Syrah somehow manages to retain sommelier cool-kid status while simultaneously being embraced by the masses. Perhaps this is because of its alter ego Shiraz, typically found in Australia and other New World regions in a bold, bombastic, fruit-forward style. Syrah’s most classic iteration is in France, where it dominates the steep riverside vineyards of the Northern Rhône, a small portion of the Rhône Valley that nonetheless produces some of the area’s finest wines. The classic markers of northern Rhône Syrah are distinctive — after all, what other wine has notes of violets, black pepper, olive, and smoked meat? — and get more complex with time. (The best Syrahs are very long-lived.)

Ready to get to know this classic wine? Check out our illustrated guide below.

An Illustrated Guide to Syrah