One grape. Two titles. It’s time to get to the bottom of how we identify a Syrah, from a Shiraz.
Syrah and Shiraz are the same things, right?
Well, mostly yes. Syrah and Shiraz are the same grape; known as Syrah in most of Europe and the US, and Shiraz in Australia and South Africa. And therein lies the difference; with the vast disparity between the land and climates in which these grapes are grown. Whilst they are siblings who share the same anatomy, it’s not surprising to find that a glass of Syrah and Shiraz can be worlds apart when it comes to taste!
So why the two names?
Actually, there’s a lot more than two; almost every variety of grape has different names around the world. It seems likely that Shiraz is the older of the two, given that the name can be loosely traced back to Iran, and the country’s once most populous city (with their own heritage of winemaking). It’s very plausible the name originates there, though how it came to be known as the Syrah grape for the rest of the world, is still debated to this day.
Why is it these grapes are widely dispersed around the world?
The main reason? ‘Cause it’s a tough old grape! Syrah/Shiraz grapes grow very well in various different climates, and those growing conditions, in turn, alter the flavours of the wine significantly. This means it can be planted in a brand new location and pretty much guarantees to produce a wine of a totally unique flavour to that place. It’s really no wonder then, that winemakers the world over are so enthusiastic about it.
Okay, that clears that up. Now, what does it taste like?
Well, that’s a toughie! As the growing location and climate fundamentally impact the taste of the wine, there’s not a black & white answer. Regardless of the grape’s origins, Syrah and Shiraz often carry notes of blackberry and pepper. Syrah can boast other dark fruity notes, whereas Shiraz – especially from very warm climates – usually has bigger and punchier fruit flavour, with a stronger peppery taste.
Where else might I find Syrah and Shiraz?
Syrah (Shiraz) is the varietal – wine made from just that species of grape. But you can find the grapes in a lot of famous blends around the world. Syrah blended with a small amount of Viognier (an aromatic white wine) is the traditional style of Côte-Rôtie in France’s northern Rhône valley. You can also find it as a blending ingredient in Cabernet Sauvignon and Châteauneuf-du-Pape of southern Rhône.