Let’s clear something up right away: Syrah and Shiraz are the exact same wine. When Syrah (Sih-Rah) arrived in Australia from its birthplace in France, Australian winemakers took to calling it Shiraz (Shi – RAZ), instead of the grape’s original name, Syrah. We like to chalk this renaming up to the Australian accent and their penchant for making many common words more fun to say, like how they call a barbecue a barbie.
No matter what you call it, Syrah is one of the darkest red wines on the market. Darker than Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine is so dark that if you were to hold a glass of the wine up to the light, you’d have a very hard time seeing through it. Syrah is a wine with a large amount of mouth-drying tannins, and it is known to be full-bodied, which means it feels heavy in your mouth; the wine features flavors such as berries, pepper, tobacco, and even smoked meat. While Syrah is the perfect accompaniment to meat, it really goes well with anything, so drink it with any food you enjoy eating. A great bonus to drinking Syrah is that due to the high level of tannins present in the wine, Syrah has one of the highest level of health-benefiting antioxidants.
Syrah’s rise to prominence attracted several winemakers from other regions of the world to visit the Rhone and see how the wine was made, including James Busby, widely regarded as the father of the Australian wine industry
There are several myths associated with the emergence of Syrah — one involves a Roman Emperor planting the grape in France in 280 A.D. and another involves a winemaker from Iran, where legend says the grape was actually born, bringing the vines with him to France in 600 B.C. where he settled in Marseilles. No matter how the grape actually arrived in France, suffice it to say, it has been there for a long time, and France is the country that made it famous.
Syrah came to prominence in the eighteenth century in the Rhone Valley of France. While many other regions of the country were busy making blends containing several different red grapes, the Northern Rhone set upon creating a red wine solely from Syrah. It was there in the town of Hermitage that Syrah became famous, and still today Syrah from this town fetches some of the highest prices in the world.
Syrah’s rise to prominence attracted several winemakers from other regions of the world to visit the Rhone and see how the wine was made. Included in this group of international winemakers was James Busby, widely regarded as the father of the Australian wine industry, who in 1832 visited France and collected vine clippings of Syrah. When he brought the vines back to Australia, he discovered how well the plant performed and winemakers began planting it in large amounts. Today Shiraz is the most popular red wine in Australia, and it is thanks to the Australians that the red is so widely known by American drinkers.
Although Syrah originated in France, Syrah wines from the region tend to be expensive when sold in the U.S. In contrast, due to the larger amount of land devoted to the grape in Australia, Australian wineries have been able to produce the wine much more affordably, and it is due to this that the name Shiraz has become even more widely known on the American market than the grape’s original name, Syrah.