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Friday, May 17, 2013

Red Wine Basics: Syrah or Shiraz

Cluster of Syrah Grapes
Cluster of Syrah (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Origins
Syrah is a red wine grape variety that is thought to have originated in the Rhone region of France. There are several legends as to the origins of Syrah, but insufficient documentation and proof to support these stories render most of them sufficiently false, and most agree that France is likely its native home. In France, other parts of Europe, much of South America, New Zealand and most of the U.S., this grape is known as Syrah. In Australia, parts of South Africa and Canada, it is typically known as Shiraz. Same grape, different name.

Common Varietals and Blends
Syrah is used to make both varietals and blends. Probably its best-known varietal form is the Hermitage, produced in Northern Rhone. Australia also produces Shiraz varietals. Also in Australia, it is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to create a Shiraz-Cabernet or blended with Grenache to create GSM. Syrah is also often blended with a small amount of Viognier, a white grape variety, to create the popular Cote-Rotie of Northern Rhone. In the Southern Rhone, Syrah is blended with Grenache or Mourvedre to make Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

Ageability
Italian Syrah wine from Sicily
Italian Syrah wine from Sicily (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Syrah is a powerful and flavorful, full-bodied wine that exhibits the aromas of violets, berries, espresso and black pepper. Syrah is well suited to aging, and will take on the aromas of leather, truffles, plums and spices as it ages. A stout Hermitage should age over ten years before it relaxes into its full potential. Syrah brings to its blending partners this terrific ageability.

Flavor Profile
Its small clusters and berries produce a very dark juice that packs a flavor and tannin punch. Flavors of blackberry, black raspberry, plum, bell pepper, clove, licorice, dark chocolate and smoked meat are often detected. Syrah flavors are dependent on growing and processing procedures, but it often carries minerally flavors that blend and balance the fruitier Grenache, a common Syrah blending partner. Pair Syrah with grilled meats and vegetables, flavorful red meats and stews.

This concludes my exploration of Syrah (Shiraz). Join me next time for a look at Tannat, the national grape of Uruguay.
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