Syrah is a red wine grape variety that is also commonly known as Shiraz in Australia and the countries of the New World. Besides in France, Syrah is widespread in Italy, Switzerland, Australia, California, Argentina, South Africa, Mexico and Chile. Worldwide, Syrah is the 7th most planted variety - about 142 000 ha.
Syrah is the only one among the classic red grape varieties that can be found under 2 names - Syrah and Shiraz. The difference comes from the region of production. In France and the Northern Rhône valley they make some of the most unbelievable red wines in the world.
In Australia, where Syrah is called Shiraz, winemakers claim that they use the original name of the variety, pointing to the legend that it originates from the ancient city of Shiraz. The wines labeled "Syrah" are most of the wines produced in Europe, whose style is close to the classic wines of the Northern Rhône - elegant and tannic, with distinguished smoky nuances and fruity flavors.
The wines labeled "Shiraz" are made from riper fruits. They are fruitier, with higher levels of alcoholic content, with soft tannins and are more peppery rather than smoked. These wines are easier to drink when they are younger.
History of Syrah
Syrah is an ancient grape variety, considered to be among the most aristocratic in the whole world. There are different theories as to its origin, with some experts postulating that it was brought from the Iranian city of Shiraz to France during the Middle Ages - where the homonymous Shiraz given to the Australian variety comes from. Others believe that it was brought over as early as the 3rd century by Roman emperor Probus and that wines from the Northern Rhône were a real sensation even back then.
Still others claim that Syrah is a local French variety from the Rhône valley. It is in fact the Rhône valley that is the main region that spreads the variety and the most notable wines actually come from there.
The high quality wines from Northern Rhône are absolutely incomparable - dark red to nearly black in color, unique for their intense nuance of moss and leaves, leather and tobacco. They unarguably belong to some of the best varieties in the world.
According to DNA analysis, the Syrah variety was created by crossing the Dureza and Blanchette varieties. Syrah belongs to the group of anisohydric plants which means that it absorbs carbon dioxide even when the water potential of the plant is negative. Even in extreme drought conditions, Syrah is the variety that records the highest levels of photosynthesis, while most other varieties die in such conditions.
Syrah is choosy when it comes to climatic conditions - it blooms early and ripens relatively early, as well as requiring a very specific amount of heat. It's relatively well resistant to grapevine diseases and it prefers rocky soils with good drainage.
Syrah has gained huge popularity in recent years mainly thanks to the New World nations - a particularly immense share of this popularity is owed to the wines produced in Australia.
Characteristics of Syrah
Syrah is one of the most dignified red wines, which was initially widespread only in the Rhône valley but in recent years there has been a tenfold increase in plantation areas, especially in South France, where Syrah is highly valued as a grape enhancer. In Australia, Syrah has been dominating among the red wines in all quality categories from the very beginning.
Even an untrained palate can pick up on the combination of contrasting nuances of chocolate and freshly ground black pepper, the scent of leather and flower fragrances, smoke and a hint of fresh red meat with a saturated fruit taste in a Syrah wine. These characteristics make it suitable for combining with a wide spectrum of foods.
The magnificent Syrah matures into an incredibly aromatic and complex wine, with a smooth and soft structure. It is an inseparable addition to any game dish. The rule dictates that Syrah be combined with game, roasted meat and old yellow cheeses.
Indeed, Syrah is considered the manliest wine in the world. This is because the variety gives perhaps the only wines that can be combined perfectly with a cigar. Syrah has a great potential for aging, which means that the longer the wine from this variety has aged, the more refined its taste qualities.