Shiraz or Syrah? Different or the Same?

Are you in love with big, bold, red wines? Then Shiraz is definitely on your radar! But what about Syrah? Are these two the same wine or are they different?

Let's discover together what sets one apart from the other and which one is the right match for your taste. 

Do you wanna spot the difference first hand? In this post we also suggest wines widely available for you to try and see the difference for yourself. 


 

A Renaissance

If Sauvignon Blanc's fame can be attributed to New Zealand, then we must surely raise a glass to Australia for its role in putting Shiraz/Syrah on the wine map.

As you may have guessed by now, Shiraz and Syrah are made from exactly the same grape. It's a variety which has been around since the times of the ancient Phoenicians (a civilisation based 3,000+ years ago in today's Lebanon), yet it was little known until the Australians virtually re-invented it!

Whether they comes from Australia or France, wines made from this grape have one definite thing in common: a deep purple colour. Also, the grape passes on to the wine a set of aromas which remind most of us of black pepper and chocolate. One may be scheptical at first, but these aromas have become such a trademark that one producer named her wine The Chocolate Block.

 

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The Australian SIBLING - Shiraz

The style of a good deal of Australia's Shiraz is a heavy, very fruity wine with a degree of sweetness from its residual sugar, which makes the wines taste particularly mouth-filling and easy to pair with food.

Whilst delicious, these wines are best consumed young, or at most within a few years of their vintage. If you are looking for a good quality Shiraz, the safest bets are those coming from the Barossa Valley. Three great options at different price points are Yalumba's Patchwork (£14), Torbreck's Woodcutters (£22), and Turkey Flat (£32).

As usual, there're exceptions, and we can find a number of high quality Shiraz that defy the "drink young" rule. For instance, Shiraz is also a key element in what is, arguably, Australia's greatest red wine, Penfold's Grange.

The French Sibling - Syrah

In France it is the king grape of the Northern Rhône and is responsible for the great wines of Hermitage and Côte Rotie (one of my favorites), as well as the more affordable Cote du Rhone reds.

Wines produced from this grape in France show a higher level of tannins than their Australian sibling. In the longer-lived examples, Syrah can be mouth-puckering when still young and will benefit by as much as a decade or more in bottle. Patience, particularly with the likes of Côte Rotie and Cornas, is not only a virtue. It is a prerequisite. 

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The Newcomers

The success of Shiraz and Syrah has been such that other countries have tried to jump on the bandwagon - some with considerable success. Two schools have thus developed: the one that follows the Australian lead, making more powerful wines and naming them Shiraz; and the one that takes the French approach, making thinner and finer wines, and naming them Syrah. It's only better for us, given that we can get more diversity and often better prices!

South Africa and more recently South America have been the most successful newcomers; Reyneke Syrah from organic grapes is a great value example. Also California has shown to produce some very fine wines with some ageing potential. Finally, in recent years it has been grown very successfully in the Southern French region of Languédoc, with wines that have some of the softer, slightly sweet style of Australia.

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