Updated: May 18, 2020
What is the difference between Syrah and Shiraz? The two names actually reference the same red wine grape. But the different names point to different styles of wine.
Typical Syrah Characteristics
Syrah references the Old World style for this wine, namely the way the French produce it. This style is described as restrained and elegant with subtle fruit notes.
The Syrah grape has a thick skin which gives it a deep inky color. It has a medium level of acidity, high levels of tannin, and a full body with fresh black fruit notes and black pepper. The alcohol content is around 13-14.5% which is a bit more restrained than you’ll find in Shiraz.
Typical Shiraz Characteristics
Shiraz references the style produced in Australia. This style is bold and fruit-forward. Think of it as a bigger, bolder version of the Syrah style.
Shiraz has that deep inky color from the thick grape skins. It has a medium level of acidity, high levels of tannin, and a full body with jammy black fruit. The alcohol content is a hefty 14-15%.
Top Regions for Syrah
These regions in France and California are known for their Syrah style wines.
France: Northern Rhône
California: Santa Barbara, Paso Robles, Napa Valley, Sonoma
Top Regions for Shiraz
Australia is known for their Shiraz, but you can find the Shiraz style from other New World regions too.
Australia: Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale
France always makes this tricky for those of us, not of the Old World. They label their wine by region and produce a lot of blends. Let’s see what this means for Syrah in the Rhône Valley.
The Rhône Valley is broken into Northern Rhône where you’ll mostly find the single varietal Syrah wine. Southern Rhône is where you’ll find red blends that include Syrah. These wines feature Grenache as the predominant grape and will include Syrah to add structure, along with a few other grape varietals blended in.
Côte Rôtie is mostly 100% Syrah, but producers can include up to 20% Viognier which is a white varietal.
Crozes-Hermitage and Hermitage is 100% Syrah, but producers can include some white Roussanne or Marsanne to the wine.
You’ve likely come across the wines from these regions and since Syrah plays a supporting role, I thought I’d mention them here.
Chateauneuf du Pape of the red variety is blended with Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre (the GSM blend). While these three red-skinned grapes are predominant in the wine with Grenache being the star, producers can blend up to 13 different grapes in this wine. That’s a lot to keep track of!
Côtes du Rhône produces red, white and rosé wines. The red blended variety typically includes Grenache predominantly along with Syrah and Mourvèdre to add structure. Wine producers may add other grape varietals to the blend.
Syrah/Shiraz Wines To Try
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