Shiraz vs Syrah
So, where’s the difference lie? Well Shiraz is not the wine produced from the city of Shiraz in Pursia/Iran, although it used to be! It was believed to have originated in Iran around 2500BC when vines were brought down the mountains to the plains of south-west Iran. It is thought that this grape was the offspring of the grape varieties dureza (father) and monduese blanche (mother).
In the modern era it is in fact the term used in Australia for Syrah (Sir-rah) which has it’s origins in the South East of France. Shiraz is often typified by the relatively loose bunches of fruit on the vines, with large thick skinned berries and is known for spicy, cherry or black fruit flavours and smooth tannins. The grape variety heralds from the same vine species no matter where you are, however, this is where the similarity ends.
Dependent on climate and the soil it is grown in, the resulting wine can be quite different, ranging from the intense dark fruited styles to lifted cherry with an array of spiced aromas. This can also be influenced to some degree by the winemaker and when the grapes are picked and how they are handled in the winery.
In recent times in Australia, the use of the name Shiraz or Syrah has been adopted to indicate the growing conditions and hence the style of wine produced.
The quintessential rich deep Shiraz comes form the warmer regions such as Barossa or McLaren Vale. The heat of these regions causes the grapes to ripen with greater fruit intensity and higher sugar levels leading to increased alcohol and depth of flavours. While this makes up for the majority of the varieties production in Australia, the more vibrant lighter and aromatic Syrah styles are now appearing from the cooler areas such as the Adelaide Hills, Mornington Peninsula and Beechworth in Victoria.
Is one better than the other? As always, it is up to personal preference. At least with the advent of using the name Shiraz or Syrah, there is an ability to have an indication as to the style of wine inside the bottle!