A variety of red wine grape. Once confined to small plots in the Rhone Valley in southern France, Syrah's popularity has taken off in recent years, and it is now being grown widely in California. More significantly, Syrah provides the foundation of the Australian wine industry, and its cultivation dwarfs that of other red wine grapes. While the Australians call it "Shiraz," it is the same grape. (Of course, growing styles vary in different regions of the world, and this fact accounts for much taste difference in the end product.)

In general, wines made from Syrah are dense and flavorful. In fact, the traditionally produced northern Rhone wines from Hermitage and Cote-Rotie are regularly described as "monsters" and must be aged before consumption. Downstream, Syrah is used quite widely in other Rhone wines, particularly Cotes du Rhones, where its blending with a larger amount of Grenache results in generally medium-bodied wines. Californian and Australian producers have taken great pains to tone down Syrah's strong character, and wines from these regions may generally be consumed much younger.

One sip of any reasonable Syrah will help you understand why they are often called "dark" or "brooding." The fruit flavors can be reminiscent of stone fruit such as plums; or sharper , tending toward the blackberry. Black pepper scents are also frequently encountered, as are hints of rosemary. It is often suggested to pair a Syrah with a rosemary-herbed dish. This must be approached with caution, however: a light rosemary chicken may be overpowered by a strong Syrah. Pork might be a good compromise choice, though I prefer the more unorthodox use of rosemary with beef. In any event, as with any food-wine pairing, try to match strongly flavored foods with strong wines, and more delicate foods with lighter-bodied wines.

Back to Rook's Wine Glossary and Article Archive

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.