From the time I first started to drink wine and take note of the different varieties, I found myself going back again and again to both Shiraz and wines from the Rhone region of France. The tastes are quite different, but as it turns out, both the Shiraz and the Syrah are actually the same grape.
The grape, first known as Syrah, has a long-documented history with the Rhone region. Shiraz is the same grape variety, known as Shiraz outside of France, being most well-known in Australia. It is the most widely planted grape in Australia and is considered to be it's finest.
So, does a wine called by any other name taste as sweet?
The Shiraz tends to produce wines which are far more fruity and sweet than the Syrah. Both produce bold, front-forward wines with intense purple-black colour in the center and magenta near the rim. By paying attention to whether it is labeled Syrah or Shiraz, you can usually get a pretty good idea of what to expect.
Syrah is responsible for some of the darkest full-bodied red wines in the world. Syrah tend to be slightly deeper in colour than Shiraz, with less fruit and slightly more tannins
“Syrah likes a view”, is a quote used by wine growers. This is because the best vineyards are usually towards the top of hills. The fact that there is less soil at a higher altitude causes the vines to produce fewer grapes, but those that grow tend to be much more concentrated.
Syrah is the dominant grape of the northern Rhone region in France. In France, wines are labeled by the region rather than the grape used. Hermitage wines have traditionally been hailed as one of France's most glorious wines, with Syrah being the grape responsible.
Syrah pairs well with bold foods because of it's full-bodied taste. Grilled New York Strip, Rib Eye Steak, Grilled Lamb Chop, Beef Stew, Bratwurst or other beef-based sausages all pair nicely with Syrah.
Syrah doesn’t pair well with seafood or cheese.
Shiraz tends to produce wines that are far more fruity, with less earthy tones. They are sweeter, with a sometimes jammy taste, producing medium to full-bodied wines.
The Shiraz flourishes in the sunny climate of Australia, and has become their most popular and most widely planted grape. Australia is a big country and the climates vary. Some of Australia's most popular Shiraz wines are from Southern Australia, particularly the warm Barossa region. There, most vines are not grated and are planted directly into the soil, often being cuttings from older vines. The combination of sun and methods give Barossa Shiraz a most distinctive style.
Grilled Lamb, Grass-fed Beef and Brisket all work well with Shiraz, as do many beef dishes. Pork or duck with strongly flavoured sauces can also work. A softer Shiraz can be paired with ‘fishier’ fish, such as salmon.
Shiraz is not a great match for cheeses, but can work with smoked cheddar or softer, creamy cheeses such as Camembert.
As the wines are both born of the same grape, it is interesting to taste the two varieties at the same time. It is amazing what a difference the climate and terroir make!