Last week, we covered the ins and outs of Pinot Noir, a very popular grape and wine of choice. Syrah, or recognised as Shiraz in the new world, is also a globally sought-after grape, transforming into some of the most in demand bottles of red.
So, with that said, we couldn’t go by without sharing another behind the scenes series, helping our readers learn about the growing and production processes of a delicious, single variety and a commonly blended black grape.
After-all, we may purchase our favourite bottles for their tastes and styles. But, without the care that goes into the harvesting of grapes, without the vigilant growing process, and without the use of Syrah, those favoured bottles will be hard to come by and enjoy.
To truly enjoy the drinking experience and harness the uniqueness of Syrah/Shiraz, here’s some facts about the admired grape, its variations and how to store your next bottle to preserve its taste, origins and maturity.
Facts About Syrah
Syrah/Shiraz, a desirable black grape, boasts two names, showcasing its uniqueness. It’s a widely used grape, across the world, known as Syrah in the old world, and Shiraz in the new. Its dual identity is down to a debate over its origins, where some believe that its production began in Persia, while others argue its Sicilian heritage.
Offering palates of black fruits, black pepper and brambles, Syrah/Shiraz can be an independently formed ingredient, resulting in a full-bodied dark wine. Yet, through its delicious rich notes, it’s also used as a blended grape, paired with a small mix of Viognier, a light white grape.
In the old world, commonly found in Southern and Northern Rhone, sun-ripped flavours of blackberry, of silky plums, and of spiced pepper are customary. Known as Syrah, the grape will usually be blended with 13 other grapes to create a soft, elegant yet notable taste.
In the new world, known as Shiraz, Australia has become the focal producer of the beloved Syrah grape. Two variations are common, one which is lighter and fruiter, while another offering deeper, darker, rich and chocolate-like tastes. The country is also known for its take on a Cabernet-Shiraz blend, by mixing the grape with another powerful variation.
A number of different styles and takes of Syrah/Shiraz can be found, ideal for every palate. Yet, to make sure that you buy the right variation, it’s important to know your old and new world winemaking results. Here’s a behind the scenes of Syrah/Shiraz as a wine enthusiasts’ grape of choice, from France, to New Zealand.
Variations of Syrah/Shiraz
Starting in the old world, Syrah is produced in Southern Rhône, where the grape is mainly used in combination with grenache and cinsault. The grape itself offers meaty and warm undertones, complementing its fruity counterparts, perfectly.
The greatest version of Syrah, from the South, is found in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Here, the highest quality of Syrah is found, where a full-bodied, balanced wine is available, mixing oaks and fruity undertones and the right level of acidity. Its quality is so great that it is commonly exported by wine enthusiasts to the UK and America.
Subsequently following the quality of Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s production, there are three levels of Syrah to look out for, including the crus, Côtes-du-Rhône villages and Côtes-du-Rhône. Supreme bottles are found in the crus, all recognised under individual villages. By selecting a village-branded red, you’ll be in for a reliable, noteworthy Syrah. This is also the case for both Côtes-du-Rhône villages and Côtes-du-Rhône’s production, which again reflect the noteworthiness of Syrah. Yet, have a higher concentration level.
Ideally, whichever area of the South that you select, younger reds will be the likely result, down to the climate. For a Syrah, with maturing capabilities, looking closer to the North will be recommended.
As we head over to the North of Rhône, we reach the greatest quality of old Syrah. The South is predominantly known for the quantity of vineyards and the amount of Syrah which is produced. Yet, the North is about quality, boasting ideal locations and conditions to grow ripe grapes. From Northern Rhône, you can expect rich tones, where the unique and intended layers of Syrah are noticeable.
If you’re looking for a high-quality, yet lighter Syrah, a Saint-Joseph produced bottle is recommended. Here, climates are cooler down to being closer to the South, resulting in lighter bodied, fresher reds. The North of Rhône truly highlights the different variations of Syrah that you can find, all down to growing conditions and locations. You can find anything from a black olive taste, to an opulent plum-like aroma.
Yet, one definite is that ageing potential from a North based Syrah is much greater than a Southern bottle. By this, you’ll have a greater chance at preserving and elevating the quality of a Northern produced wine.
South Africa’s take on a Shiraz is very similar to those of Rhône, especially when considering flavours and density levels. Here you can expect peppery flavours over Australia’s recognised chocolate aromas, providing a meatier red. Yet, South African wines are usually blended with perfumes of Viognier to achieve an elegant drinking experience.
For the best Shiraz, there are three must-visit areas, including Stellenbosch, Robertson and Paarl. Old world flavours are mainly on offer, carrying the origins of Syrah forward, yet opening up accessibility to the other side of the globe.
You can find the production of Syrah within all popular harvesting regions of the country. Yet, for the most elegant, the above areas are unfailing selections.
Before venturing into New Zealand, many doubted the cooler climates it experiences, especially when considering the production of high-quality Syrah. This can still be said for some areas of the country.
Yet, if you select a bottle from Hawkes Bay, you can expect a high-quality, powerful and fully ripened bottle. Here, conditions provide the right temperatures to produce a ripened grape, which still holds its succulence and form. The area in fact ranks as one of the most populated regions for grape production, making it a reliable area for Shiraz.
Not only are substantially well-bodied reds expected, you can also source bottles with balanced acidity levels and tannins, helping to harness its fruity undertones rather than overpower the additional flavours.
If you’re looking for a new world Shiraz, Australia is your go-to producer. It is in fact known as a highly reputable country for producing unique takes of Shiraz, which you’ll fail to find at any other vineyard, across the globe.
What makes Australia’s Shiraz different are the year-round climates, offering warmer, consistent temperatures. Through this, highly ripened grapes are expected, which not only produce bold flavours, but also powerful takes on mocha and chocolate infusions, activating all senses.
For one of the country’s famous bottles, a Barossa Valley produced wine will be recommended. This standard can be found from both small and larger producers, as the area has refined their skillsets and harvesting processes. If you’re however looking for a lighter take, heading the furthest west of Victoria towards The Grampians will provide a lighter, blended bottle. This is down to optimal altitude levels, helping to preserve the opulence of Shiraz.
There are in fact so many different variations of Shiraz within Australia that you will find the perfect one for your personal palate.
Selecting a Syrah/Shiraz Wine
Just by reading the above variations, it’s easy to see how well-loved Syrah/Shiraz is as a grape, and as a red wine. Through that love, there are many different variants on offer, from true bold reds, to lighter, easy to drink blends.
Selecting the right bottle, for your personal preference is recommended, by using the old and new world guides as direction. If you’re looking for a fruity red, reflecting forest-like spices and aromas, the old world’s take on Syrah will be ideal. A bottle from South or North Rhône will be recommended.
If you’re hoping for a unique bottle, bypassing the originality of Syrah, you can opt for an Australian produced Shiraz, boasting chocolatey, deep and velvet interpretations. Or, if you’re hoping for something in between, either a South African or New Zealand produced bottle will be ideal, offering both quality and balance.
After-all, there are many different Syrah/Shiraz bottles out there, which can make it a bit overwhelming. Your best bet will be to try as many as possible before deciding whether you’re with the old, traditional Syrah, or the new, innovative Shiraz.
Optimal Storage For Your Next Bottle
We may not all agree on the same bottles of Syrah/Shiraz. Yet, we’re pretty sure that optimal storage, to preserve our beloved bottles will be a mutual goal.
To make sure that you can keep your next bottle, for as long as possible, you should follow the below guidelines:
- Always store your wine at 12°C. Even your red, meatier bottles.
- Avoid excessive UV light to reduce unrestrained ageing.
- Store your wine within 55-80% humidity levels to preserve natural formation and avoid oxidization.
- Keep your wine stationary, reducing footfall around its home, helping to preserve its organic intentions.
- Avoid lingering smells, which you’d rather not taste while consuming your next bottle.
Through these easy-to-follow steps, you can store your Syrah/Shiraz, optimally, ready to serve for yourself or guests, all possible without a fit for purpose wine cellar.
Naturally, some bottles may last longer than others. Yet, purchasing a bottle of Syrah/Shiraz will be worth it, whether from its origins, or from across the pond.
For more advice on storing your wine, get in touch with our team at Elite Wine Refrigeration - the wine cooler experts, or we will see you next time for another behind the scene series of our favourite bottles.