Syrah vs Shiraz | One Grape, Two Different Styles
Depending on the climate in which it is grown and the winemaking technique employed, the Syrah/Shiraz grape can produce an array of wine styles.
In France (the Old World), the grape is known as Syrah. However, if you find a New World wine also labelled as Syrah, this refers to the more restrained, Old World styles whereby the grapes are either grown in relatively cooler regions similar to the Northern Rhône, its homeland, and/or it refers to the winemaking technique(s) traditionally used for French Syrah.
But in the New World, the grape is mainly known as Shiraz. Here, it lets loose, creating wines that are heady and robust. Regions most notable for the production thereof are Australia, South Africa, Hawke’s Bay in New Zealand and Washington State in the US, where Old World Syrah is also produced.
More often than not, oak is used, lending aromas and flavours of smoke, toast and/or vanilla. With age, Syrah/Shiraz will develop a more pronounced chocolate characteristic, as well as vegetal and meaty notes.
If your bottle’s label reads Petite Sirah—this is not Syrah! This is a completely different grape which also goes by the name Durif.
In France, Syrah can be found as a varietal wine in the Languedoc and Northern Rhône; however, in the latter, it is often co-fermented with a tiny proportion of Viognier. In the Southern Rhône, it becomes a blending component with Grenache, Mourvèdre and Cinsault. In Australia, it is not uncommon to find it accompanying Cabernet Sauvignon.
No matter where or how this grape is vinified, one thing remains true: Syrah has an amazing quality potential which contributes to lengthy ageing potential as well. The wines are complex, smooth and inviting. It’s no wonder this grape has gained such a following over the years.