numbers of vineyards across the country, and it’s second only to France when it comes to Syrah production, which is the grape’s point of origin. Here are some of the best bottles of Shiraz wines you can find in Australia.
1. 2015 Domaine Patrick Jasmin Côte Rôtie La Giroflarie
If you’re looking for something dark and fruity, this bottle is for you. It features dark currant, fig and blackberry flavours with notes of cast iron, bay leaf and pepper. The 2015 Domaine Patrick Jasmin Côte Rôtie La Giroflarie retails for $118.99.
2. 2019 Craggy Range Le Sol Syrah
Dense and intense, the 2019 Craggy Range Le Sol Syrah features plum, dark berry and spice flavours. It’s excellent for cellaring, and it has taut tannins. Its young, fresh taste contrasts with its deep, complex flavours, so it packs quite a punch with the first sip. Each bottle of this wine retails for $149.99.
3. 2017 Castagna Genesis
If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly bottle, this is the best choice for you. Tight and compact, the 2017 Castagna Genesis is more savoury than other Syrah wines, but it still delivers the beloved Syrah flavours. It has notes of clove, blueberry, nori and pepper. Meanwhile, its fragrance is light and fruity, which complements its gorgeous burgundy colouring. A bottle of the 2017 Castagna Genesis retails for $78.99.
4. 2015 Delas Cornas Chante-Perdrix Rouge
The 2015 Delas Cornas Chante-Perdrix Rouge is considered an Old World classic. Floral notes intertwine with the wine’s black currant, blueberry and blackberry flavours to create a charming, fruity wine made even more intense with hints of spice. The wine has a deep, garnet colour, and the fruity taste gradually melts away to reveal deeper flavours of liquorice and pepper. Each bottle of the 2015 Delas Cornas Chante-Perdrix Rouge retails for $142.00.
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of wine is Syrah?
Syrah is a dry, robust red wine. It’s incredibly flavourful, and typically, its main notes are dark chocolate, dark fruit, sweet tobacco and spices. Because of this, it’s an excellent partner for smoked or grilled meats and vegetables along with other flavourful dishes.
Is Syrah a good wine?
Syrah is perfect for those looking for a flavour-packed wine. If you want a strong, full-bodied red wine, Syrah wine is your best bet.