Shiraz wine, also known as syrah, is a dark-skinned variety of red wine grape.
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What Is Shiraz Wine (Syrah)?
Shiraz is one of the oldest and most popular red wine grape varieties in the world.
While it is thought to have originated in France, in the Old-World Wine region of the Rhône Valley, it is widely produced in New-World Wine regions, such as the Barossa Valley in Australia and the Stellenbosch Winelands of South Africa.
What Is Shiraz Red Wine?
Shiraz is a rich, full-bodied, fruity red wine, often with concentrated oak flavours and high alcohol content.
Known as Syrah in many parts of the world, its versatile grape blends beautifully with Grenache, Viognier, and Mourvèdre.
Although, many winemakers prefer to produce 100% shiraz wines that deliver a powerful punch of spice.
If you prefer something soft and smooth, opt for a Shiraz and Grenache blend from the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France.
If you enjoy tropical fruits, a Shiraz and Viognier blend from South Australia will hit all the right notes.
What Does Shiraz Taste Like?
Shiraz wines from Old World territories taste totally different to those produced in New World zones, mainly due to the growing conditions.
Syrah grown in the moderate climates of France delivers an earthy, herbaceous flavour with notes of black pepper.
As these wines mature in old oak barrels, you can expect hints of tobacco and old leather on the palate. Some even say smoked meat.
Shiraz grown in the warmer climates of Australia and South Africa is fruitier than Old World Syrah.
Aged in new oak, they are sweeter than their European counterparts too.
With a New World Shiraz Wine, you can expect tasting notes such as blackberry jam, dark chocolate, vanilla, liquorice, and coconut.
Compare the two to find your favourite.
It’s not uncommon to like them both!
Should Shiraz Be Served Chilled?
Yes, Shiraz should be served with a slight chill, at around 15-18°C.
However avoid chilling it too much, as this can negatively impact the flavour.
Learn more about serving wine here.
Food Pairings for Shiraz Wine
As a robust and powerful wine, Shiraz pairs well with flavourful foods such as:
- Grilled red meats
- Hearty stews
- Tomato-based meals
- Italian dishes
Thanks to its high tannin levels, it also works well with vegetarian dishes.
Try shiraz with the following vegetarian meals:
- Vegetable lasagne
- Mushroom risotto
- Lentil burgers
Shiraz wines are a popular choice for cheeseboards.
They pair just as well with strong cheeses such as Roquefort and gorgonzola as they do with grilled halloumi, camembert and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Due to the dominant flavour profile of Shiraz, we do not recommend pairing this wine with light salads, seafood, or delicate dishes.
Shiraz Characteristics & Taste
While Shiraz is similar in colour and style to Cabernet Sauvignon, this grape is in a league of its own.
It is the chameleon of the wine world, changing its characteristics to complement its surroundings.
Both Old World Syrah and New World Shiraz are full-bodied wines with medium acidity and tannins, but this is where the similarity ends.
You won’t find the earthy notes of Old-World Syrah in Shiraz wines produced in Australia, Chile or South Africa, and you won’t get the fruit-driven Shiraz you have come to know and love in France.
Unfortunately, some winemakers use the names Syrah and Shiraz to name their wines, making it even more confusing for those new to this variety.
So, you need to taste, taste, and taste again to find your perfect blend.
Shiraz Wine Regions
Shiraz grows abundantly in many regions, but you’ll find it at its best in:
- Northern Rhône in France
- Barossa Valley in Australia
- San Antonio in Chile
- Western Cape Winelands of South Africa
As we mentioned earlier, Shiraz is typically referred to as Syrah in the South of France, but in New World wine-producing countries, most winemakers generally label it Shiraz.
Award-winning Syrah-Grenache blends are some of the most expensive in the world, and if you adore earthier, herbaceous wines, this could be the perfect choice for your collection.
But you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a good bottle of Shiraz.
In South Africa, you’ll find deliciously jammy, fruit-packed wines for as little as £5 a bottle.
In Chile, you’ll get a truly elegant Shiraz for just a few pounds more.
When trying any New World wine labelled Syrah, it is best not to assume it is French.
Some winemakers label their Shiraz wines as Syrah in a nod to tradition, but these blends are typically sweeter, with dark chocolate, vanilla, and liquorice notes.
The History of Shiraz Wine
The history of the Syrah grape dates back thousands of years, but its true origins remain unclear.
Some say that a Roman Emperor first planted the vine in France way back in 280 A.D., while others state that a winemaker from Iran brought the grape to France when he settled there in 600 B.C.
How and when the shiraz grape arrived in France, we’ll never know.
But what we do know is that by the 18th century, Syrah was the most prominent grape in the Rhône Valley, and it has remained so ever since.
When many winemakers in Europe were busy blending grapes to create a signature blend, the winemakers of Northern Rhône focused solely on creating Syrah red wines.
It was in the small town of Hermitage where Syrah finally established itself as one of the best wines in the world, and today, wines from Hermitage remain some of the most expensive in the world.
Winemakers from around the globe visited the Rhône Valley to see how Syrah was made, including the famous James Busby from Australia, who visited in 1832 to collect vine clippings for the Australian wine industry.
The vines grew better than Busby had ever thought possible, and it soon became the most popular red wine in the country.
Shiraz Around The World
Today Shiraz remains the red wine of choice for Australian wine drinkers, and its popularity in America continues to grow year upon year.
While French Syrah wines tend to be expensive, Australian Shiraz is affordable thanks to the large amount of land dedicated to its growth, making it a fashionable choice for home consumption.
Is Shiraz a Red Wine?
Yes, shiraz is a red wine.
Shiraz is typically a medium to full-bodied red wine made from dark-skinned grapes. It derives from the Mondeuse Blanche and Dureza grapes, and winemakers use it to make both monovarietal wines and exclusive blends.
Common Shiraz blends include merlot, cabernet sauvignon, Grenache, Viognier, and Mourvèdre.
Shiraz Wine Vs Other Wines
Shiraz vs Merlot
Are shiraz and merlot wines similar?
Not at all.
There are many differences when comparing Merlot vs Shiraz.
Shiraz is a bold, full-bodied red wine with either earthy or fruity qualities, depending on where it is grown.
It’s a powerful wine that appeals to wine connoisseurs and sommeliers worldwide for its complex yet captivating presence.
Merlot, on the other hand, is a medium-bodied red wine with smooth, velvety undertones.
It has a delicate fruity flavour with hints of berries and plum. Easy drinking, merlot is a perfect choice for those new to red wines.
Shiraz vs Pinot Noir
What are the differences between Pinot Noir and Shiraz wines?
Firstly, shiraz is much darker than Pinot Noir due to its high tannin density.
With spicy plum, blackberry, and black pepper flavours, it tastes more potent, too.
While Pinot Noir is earthy like French Syrah, it is a lighter, medium-bodied wine that pairs well with most foods and flavours
Shiraz vs Cabernet Sauvignon
Of all the red wines, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon are perhaps the most similar.
But they have different structures.
While they are both full-bodied wines, shiraz delivers spicy, fruity, peppery aromas.
Cabernet, on the other hand, conveys a more complex blend of blackcurrant, leather, and tobacco flavours. They are both superb wines. It all comes down to personal preference.
Shiraz vs Malbec
If you love Shiraz, there is a good chance that you will love Malbec, too.
They are both hearty red wines that pair wonderfully well with red meats and cheeseboards.
Malbec is softer on the palate with notes of plum, vanilla and blackcurrant, while Shiraz delivers a strong finish with pepper spice and dark fruits.
Is Shiraz Dry or Sweet?
Shiraz and its French namesake Syrah are typically dry red wines with low sugar content.
Some entry-level options may taste slightly sweeter than premium Shiraz, but this wine gets its sweetness from ripe, juicy grapes, not residual sugar.
How Strong is Shiraz?
While Shiraz is a bold and powerful wine.
It has an average ABV of 13-15%.
French Syrah has slightly less alcohol by volume than Shiraz grown in the warmer climates of Australia and South Africa, but it is unusual to find a shiraz wine over 15.5% ABV.
Before You Go...
We hope you enjoyed our article on Shiraz wine grapes.
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