Syrah/Shiraz … tomayto/tomahto. What’s the deal with the name? Both names reference the same dark-skinned grape varietal that grows in many countries around the world. In the Old World (France and Europe) along with many new world regions, the name used is Syrah. In Australia, they call it Shiraz.
While the regionality of the name generally holds true, it can also indicate the style of the wine. Syrah means elegance, tannin, and subtle fruit found in French (Old World) style Syrah. While Shiraz references the fruit-forward, less tannic wine styles typical in Australian Shiraz.
Syrah is grown around the world just as the other noble grapes. Here are the largest producing countries for Syrah and Shiraz.
France: Rhône Valley (named: Côte-Rôtie, Crozes-Hermitage, and Hermitage)
Australia: Barossa, McLaren Vale
California: Paso Robles, Santa Barbara, Napa Valley, Sonoma
Washington: Columbia Valley
Once again, Syrah originated in France and is grown in the Rhône Valley. Northern Rhône produces most of its Syrah as single varietal wines, but a few producers might add a small amount of white wine to shape the flavors of the wine. It and can be found under the names Côte-Rôtie, Crozes-Hermitage, and Hermitage. Southern Rhone features Syrah in a blended wine style and is labeled with the names Châteauneuf du Pape and Côtes du Rhône.
California is a large producer of Syrah and typically models the style after the Old World French. However, you will see some Shiraz labels, which is a tip off that it’s the more fruity style known in Australia.
Australia is known for its Shiraz that is bold with strong black fruit flavors. It grows in a warmer climate, which typically means it will be a bit jammier than a cooler climate red wine.
To become familiar with Syrah and Shiraz, compare styles from France, California, and Australia side-by-side.
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Link to these filtered pages for top Syrah/Shiraz regions on Wine.com.
FRANCE: RHÔNE VALLEY
CALIFORNIA: SANTA BARBARA
To learn about the Syrah and Shiraz tasting profile, just follow these three tasting steps. See if you agree or disagree with the typical tasting profile described.
Take your glass and tilt it over a white napkin or paper at a 45-degree angle. Compare the color across all regions. Take note of the opacity levels. If you place your fingers between the glass and the napkin, how easily can you see them? These are all tells of what kind of wine you are drinking.
TASTING PROFILE: Deep purple in color and opaque.
Let’s see how aromatic Syrah is. Hold your glass at your chest and see if you can catch any scent. Then move it to your chin and try to smell. Then really put your nose in the glass and take a big sniff. What scents do you catch? Swirl the wine and then sniff again. What scents do you catch now?
TASTING PROFILE: This is not an aromatic grape. You’ll have to stick your nose in the glass to smell the aromas of blackberry, coffee, and black pepper.
Take a taste and swirl it in your mouth. What flavors do you taste? After you swallow, how long does the flavor linger and how would you describe those flavors?
Fruit: Black fruit, blackberry, plum, tobacco, black pepper.
Acidity (tart, sour): Medium levels.
Tannin (dry, bitter): Medium to high levels.
Body (weight, mouthfeel): Full body.
Alcohol: 13-15% ABV
Oak: This wine spends time aging in oak which gives hints of vanilla and toast.
EASY RATING SYSTEM
After you taste each wine, give it a rating using this easy rating system. Add notes to help remember what you liked or didn’t like about the wine.
3pts Good, but not great
1pt Not for me