Is Syrah the same as Shiraz?
Yes... and no! Syrah (pronounced sih-rah) and Shiraz are two names for the same grape variety, but they are often associated with different styles of wine. The difference between the two is largely due to where the grape is grown and how the wine is made.
The history behind the grape
The Syrah/Shiraz grape is believed to have originated in the Rhône Valley of France, where it had been grown for centuries. The grape was then taken to Australia in the mid-19th century, where it became known as Shiraz. Today, Shiraz is the most widely planted red wine grape variety in Australia, while Syrah is still grown extensively in the Rhône Valley, as well as in other parts of France, Italy, Spain, and the United States.
How do Syrah and Shiraz differ?
The primary difference between Syrah and Shiraz is the style of wine that is produced.
The Syrah grapes thrives in cooler climates which is why you to see it grown in regions such as the Northern Rhône and Washington State in the USA, where the grape can develop more slowly and retain its acidity.
Syrah wines tend to be more elegant and structured, with flavours of blackberry, black pepper, and spice - on occasion even a hint of leather or smoke. They can sometimes have a slightly herbal character and a firm tannic structure. The tannins and acidity help to give the wines structure and aging potential. If you like a wine with gentle tannins then try Chapoutier Sizeranne Hermitage.
Syrah wines are often fermented with whole clusters of grapes, which can give them their spicy, herbal character. They may also be aged in oak barrels, which can add flavours of vanilla and smoke. Syrah is a key grape in the blend of the famous appellation of Chateau Neuf du Pape. Try our Chateau de Vaudieu Chateauneuf du Pape.
Shiraz wines are generally more fruit-forward, with flavours of blackberry, plum, and blueberry with notes of chocolate, vanilla, and sometimes even a touch of eucalyptus. They are often fuller-bodied and richer. One of our customer favourites is The Chocolate Block!
If the fruit gets over ripe though they can have a jammy character, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. Both can have a savoury, bacon note to them. Think smokey bacon crisps!
Shiraz prefers the warmer climates - don't we all! This is why Shiraz is often associated with Australia, where the grape is grown in hot, dry regions like the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale. In these regions, Shiraz grapes can ripen fully, resulting in wines that are high in alcohol and rich in fruit flavour. They are often fermented with de-stemmed grapes and aged in new oak barrels, which can give them their more pronounced vanilla and oak flavour.
Generally speaking, both Syrah and Shiraz wines are known for their ability to age well and can benefit from aging in the bottle, as they tend to develop more complex flavours and aromas over time. However, Shiraz wines may have a shorter aging potential due to their higher alcohol content and richer fruit character.