You've probably seen the term Syrah and Shiraz used interchangeably, and while they ARE the same grape, the region in which they are grown is totally different. Syrah is what they call it in France and most of the United States, as well as some South American countries. Shiraz is what they call it everywhere else with Australia being the most notable region in the world to grow the grape.
It's a dark-skinned grape and it contains a high amount of the super antioxidant everyone talks about, Resveratrol. Its color, style, and flavors can vary depending on where it's grown - cooler climate Syrah's from France are more medium to full bodied, with medium to high tannins and flavours of blackberry, mint, and black pepper while Shiraz from Australia are absolutely full bodied, softer tannins and very much fruit forward, with dark berries predominantly taking over, and believe it or not...flavours of bacon!
In France, it is often blended with the sweeter varietal Grenache to lighten up the body and add softer, sweet flavours, or with Mourvedre to make the famous Côtes du Rhône. It is one of the key ingredients to Chateauneuf-du-Pape, blended with Grenache and Mourvedre (G-S-M). In fact, most Northern Rhône wines are exclusively Syrah grapes, with the most expensive being from Hermitages and further down the cost scale is Crozes-Hermitages and St. Joseph. These “old world” wines tend to have more earthy flavours and aromas, with more acidity due to the cooler temperatures.
Arguably, Australia’s most well known grape is the Shiraz. In the land of Oz, it’s hot, and that’s exactly why their shiraz wines are so famous. The grapes hang on the vines through super heated temperatures, dropping the acidity levels and increasing the sugars as they ripen. The vines are parched for moisture, so the flavours from the grapes once crushed are super concentrated and loaded with dark fruit flavours. In the cooler Margaret River region, you are more likely to see the more traditional “old world” style Shiraz wine, with earthier tones. If you’re looking for classic Australian Shiraz, look for wines from Barossa and Coonawara. Another Australian “invention” is to add Cabernet Sauvignon to the mix. This will balance the mid palate, giving it a lingering, more well rounded flavour and finish.
Steaks love Syrah/Shiraz, so bust out a bottle or two at your next BBQ and pair it with recipes like this one for classic Australian BBQ porterhouse!
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