POSTS Syrah vs Shiraz


Syrah vs Shiraz

Will you drink Syrah or Shiraz?

The scene evolves in a nice restaurant with good company and after choosing food, it is unanimously agreed that the accompanying wine will be red. And then it goes like this:

- Let's order that Shiraz!

-What Shiraz? They call it SyraH. Just leave it, I'll order it myself.

- Well, you both don't know what you're talking about. In Syrah the "h" is not pronounced at the end, it's French!

- Here says, it is from Australia! Do they speak French in Australia?

So that you don't have to live a similar experience (I've lived...) let's make it clear, that it is, indeed, a matter of geography. Simply put, Syrah and Shiraz are the same grape variety, but from a different place of origin.

The dominant homeland of the variety is France and there, is known as Syrah, while the name Shiraz is used to indicate as country of origin, Australia. The birthplace of the variety has been much debated, with legends to mention as the first producer, a Roman emperor who planted the grape in France, in 280 AD, in the Rhône region. Some others, associate it with the city of Shiraz in Persia (today known as Iran), because of the name (makes sense, you would think so too). Everything became clear in 1998, when science once again led the way! The genetic control of the variety, confirmed that it was the love child of two unquestionable French varieties, dureza and mondeuse blanche.

The variety, depending on the place of origin, produces wines with very different styles. The style is determined by the climate of each region, the subsoil, and even the pruning method of the vines. The choice of vinification, by each winemaker, is an element that differentiates it even more, even if it comes from the same region. So this is a variety, that could easily be characterized as chameleon!

In a general distinction between the two styles and if we are talking about formality, a Syrah, originates from France and the wider area of the Rhone Valley. The climate there, fluctuates strongly, between cold and mild during the year and the wine has deep color and aromas of black fruits and pepper. It is light bodied; the tannins are soft and the alcohol lower than that of a warmer climate. This style is known as Old World.

In the opposite hemisphere, Shiraz is Australia's most widely planted variety, with the Barossa Valley being the source! The climate there is consistently warmer and the wine is full bodied, with cool acidity, high alcohol ana intense ripe and concentrated aromas of black fruits, as cherries, dried herbs and spices. This style is known as New World.

So, all Syrah wines are from France and all Shiraz wines are from Australia. Ha! You wish it was that simple! The variety is grown in many regions around the world, which are neither in France, nor in Australia. The most important of those are South Africa, New Zealand and Chile. There, depending on the climate, the names Syrah and Shiraz, are now used as an indication of style and not of origin. In other words, what the wineries do to make it easier, for the (now confused) consumer, is to mention at the label one of the two names, depending on the style that is closest to the wine they have bottled. So, it may be possible that a "Syrah" from Chile, has been vinified in a French way!

And now get ready for the good stuff...the cherry on the cake! The Petite Sirah! We don't want to create a gap with anagrams, but to give you an additional pro (aka professional) wine tip. This is a completely different grape variety and not the "little" Syrah. The grape was discovered in France in 1860, by Francois Durif and was originally named Plant du Rif. As travelled to California, its name was changed to a new, more commercial one! It is a small, black grape that is high in tannins and acidity, with rich flavors and aromas of raspberry, chocolate, pepper and spice. Also distinct, but not Syrah!

Now that we've cleared all up, all that's left to do is pick up a bottle of each style for an informative tasting. Are we agreed;


Christina Tsogka