Que Syrah Syrah…
Syrah & Shiraz
While there are those who argue that Syrah is indigenous to the northern Rhône Valley in eastern France, around here we’re partial to legends and tall tales! One such fable is that the Roman emperor Probus brought Syrah up to the Rhône from the Sicilian city of Syracuse. No one knows for sure which story is true, if any, but it’s always fun to wonder!
In France, grown mostly in the Rhone Valley, from the Northern tip of Cote Rotie all the way south to Chateauneuf-du-Pape and beyond. On the nose, Syrah is lively and potent with flavors of wild blackberries and roasted meats, smoke and pepper and spice, leather and damp earth.
Easily my favorite description of Syrah is from Karen MacNeil, author of The Wine Bible. She says, “Syrah reminds me of the kind of guy who wears cowboy boots with a tuxedo. Rustic, manly, and yet elegant.”
In the 17th century, Huguenots brought Syrah from France to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, where the varietal was rechristened to Shiraz. From South Africa, Shiraz migrated to Australia, who also refers to the grape as its secondary name. Why the name change is unclear, but one of the more popular myths is that Syrah originated near the Persian city of Shiraz, where it later traveled to France by way of Greece.
With the same characteristics and flavor profiles as its French counterpart, Shiraz tends to be softer and thicker, and the blackberry characteristics take on a more syrupy boysenberry quality, and while the pepper and spices remain, Shiraz also has attributes of plum, violet and mocha. The smoke is still there as well, but curbed and rounded out with notes of chocolate.
In South Africa, Shiraz may not be the most widely planted and produced grape (that distinction goes to Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinotage) but it is unquestionably the Cape’s breakout star!
In Australia, Cabernet is also grown and made extensively, but Shiraz is the leading varietal there. Australian wine expert James Halliday calls Shiraz “Australia’s Rock of Gibraltar.”
Come on out to The Wine Shop this Wednesday, the 28th, as we traverse the globe and drink some Syrah/Shiraz from around the planet in honor of National Shiraz Day! The Tasting is from 5-7 and no reservations are required.
See you there!
The Wine Shop Team