Wine Grape Cheat Sheets: Syrah
August 30, 2012 4 Comments
The Syrah grape, also known as the Shiraz grape, is rumored to be a native of the city of Shiraz in Iran. There’s a colorful legend about how it was brought from its Middle Eastern home to the south of France by a knight returning from the crusades, but it is also rumored to be native to the Rhône region itself. Both tales make good wine stories.
Today, the grape is widely grown in the South of France, where it stars as the main red grape in the Northern Rhône and a blending partner to Grenache and Mourvèdre in the south. The grape has shown to be so ideally suited to life in Australia that it has become somewhat of an icon in Australian Wine. In order to give the wine its own “down-under” identity apart from other producers, Australian Winemakers choose to call the grape by its (supposed) ancestral name, Shiraz. Syrah is also widely grown in many other new world regions, where it is made into dry reds of both the single variety and blended variety. While it is often made into bubbly, rosé and dessert wine, Syrah is mainly known as a powerhouse red.
- European-style, Old-World Syrah-based wines tend to be medium dark in color and concentrated in flavor. Old world Syrah is often blended with other, softer grapes to minimize or balance tannin and alcohol levels. These wines are often earthy, dense, smoky, herbal and even “gamey” wines.
- New World Syrah (sometimes called Shiraz) based wines tend to be dark purple, opaque, and inky in appearance. Other attributes of New World Syah include high alchohol, fruit-forwardness, and intense tannins. These tannins are sometimes considered “soft” or “velvety” because they are drinkable when the wines are still young (often a result of winemaking techniques).
- Australian Shiraz has sometimes been called “plush ripey” and The Bubbly Professor just can’t resist that.
- The Australians have also made a slightly sweet version of sparkling shiraz quite popular.
- Syrah also makes a lovely, dry rosé.
Fruity: Blackberry, Plum, Ripe Cherry, Currant, Prune, Blueberry, Orange Peel
Spicy: Black Pepper, Cinnamon, Clove, Vanilla, Chocolate, Coffee, Espresso, “Burnt Coffee”
Chemical: Leather, Burnt, Tar, Smoke, Burnt Rubber, Asphalt, Graphite
Earthy: Gamey, Smoky, Minty, Barnyard, Garrigue
Floral: Lavender, Wild Flowers, Dried Flowers, Violets
Where The Best Syrah is Grown:
- Australia, where it shines!
- The South of France. Syrah stars in the wines of the Rhône, as the dominant variety in the North (such as the famous wines of Hermitage and Côte Rôtie), and as part of a blend in the South (as in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Côtes du Rhône).
- Syrah also does well in the Southern French regions of Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon.
- South Africa, especially the warmer regions such as Paarl and Franscheok. For a real treat, try a bottle of “The Chocolate Block” from Boekenhoutskloof Winery (extra credit if you can pronounce it).
- California, especially Sonoma, Mendocino, Napa, and Santa Barbara.
- Washington State, the new “hot” growing region for Syrah.
Food Affinities – Base Ingredients:
- Beef, Lamb, Veal, Venison, Pork, Hard Cheeses
Garlic, Onions, Mushrooms, Walnuts, Pecans, Rosemary, Thyme, Bay Leaf, Sage, Tomatoes, Eggplant, Fennel
Blackberries, Currants, Prunes (but go easy on the sweetness)
Green Peppercorns, Black Pepper, Coarse Grained Mustard, Chili Spices, Barbeque Flavors
The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas – email@example.com .