Some information about the Syrah grape

Shiraz Grapes

Shiraz Grapes

You may have read some of my recent articles and thought they were amazingly interesting, save one little thing. I have gone into great detail on what the wine taste like, where it came from, and how it was fermented, but I didn’t explain the grape itself. For all you knew I was talking about pickles from Mongolia turned into wine. Therefore, I’ll give you some basic information about the grapes in the wines I talk about, starting with Syrah.

A dark, almost black grape, with a thick skin, Syrah creates a wine that offers many expressions. It’s a grape that takes on the characteristics of the terroir, the earth that the grapes come from, and will be different depending on where it is grown. While more than half of the world’s Syrah vineyards are in France, the grape can be found in “new world” areas such as California, Washington, South Africa, and Australia.

Called Shiraz in Australia, the wine will typically have dark fruit flavors with an intense, peppery component when grown there. In contrast, Syrah you’ll find in California often can be round and fruit focused to jammy. French Syrah, used to make many Rhone wines from appellations such as Cote Rotie (pronounced Coat Row-tee) , Hermitage , and Chateauneuf de Pape, is often considered intense or strong when young, with great potential to age. These are of course generalizations, and the wine can have a very “old world” style while made in California, for example.

Syrah is a great food wine, and is definitely at home around a backyard BBQ. Paired with grilled meats, whether steaks, hamburger, sausage, or lamb, a nice Syrah from Washington will work well. Syrah (or Shiraz) can work well with other foods, such as pizza, game such as venison, boar, or pheasant, cheeses such as cheddar, aged Gouda, or Roquefort, and even duck or chicken if it’s grilled or barbecued.

Please feel free to add some comments below about Syrah or Shiraz!

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10 thoughts on “Some information about the Syrah grape

  1. probably my favorite red grape. Don’t drink as much in warm weather, but when it’s cold outside…perfect.

    Also, roasting meats over open fire begs for some Syrah. Who are some of your favorite producers?

  2. Can’t comment too much on US Syrah, although I love the herby intenisty of the Pax wines. But that’s a big generalisation you’re making about Aussie Shiraz – there’s a vast difference between a 16% McLaren Vale blockbuster and something like Craiglee from Macedon, which is farlighter and more fragrant. Also, a typical Chateauneuf is mostly Grenache. And what about NZ Syrah? Some very exciting things emerging from Hawkes Bay in the last 20 years, especially from the Gimblett Gravels district. Some can be a bit gawky, but the best (Craggy Range, Bilancia, Te Mata, Te Awa for example) combine almost Rhone-like peppery finesse with refreshing dark fruit flavours.

  3. I’ve also found that Syrah/Shiraz is fantastic with Reese’s Peanut butter cups for some reason. Somewhat like a nice Port and chocolate…

  4. Matt, Don’t get me started. I love Syrah, and Rhone varietals in general. It always amazes me that its such an under appreciated grape in the wine community. As you noted the wines from this grape can express themselves in such diverse ways depending on where it’s from. So there is something out there for every palate.

    Fave producers? Too many to list here, so here a few that I really liked at Rhone Rangers over the weekend. This is a very incomplete list so don’t be mad at me if I left you out! Unti, Villa Creek, Jada, Halter Ranch, Qupe, Tablas Creek and (shameless plug) Hahn Winery.


    Philip Woodrow
    Hahn Family Wines

  5. Philip – Thanks for the comment! I knew you’d weigh in! I have to admit that I don’t drink nearly as much Syrah as I could, or should. As a matter of fact, I’ve got 2 Australian and 1 French in the wine cooler that i’ve been meaning to get to for 2 weeks! However – I appreciate your recent experiences, and will try to grab a few if they’re available here in SoFla!! And of course, I’ll be drinking some in SLH soon enough ;)

  6. Simon – Thank you So much for your comments. I don’t think it’s possible to over everything about Syrah, or any grape, in a blog post. That’s why I am SO appreciative of your input. I dont recall the last NZ Syrah I’ve had – so I’m on the hunt for one. And again, you are spot on regarding the differences in Aussy Shiraz – just like I pointed out the differences in CA Syrah. That’s one thing I point out at every wine event I appear at, the same grape from neighboring vineyards can be different based on vineyard orientation, fermentation, and aging.

    Kaelin – I have to admit I have never paired anything with Reese’s! I’ll give it a try next time I can!

    Joe – Like I mentioned in the other comment, I dont drink near enough Syrah. I loved the K-Vinters and the DeLille Syrah’s from last week. I’ve got three infront of me for the next Syrah post I do, Hesketh “The Protagonist” Vinaceous “Snake Charmer”, and Chateau Massiac “Minervois” which is 75% Syrah 25% Carignan. I’ll get those online in a week or two :)

  7. In your honor, I cracked a 2004 Freemark Abbey Syrah tonight.

  8. Way to go Big Dog! Give us a little mini review on PBE?

  9. Being lamb my favorite kind of meat, Syrah/Shiraz is one of my safe pairings. During a trip to Healdsburg I really enjoyed Kokomo’s and Unti’s 2004 releases. However recently I have tasted a few sparkling Shiraz from Australia, and I have been pleasantly surprised. The Rumball Coonawarra Cuvee SB17 was my favorite.

  10. [...] include Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre grapes. I could have selected a Grenache from Spain, or a Syrah from California for this article, however I’ve wanted to write about my dinner and interview [...]

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