Syrah or Shiraz? That is the question...

Syrah and Shiraz.

Syrah and Shiraz. - Credit: Archant

Did you know that Syrah and Shiraz come from the same variety of grape? Which one do you prefer?

Syrah or Shiraz is a French grape variety from the Rhone Valley that is now widely grown around the world and able to produce wines of great quality in many countries. In fact, it is the fifth most widely planted grape in the world.

It is known as Syrah in France and the northern hemisphere making lean but full-flavoured wines that age well and as Shiraz in Australia where the wines are much more intense and richer in style.

It grows well around the world and the style of wine produced can often determine whether it is called Syrah or Shiraz.

In the Rhone Valley it is renowned for producing wines of great quality such as the deep intensely peppery spicy wines that are structured and long lived from the northern Rhone valley such as Hermitage and Cote Rotie.

The latter is more aromatic as by law a small amount of Viognier can be blended with the Syrah. Jaboulet Aine, Guigal and Chapoutier are long standing producers of quality wines in this region though companies such as Jean Luc Colombo are now well established and developing a revival of wines from Cornas too.

In the Southern Rhone valley Syrah is a permitted grape variety in wines from this area that are mostly a blend with other grapes such as Grenache, Mourvedre Cinsault and Carignan.

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These include Chateauneuf du Pape, Cotes du Rhone and the named villages of the Cotes du Rhone – Seguret, Cairanne and Ventoux amongst others.

Shiraz was probably introduced to Australian by early colonists in the 19th century and it spread throughout the wine-making states especially into South Australia and Victoria. They are all full-bodied and quite rich in style compared to those of the Rhone.

However, a range of styles are emerging and those from McLaren Vale are quite textured, they are much richer and soft in the Barossa Valley and more structured such as those from Penfolds and Yalumba and subtler from Margaret River in Western Australia such as those made by Vasse Felix McHenry Hohnen.

Many Australian producers produce wines from the Shiraz grape and often include the grape in blends too with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Grenache such as the Church Block from Wirra Wirra and the Musician from Majella in Coonawarra.

Wine makers in New Zealand prefer to use the Syrah to name their wines from this grape as they are usually subtler than their Australian Shiraz counterparts but nonetheless full of dark berry fruits and pepper though less tannic so more appealing and often drunk when younger as a result.

The same can be said for wines using Syrah in South Africa especially the top quality wines though often the everyday styles that are richer and softer with ripe fruit notes often use Shiraz on the label to differentiate the styles.

Shiraz or Syrah – why not try them both and find your answer to this question?