Common aromas of Syrah/Shiraz are: Blackberry, Black Plum, Coffee, Black Cherry and Licorice


Syrah is a red grape variety from France. It was first mentioned in 1781 in the region of Hermitage in the northern Rhone Valley. Syrah is a great-grandson of Pinot Noir and a sibling to Viognier.

In France, Syrah has been split into two categories; single varietal wines – such as those of Hermitage, Cote-Rotie in the Northern Rhone, and blends – such as those of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Cotes du Rhone of the Southern Rhone valley. In these blends Syrah is blended with many grapes the leaders being Grenache and Mouvedre. This blend is, after the Bordeaux blend, is the most famous red wine combo of them all. It is a combo that has been repeated around the world – and now a large part of both Australia and California’s wine output.

France has dramatically increased its plantings of Syrah over the last 50 years with the vineyard area going from 1,602ha in 1958 to 68,587ha in 2009. Syrah is now the third most planted red grape after Merlot and Grenache. The majority of plantings are in the Rhone Valley but it is also increasingly being planted around the south of France.

Syrah is still small in overall popularity across Europe, in comparison to larger grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, but it is gaining plantings in Spain, Greece, Hungary, Switzerland, Lebanon and Israel.

California is the home to the Rhone Rangers movement that has helped to push up the popularity of this grape. Over the last few decades this has helped go from 162 to 6,880ha of Syrah planted across the state – but mainly more inland in the Central Coast region. Washington State is also producing many great Syrahs, too.

Like everywhere else Chile and Argentina have both increased their plantings of Syrah dramatically over the last few decades. Chile grows Syrah throughout its Central Coast but also in the most northern regions, and has a total of 3,370ha. Argentina, on the other hand, plants mostly in altitude producing soft and floral examples has a total of 12,960ha.

Syrah is also known as Shiraz. It is thanks to the Australians that Syrah has seen such a boost in plantings the world over. Australia has a grand total of 43,977ha and it makes up 24% of the total wine output of Australia. It is the ripe, juicy, slightly sweet, reds that have made Australia famous. From cheap examples to the most prestige ones – like Penfold’s Grange.

South Africa also has decent plantings of Syrah, though here too it is also better known as Shiraz. It competes with Australian model of the grape in the highly oaked fruit bomb – a very popular wine due to the instant gratification of flavour and power that it commands. It makes up 9,707ha and 10% of the total vineyard area.

Syrah is also one of the current trends for red wine in NZ. It currently has a total of 278ha devoted to it though this will surely rise over the next few years thanks to domestic popularity of the grape.

Syrah wines have medium-full bodies with moderate acidities. Syrah wines made in a traditionally French-style will be more floral and have aromas of raspberry, blackberry, blackcurrants with rosemary and charred wood flavours. With age these wines will develop chocolate, cigar box, leathery and dried herb aromas. Wines that are made in the Australian-Shiraz mould are riper and are loaded with blackcurrants, blackberries, licorice, dark chocolate, cherry, vanilla and coconut flavours. The ripest examples will also have flavours of prunes, raisins and coffee beans.

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