Syrah is a black grape* originally from France, now reported to be grown in twenty-seven countries. Shiraz and Syrah are just two names for the same grape variety.
Flavours are of dark fruit such as blackberries, and boysenberries. Furthermore, white pepper, chocolate, tobacco, liquorice, and charcuterie. If grown in warmer climates, you might find mint and eucalyptus. From the oak treatment, you are likely to find vanilla, but don’t be surprised if there is smoke in there as well.
Many Syrah wines need to be left to mature in your cellar. Really good wines for as long as twenty to twenty-five years. Less expensive wines are not likely to continue maturing to any larger extent but will never the less easily rest in the bottle for five to ten years.
We have to recognise that wonderful Syrah dry varietals is produced in a number of countries, actually too many to be all mentioned here. Of particular interest are the one’s from northern Rhône’s districts/appellations Côte Rôtie, Cornas, Saint Joseph, and Hermitage, recognised as producing some of the best wines in the world.
Further south, in southern Rhône’s Chateauneuf-de-Pape you will find delicious blends under the heading GSM, consisting of the three varieties Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre.
In Australia, you will find it blended also with Cabernet Sauvignon. Of particular interest are the Shiraz wines from Barossa Valley and Yarra Valley.
In South Africa, you’re recommended to try the blend of Shiraz and Viognier.
In Chile, there are blends with the national variety Carmenere. Highland grown varietal dry varietals can be of particular interest. The same is valid for Argentina, where you’re advised to also try a Malbec Shiraz blend.
Syrah is a typical red meet wine. It is advisable to avoid combining Syrah wines with harsh tannins with hot spicy food as the tannins will be more pronounced in this kind of combination. A thumb of rule says that this is often related to age, a statement which – as is common with wine knowledge – is not completely true. There are young Syrah varietals expressing tannins more on the soft side as well.
Red meet can be beef or wild game. If you want to serve pork or lamb you’re running the risk of the meet flavours being overwhelmed by the wine, unless you combine it with for example a barbecue sauce.
A Syrah wine is best served at 16-19°C/61-66°F.
Where is it grown?
Syrah is one of the really big grapes. With its 184.834 ha/456,734 ac it is the sixth most planted grape on the planet. This corresponds to an increase of eighty-two percent in ten years.
Two countries, France and Australia have sixty percent of this acreage. In France, almost half of the planted area is in Languedoc-Roussilion (30.605 ha/75,627 ac), and Rhône (28.700 ha/70,919 ac), followed by Provence, and South-West.
In Australia, where it is the most planted variety, Syrah is reported to be planted in all regions. Most plantings are in Riverland (5.619 ha/13,885 ac), Barossa Valley (5.215 ha/12,887 ac), Riverina 4.756 ha/11,752 ac), McLaren Vale (3.339 ha/8,251 ac),
Eleven countries report planted area larger than 1.000 ha/2,471 ac.
- France 67.382 ha/166,506 ac (an increase with 33%), MPG 4, PTPA 8%
- Australia 42.675 ha/105,453 ac (an increase with 46%), MPG 1, PTPA 28%
- Spain 20.000 ha/49,421 ac MPG 9, PTPA 2%
- Argentina 12.810 ha/31,653 ac (an increase with 62%), MPG 6, PTPA 6%
- South Africa 10.136 ha/25,046 ac (an increase with 80%), MPG 4, PTPA 10%
- USA 9.197 ha/22,727 ac (a fivefold increase), MPG 7, PTPA 4%
- Italy 6.739 ha/16,652 ac (a fivefold increase) MPG 22, PTPA 1%
- Chile 6.027 ha/14,893 ac (a twofold increase), MPG 6, PTPA 5%
- Portugal 3.501 ha/8,650 ac, MPG 13, PTPA 2%
- Algeria 1.510 ha/3,731 ac, MPG 5, PTPA 5%
- Turkey 1.367 ha/3,377 ac, MPG 3, PTPA 11%
An additional sixteen countries report plantings of 650 ha/1,606 ac or less (presented in order of decreasing acreage): Greece. With plantings in all but one regions, this corresponds to an increase in planted area of fifteen (!) times in ten years.
Furthermore, in Romania, Tunisia, New Zealand (statistics unfortunately not divided per region), Canada (mostly in British Columbia), Cyprus, China (mostly in the Gansu and Ningxia regions), Croatia (mostly in the Dalmatia region, Switzerland (mostly in Valais, Hungary (mostly in Villany and Eger, Mexico (all in Baja California), Austria (mostly in Burgenland), Uruguay, Thailand, Myanmar, and Peru.
Syrah is thought to have originated in the north-eastern Rhône Valley, in the direction of the Rhône-Alpes. Research has shown that it is a natural cross between Mondeuse Blanche and Dureza, two local varieties that now are almost extinct.
In the northern Rhône Valley, you will also find Syrah’s earliest documentation, dating more than two-hundred years back. It is however very likely that it is much older than so, which also is indicated by its eighty synonyms.
*The name Syrah is also used as a synonym for another variety (the French grape Durif), which has no known connection to the grape presented here.