Shiraz / Syrah  

Powerful, black-fruited, often aged in oak, syrah/Shiraz comes in varying styles but at the top (such as Hermitage) can be spectacular and very long-lived.

There is no question that Syrah is now the most fashionable red grape for new plantings in many New World countries, especially South Africa and Chile.

Origins      

  • Unknown. Linked by name only to capital of ancient Persia
  • May even be indigenous French variety 

Characteristics   

  • Deep colour, second only to Cabernet Sauvignon in intensity
  • Medium to full bodied
  • Great ageing potential for top examples  

Vinification /  Maturation       

  • Can be vinified and matured very differently to make different styles i.e. all stainless steel for fresh and fruity
  • Or (classic wines of northern Rhône) Open fermenting tanks and maturation in old foudres and 600l. demi-muids
  • Or (Australia) Use of US rather than French oak for maturation
  • Or (US) maturation in small new oak barrels    

Homelands       

A. The Northern Rhône

  • Vineyards either side of the river along a 40 mile stretch south of Lyon, from Vienne in the north to near Valence
  • Appellations from north to south: Côte Rôtie; St. Joseph; Hermitage; Crozes-Hermitage; Cornas
  • Tiny appellations, steep slopes, low yields + worldwide demand = high price!
  • Permitted to blend with white varieties: Côte Rôtie: up to 15% Viognier; Hermitage: up to 15% Marsanne & Roussann

B. Australia

  • Homeland as Syrah/Shiraz was introduced in 1832 by James Busby and is now the most widely planted red grape
  • Some ancient vineyards, e.g Henschke Hill of Grace planted in 1860s
  • Until the spread of Cabernet Sauvignon source of all top Oz wine, notably Penfold’s Grange Hermitage, first made in 1955
  • Wide range of styles, largely dependent on climate: hot, Hunter Valley; mid, Barossa; cool, S. Victoria
  • Key point of differences to France: usually sweeter and higher alcohol; and maturation in US not French oak 

Also to be found in…  

  • Southern Rhône, there usually blended with Grenache
  • Provence/Languedoc/Roussillon, ditto and/or Mourvèdre, Carignan and others
  • Italy, esp. Tuscany
  • Tiny quantities in Switzerland, Germany and Spain
  • US: California, esp. cooler regions such as Santa Maria Valley; and Washington State - great promise
  • South Africa: currently the most fashionable grape, making up 25% of new plantings 
  • Chile, ditto, highly fashionable, and fine results coming out of cooler regions such as Limari and San Antonio
  • New Zealand, both Hawkes Bay and now beginning in Central Otago
  • Argentina, notably San Juan 

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