Syrah | Rhone Valley's Champion
- Many countries outside of France refer to it is Shiraz
- Most expensive Syrah comes from Hermitage, a village within the Rhone Valley championing single varietal Syrah wines
- One of the most widely planted grape varietals in the world
- Australia is the second largest producer, just behind France
Syrah’s origin is one of French soil of course, but there is interesting discussion around the actual name ‘Syrah’. Most consider it to be taken from the city ‘Syracuse’ in Sicily, which was incredibly powerful during Ancient Greek times, 400BC. A strong and powerful city to reflect a strong and powerful grape varietal seems quite apt, an element taken away when ‘Shiraz’ is used in its place, but does not take away the powerful flavours.
The parent grapes of Syrah are ancient and obscure; Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche. Dureza comes from the South of France among the Rhone-Alpes region, and Mondeuse Blanche is still found in Savoie, another mountainous region.
It was in the 18th Century that Rhone Valley took to the stage with the bold varietal of Syrah. Everyone else in France were blending it into several other red grapes but in the North of Rhone they began to champion single varietal red wines from Syrah. Thanks to the town of Hermitage, Syrah became famous and prices have continued to increase to get access to the finest drops of liquid Syrah grapes.
For many generations it was also a grape varietal that graced the blends of Bordeaux, bringing richer flavours to the bottles. Yet with the introduction of the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée it was all but removed, now only blended into nouveau blends by producers such as Maison Advinam. You can still find blended Syrah among Australia and United States wineries.
Growing the grape
The Syrah vines are incredibly tough allowing it to adapt to multiple climates, but finding its home in the Rhone Valley where the varietal is planted on trellises due to the long shoots they produce. The grapes ripen quickly and must be picked straight away to avoid the turning of grapes and attracting grey rot. After harvest the small to medium sized bunches produced are perfect for winemakers to decide whether they macerate with full bunches or destem straight away.
The Valley is perfect for this grape varietal especially up on a hill where there is less soil and naturally causes low yields with high concentration. This then leads to the winemakers often cold soaking the grapes with their thick skins on to bring out the fruitiness and colour, while reducing the overall tannic qualities.
As with most red wines it is best to serve Syrah at around 15C to allow the flavours to come through while slightly muting the alcohol content. With it’s slightly higher alcohol levels you can drink it slightly colder if it is your preference.
There are so many delicious flavours to pair with the wines of the Rhone Valley so we suggest anything with strong red meats, stews, Bolognese and other pastas. Of course, anything that you find brings out the delicious earthy and deep fruity flavours will suit well!
What about Shiraz?
It is exactly the same as Syrah, just grown elsewhere! Generally speaking Shiraz is grown in the warmer climates and the name Syrah is championed in the cooler climates. Therefore it is a highly popular grape in Australia within the Barossa Valley and Adelaide Hills where there is an average of higher temperatures. This brings forth more fruit-forward and jam-like aromas, bolder with less dry elements.