A great and noble grape
Syrah sits among the great noble grapes. Thick-skinned and almost black in color, syrah enjoys lots of sunshine and flourishes when planted on hillside vineyards. The wine is masculine—dark, full-bodied, and strong—suited for aging 30 years or more. It is versatile and popular as a blending grape, adding structure to many great wines. Profiles vary, but you can count on intense wines featuring radiant red colors and floral and spicy aromas with dark berries, cedar, black currant, plum, pepper, and spice flavors.
Syrah and shiraz are identical and have no relation to petite sirah. Most European wines are labeled syrah, while Australian and South African wines are labeled shiraz. In the United States, we use syrah, but you can come across American shiraz.
In France, syrah is plentiful, especially throughout the Rhône region. The northern valley has two districts exclusive to syrah, Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie. When grown in the southern Rhône Valley, it is typically blended with grenache and mourvèdre to make beautiful wines such as Côtes du Rhône, Gigondas, and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. In Languedoc-Roussillon, located near Provence and the Spanish border, syrah is one of their leading grapes.
Syrah (shiraz) is the most planted grape in Australia, which is the largest producer of shiraz. Originally the grape was used for sweet dessert wines. In the 1960s, Australia began producing excellent dry table wines from shiraz, now the backbone of that country’s wine industry.
Here in the United States, “The Rhone Rangers,” an organization dedicated to promoting American Rhône-style wines, was formed. Throughout California’s Paso Robles area, syrah is the number one Rhône grape varietal planted. Other California regions that grow syrah are Monterey, Napa Valley, Santa Barbara County, and Sonoma County. In Washington State, beautiful syrahs are coming out of the Columbia Valley. Additional states cultivating these grapes are Oregon, New York, and Virginia.
Look for the following recommendations at your favorite restaurant and local wine retailer, or you can purchase direct from the winery’s website.
Arabella Shiraz 2012, Robertson Valley, South Africa
Inspired by Arabian horses, this wine shows a burgundy color. Aromas of vanilla and mocha lead to licorice, black cherry, and spicy flavors. Mexican, Cajun, and barbequed foods are a great match.
Baracchi Smeriglio Syrah 2011, Italy
From the land of Under the Tuscan Sun comes a seductive red rose-colored wine. There are aromas of vanilla and lavender with tingling tastes of wild dark berries. Serve with meaty pasta dishes and sharp cheese.
Calcareous Reserve Syrah 2010, Paso Robles
Rich inky color with explosive aromas of blueberry and plum followed by great tastes of cherry and plum pudding. A refined, full-bodied, robust wine. Serve with barbecued ribs and burgers.
Donelan Walker Vine Hill Vineyard Syrah 2011, Sonoma
Aged for two years in French oak barriques, this smooth and silky wine has aromas and flavors of clove, blueberry, and plum, finishing with hints of cocoa. Serve with cheeses, steaks, and chops.
Hardys William Hardy Shiraz 2012, Barossa Valley, Australia
Produced from one of the oldest wineries in Australia. A lavish wine full of blackberry and plum with traces of eucalyptus and spice that ends smoothly. Lovely served with lamb shanks.
Maison Nicolas Perrin Crozes-Hermitage 2010, Rhône
Crozes-Hermitage is the largest vineyard in the northern Rhône. Great garnet color with aromas and flavors of blackberry, black currant, cassis, and vanilla. A first-class wine that is velvety smooth with a long, lingering finish. Serve with stews, smoked meats, and sausage.
Marrenon Grande Toque Rouge 2012, Luberon
An unbelievable value from France! A vibrant red color containing 80 percent syrah and 20 percent grenache. There are floral aromas and flavors of red and dark berries that lead to a rich, well-structured, long peppery finish. Perfect paired with cassoulet.
Ouled Thaleb Syrah 2010, Morocco
Incredibly interesting, this ruby red wine radiates with smoky and spicy aromas while the flavors are fruity. Fun, lively, and reasonably priced. Enjoy with Moroccan food and other spicy dishes.