The Secrets to Syrah Wine
In a world where bigger is better, Syrah is the ideal choice.
It’s darker than Cabernet Sauvignon and contains high amounts of health-invigorating antioxidants. Discover the details of Syrah wine in this guide and learn the differences between New World and Old World Syrah.
Guide to Syrah Wine
Syrah Wine Profile
FRUIT: Blackberry, Blueberry and Boysenberry (tart to jammy)
OTHER: Olive, pepper, clove, vanilla, mint, licorice, chocolate, allspice, rosemary, cured meat, bacon fat, tobacco, herbs and smoke
OAK: Yes. Usually medium to high usage of oak aging (of all kinds).
TANNIN: Medium (+)
ACIDITY: Medium (+)
AGEABILITY: Yes. 5-9 years (most) & 12-25 years (age-worthy examples)
COMMON SYNONYMS & REGIONAL NAMES:
Shiraz, Sirac, Marsanne Noir, Entournerein, Serène, Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, Cornas, Côte-Rôtie, St. Joseph
Syrah Wine Regions
~460,000 acres worldwide (186,000 hectares)
- France (169,000 acres) Côtes du Rhône: Cornas, Hermitage, St. Joseph, Côte-Rôtie
- Australia (105,000 acres) Barossa, McLaren Vale, Limestone Coast
- Spain (49,000 acres) Priorat, Montsant, Toro, Yecla
- Argentina (32,000 acres) Mendoza, Salta
- South Africa (25,000 acres) Stellenbosch, Paarl, Franschhoek
- United States (23,000 acres) Paso Robles, Santa Barbara, Napa, Sonoma, Columbia Valley (WA)
- Italy (17,000 acres) Tuscany, Sicily
- Chile (15,000 acres) Colchagua Valley, Maipo Valley
The Taste of Syrah Wine
Syrah is responsible for some of the darkest full-bodied red wines in the world. It has dark fruit flavors from sweet blueberry to savory black olive.
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When you taste Syrah you’ll be greeted with a punch of flavor that tapers off and then has a spicy peppery note in the aftertaste. Because of its front-loaded style, Syrah is often blended with grapes that add more mid-palate, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, to help make the wine taste more complete.
New World vs Old World Syrah
New World vs. Old World Old World Syrahs from Italy and France tend to have more acidity and earthy-herbaceous aromas. New World-styled Syrah wines from Australia, The U.S. and South America usually have more fruit-driven characteristics with lots of spice. Visualize the common taste of Syrah wines depending on from what part of the world they originate.
7 Fascinating Facts About Syrah
- Some of the most expensive Syrah in the world is from the 340+ acre appellation called Hermitage. The best wines are sourced from a hill close to the village of Tain-l’Hermitage and are noted for their floral and smoky aromas of blackberry and grilled meat.
- Name Origin
- The word Syrah may hail from “Syracruse” –a city in Sicily. Syracruse was a powerful city during the ancient Greek rule in 400 BC.
- Lost blend
- Before appellation control in France, the Bordelais blended Syrah into their red wines to make them richer. Today, you can commonly find Cabernet-Syrah blends in both Australia and the United States.
- Two very obscure grapes are the parents of Syrah: Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche. Dureza is from Southern France, just North of Nimes in the Ardèche department. Mondeuse Blanche can be found in Savoy.
- Petite Sirah?
- Petite Sirah does not mean ‘little Syrah.’ Petite Sirah (aka Durif) is a different grape variety and is the genetic offspring of Syrah and the more rare Peloursin.
- Wine growers often say “Syrah likes a view” because the best vineyards are usually towards the top of hills where there is less soil, making the vines produce less (but more concentrated) grapes.
- Because Syrah wines have such thick skins and high tannin, it is a common practice for winemakers to cold soak Syrah grapes for days (or even weeks!). Cold soaking (aka extended maceration) increases color and fruitiness in a wine while also reducing harsh tannin and herbaceous flavors.
Pairing Syrah With Food
With its massive full-bodied taste, Syrah pairs great with bold foods. You can pair Syrah with anything from a blue cheese burger to barbecue, the trick is to bring out the subtle nuances in the wine.
Try Using Herbes de Provence Spice your foods with a special blend of herbs originating from the South of France. The floral aromatics of Herbes de Provence with lavendar, fennel and thyme will compliment well with an Old World Syrah.
Soft Cheeses Are Better Work with softer stinkier cheeses, the fat texture and earthy flavors in a cheese such as Abbaye de Belloc will absorb the high tannin in Syrah.
Shiraz and Barbecue Tip The peppery spice in Australian Shiraz works wonders with a peppery barbecue. Try spicing your meats with anise and clove to bring out those subtle nuances in the wine.
Profile on Shiraz: Barossa Valley
Barossa Valley in Australia is the birthplace to some of the highest rated Syrah-based wines in the world. However, despite the region’s fame, Barossa Valley remains somewhat of a provincial wine country. The closest big city to Barossa is Adelaide in South Australia. Low plains from the city of Adelaide lead into rolling hills in a scene that is oddly similar to the Central Valley of California.
Since the root louse that ravaged Europe has never touched the soils in Barossa Valley, the region boasts some of the oldest living vineyards. Along the side of the road to Nuriootpa you will breeze past 100 year old vines.
“When we visited, we were shocked to find that the cellar door phone listing for Standish Wine Co. was the winemaker’s cell phone. After a confusing drive down a decreasing dirt path with no signs, we arrived at a small stone cellar built sometime in the 1800’s. It was pretty much the best time ever.”
Madeline Puckette, Journal from 2008