Sih-RAH and Shi-RAHZ
If you are new to the world of wine, there may be some confusion regarding Shiraz and Syrah and we are here to help. Are they the same wine? Yes and no. Both of these wines are made from the Syrah grape and will have the same core characteristics. The difference between the two wines is where they are grown, and that will play a role in the overall experience of the wine.
Syrah’s homeland is in France, particularly the Rhône region and is the child of two French grapes, Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche. It quickly gained popularity and is now the sixth-most grown grape around the world, including Chile, New Zealand, Uruguay, South Africa, and Washington and California in the U.S.
Shiraz, on the other hand, is the name for Syrah grapes grown in Australia, predominantly the southern regions of Barossa, Adelaide Hills, and McLaren Vale. Scottish viticulturist James Busby brought the syrah grapes to Australia in the 19th century and it is now the most planted grape in the country. The name has also been adopted by other wine-makers for wines made in the Australian Shiraz’s style.
Syrah & Shiraz Tasting Notes
A sip of this dark, full bodied red wine brings a mouthful of bold berry flavor. Blackberry, blueberry, and black currant dominate the palate with mingling notes of chocolate, tobacco and black olive bringing about a peppery finish. You will also notice some oaky notes, as well, due to the common practice of oak aging. Syrah is moderate in both tannins and acidity, and has an average ABV of 13.5-15.5%.
Shiraz is very similar in style but will have a slightly higher, crisp acidity and prominent cherry flavor with herbaceous notes.
Syrah & Shiraz Styles
At one time Syrah and Shiraz were used primarily to designate the origin of the wine, whether it was from France or Australia. Today, Syrah and Shiraz are often used by winemakers to indicate the style of their wine.
Old World Syrah
The old world styles, those from France and Italy, for example, are going to have crisp acidity and a lean elegance. A cool climate Syrah is going to be lean and savory, and will have black fruit flavor along with herbaceous notes and floral aromas. Often aged in oak, you may also pick up flavors of baking spic and vanilla.
New World Shiraz
The new world Syrah is what we know as Shiraz from Australia, but many other warm climate producers have adopted the name Shiraz rather than Shray to signify the style. You can expect a Shiraz to be rich, bold, and fruit-forward—almost jammy even—full of tannins, and have a higher alcohol content. You will likely pick up notes of black pepper and even smoked meat nuances of beef jerky and bacon.
Serving Syrah & Shiraz
The higher alcohol content is going to require a lower serving temperature; serving at room temperature will dull the flavor. The ideal temperature is 60-65°F or 15-18°C, and this can be achieved by chilling the bottle in a refrigerator for about 15 minutes prior to serving. Decanting is not required, but is recommended as this will allow the wine to breath, making the texture of the wine easier on the palate. If you do not have a decanter, simply open the bottle and let it sit for 15-30 minutes. Enjoy your wine served in a large red wine glass with a stem.
Aging Syrah & Shiraz
Wines that are higher in tannins and acidity, but lower than 15% ABV are prime candidates for aging. While there is nothing wrong with enjoying a bottle of wine right away—many budget-friendly bottles are intended for this—aging can soften a wine and enhance its structure and complexity. Both Syrah and Shiraz age quite well, but for different lengths of time. A quality Syrah and can age anywhere from 3 to 15 years, with the best bottles drinkable up to 30 years. The average Shiraz will be good for 5-8 years, with the best lasting for up to 20 years.
Whether you are aging a Syrah or Shiraz, it is crucial that the wine is stored properly, lest you wait all of those years only to have the wine ruined by improper storage.
Bottles should always rest on their side, label up, in an area with low light and low humidity. The temperature should be cool, but not too cold. You will also want to ensure that the temperature stays consistent and avoid high traffic areas. The tiny vibrations caused when walking will harm your wine and dull the flavor.
Known for being a “chameleon grape” and its ability to blend well with other grapes, Syrah can be found in many popular blends.
Named for the appellation in France, this wine is a blend of mostly Syrah, along with two white grapes, Roussanne and Marsanne.
Produced in the Côte-Rôtie region, the northernmost region in the Rhône Valley in France, this wine is predominately Syrah and up to 20% Viognier.
Known for its Grenache-based red blends, this French wine from Southern Rhône is one of the most exclusive French wines and is a blend of 13 varietals: Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Bourboulenc, Cinsault, Clairette Blanche, Counoise, Grenache Blanc, Muscardin, Picardan, Piquepoul Blanc, Roussanne, Terret Noir, and Vaccarèse.
A red blend also from France’s Southern Rhône region, AOP regulations mandate this wine must be 50% Grenache with Syrah and/or Mourvèdre for the remaining blend.
Côtes du Rhône
This is a classic blend from the Côtes du Rhône region of France. You may also hear it referred to as a ‘GSM’ blend—Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre.
Average Price of Syrah & Shiraz
One of the great things about both Syrah and Shiraz is that you do not have to break the bank to get a high-quality wine. Some of the top recommended bottles can be found in the $25-$60 range. The downside is that while you can certainly find bottles of each for under $25, you won’t get the same quality that you would by spending just a bit more. On the other hand, you could expect to spend somewhere in the $500-$1,300 range for a top Syrah or Shiraz. While this is still quite expensive for your average wine drinker, it is nowhere near the cost of some of the outrageously priced Cabernets and Pinot Noirs which can run anywhere from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars a bottle.
Fun Facts About Syrah & Shiraz
- While France is considered the homeland to Syrah, it is believed the grapes originated in Persia and transported to France. There is no existing evidence of this.
- In Arabic, the name Syrah means “princess”.
- Between 600 to 800 grapes are required to produce a single bottle of Shiraz.
- Shiraz is high in antioxidants and is believed to help with stress, weight loss, and heart disease when consumed in moderation. It is considered the “healthiest” of varieties.
- What about Petit Sirah? Syrah and Petite Sirah are two completely different wines. Petit Sirah is the offspring of Syrah and Peloursin, which is a rare French variety from the Rhone-Alpes region.