Shiraz, otherwise known as Syrah is a dark-skinned grape grown throughout the world and used primarily to produce powerful red wines. Whether sold as Syrah or Shiraz, these wines enjoy great popularity. Shiraz/Syrah is used as a varietal and is can also be blended. Following several years of strong planting, in 2004 Shiraz was estimated to be the world's 7th most grown grape with 142,600 hectares (352,000 acres) planted. In 1999 DNA profiling found Shiraz to be the offspring of two obscure grapes from Southeastern France, Mondeuse Blanche and Dureza. Shiraz should not be confused with Petite Sirah, a synonym for Durif, a cross of Syrah with Peloursin dating from 1880.
The Shiraz / Syrah grape is known as Syrah in France, the US and many other countries. In Australia it is called Shiraz, where it is the most widely planted red wine grape, with this country producing some of the best Shiraz/Syrah wines in the world. Now that Shiraz has become popular and well known, some wineries in the United States who are making an “Australian style wine” with this grape are labelling their wines Shiraz as well.
Shiraz has a long documented history in the Rhone region of Southeastern France, and it was not known if it had originated in that region. In 1998, a study conducted by Carole Meredith's research group in the Department of Viticulture and Enology at University of California, Davis used DNA typing and extensive grape reference material from the viticultural research station in Montpellier, France to conclude that Syrah was the offspring of the grape varieties Mondeuse Blanche and Dureza. With both of these grape varieties coming from a limited area in South Eastern France, researchers concluded that the grape variety originated in Northern Rhone.
In France the Hermitage wines are credited with making the Shiraz, or as it is known their Syrah, grape famous. Hermitage wines have had a reputation for being high quality, powerful wines for centuries.
The grape first arrived in Australia in 1831, transported from Europe by James Busby. The original cuttings were planted in the Botanical gardens in Sydney and in the Hunter valley. In 1839 the vines made their way to South Australia and by the 1860s the grape was well established and had become an important variety in Australia's wine industry.
France: Syrah, as it is known in France, is grown throughout the Rhone valley. Wines made from this grape vary greatly, even over small changes in the vines locations. Different soil qualities, as well as the changes in the slope of the terrain tend to produce different styles of wine. From the Hermitage wines with their mineral and tannic nature, to fruity and perfumed in the case wines of Cote-Rotie. Syrah, in France, is also used as a key component to many blends. It is often used to add structure and color to Grenache in southern Rhone blends, including Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Cotes-du-Rhone. Syrah is also the only red grape used in the wines of the northern Rhone. In 1968, there was only about 6,700 acres (2,700 hectares) of Syrah vineyards in France, mainly located in the traditional appellations of northern Rhone, which at that time had not received much in the way of attention from the wine world for several decades, and the vineyards of which were not planted to full capacity. After the rediscovery of wines from Northern Rhone by wine critics and writers in the 1970s, plantings expanded considerably. This trend received an extra boost in the 1980s and 1990s, when influential wine writer Robert M. Parker, Jr. started to award very high scores, even some perfect scores of 100 points, to wines produced by some Rhone winemakers. The popularity of Australian Shiraz on the export market may also have played a role in the increase of plantings. By 1999, viticultural survey found 125,000 acres (50,700 hectares) of Syrah vineyards, making France the biggest producer of Syrah in the world.
Australia: Shiraz/syrah grape was introduced into Australia in 1832 by James Busby, an immigrant who after a trip to Europe, bought vines back with him. In Australia the grape is almost universally known as Shiraz. Shiraz is the most widely planted grape in Australia, although this wasn't always the case. In the 1970s, due to the popularity of white wine at the time, Australian growers were ripping out unprofitable Grenache and shiraz crops and replacing them with popular white grape varieties. The success of brands such as Jacob's Creek, Rosemount, and Linderman's Shiraz wines in the export market is thought to have been responsible for the the rapid expansion in plantings in Australia during the 1980s and 1990s. By 2006 the total plantings of Shiraz in Australia had grown to 101,600 acres (41,110 hectares). Australian Shiraz wines have become famous throughout the world Probably the best known Shiraz produced in Australia is the Penfolds Grange. This wine was first created by winemaker Max Schubert in 1951, and has a reputation, not only for its hefty price, but as a wine that ages well. United States: Wine produced in the United States from this grape is normally labelled as Syrah. However, in many cases winemakers are choosing to label their wines as Shiraz, moving more towards the Australian style of Shiraz, similar to Penfolds Grange. Under American wine laws, either name may be used on the label. Shiraz first appeared as a wine grape in California in the 1970s, where it was planted by a group of viticulturists who called themselves the Rhone rangers. Although most plantings of the grape are in California, there are increasing amounts of it being grown in Washington state.
Shiraz can also be found growing in a number of other countries including South Africa, Argentina, Chile, Italy, Spain and Portugal. In South Africa plantings have grown significantly with plantings growing from 1% of total vineyard area in the country, to 9.7% in 1995.
Shiraz wines are typically, spicy Powerfully flavoured and full-bodied wines. This wine can produce wines with a wide range of flavor notes including dark berry flavors such as blackberry and blueberry and plum are often present. They can be quite peppery, and also often exhibit flavors of licorice and clove. Shiraz wines are usually high in tannins, which tends to mellow as the wine ages.Shiraz is great paired with grilled meats or veggies, richly flavored red meats, beef stew and wild game.