As the calendar inches closer to February 16th, the wine community eagerly anticipates the celebration of International Syrah Day. This day pays homage to a grape that has two faces - Syrah and Shiraz. The names reflect the dual expressions of this grape, each influenced by different terroir and traditions.

Syrah/Shiraz: One Grape with Two Faces

Let's delve into the nomenclature first: Syrah and Shiraz. Though both refer to the same grape variety, the choice of name often hints at the style and origin of the wine. Syrah, which originates from the Rhône Valley of France, is associated with a more Old World, elegant, and structured style. Shiraz, however, commonly used in Australia and some other New World regions, tends to be linked with a bolder, fruit-forward, and robust character.

Syrah grapes produce small, thick-skinned berries that contribute to the wine's deep color and rich flavor. General characteristics encompass a spectrum of flavors, ranging from blackberries, plums, and black cherries to spicy notes of pepper, herbs, and a hint of smokiness.

Both Syrah and Shiraz are adept team players in blending. The classic Rhône Valley red blend, often found in the southern Rhône Valley, combines Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre, known as a GSM blend, one of the most popular blends globally. Australian Shiraz, on the other hand, is a blending partner with Cabernet Sauvignon, resulting in wines with rich, robust, and complex features, offering a distinctive Australian identity.

The steep vineyard in Côte Rôtie (

Rhone Valley Syrah, Barossa Shiraz

The Rhône Valley, the birthplace of Syrah, particularly the appellations in Northern Rhône, exemplifies its elegance and finesse. Côte Rôtie, renowned for steep slopes and terraced vineyards, produces Syrah wines with captivating aromatic complexity. Some Côte Rôtie wines include a touch of Viognier, adding a floral lift to the dark, brooding Syrah.

Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage deliver powerful expressions of Syrah, featuring dark fruits, black pepper, and smoked meat notes. Hermitage has earned a reputation for its full-bodied, age-worthy wines, standing as the producer of some of the greatest Syrah wines globally. Meanwhile, the more approachable Crozes-Hermitage offers a taste of Northern Rhône's Syrah without the extended cellaring requirements or a hefty budget.

Saint Joseph, often considered the little brother of Hermitage, crafts Syrah wines that balance structure and approachability. Cornas, with its rugged terrain, produces intense and concentrated expressions of Syrah, embodying the untamed spirit of the grape.

Jumping across continents, Australia's Barossa is where Shiraz reigns supreme. The vineyards in Barossa are famous for old vines, some over a century old, still in production today. The gnarly old vines have low yields but produce small, concentrated berries for some of Australia’s greatest red wines.

The Hill of Grace vineyard of Henschke in Barossa with old vines (credit:

Barossa Shiraz is a force of nature, generally featuring ripe dark fruit flavors, a generous mouthfeel, and a signature hint of dark chocolate. The warm climate and old vines contribute to wines that are bold, opulent, and eminently enjoyable in their youth.

Some of the World’s Greatest Syrah and Shiraz Wines:








Syrah and Shiraz Across the Globe

In California, Syrah stakes its claim in regions like Paso Robles and Santa Barbara County. California Syrah often showcases a ripe dark fruit profile, with notes of blackberries, blueberries, and a touch of chocolate. In Washington State's Columbia Valley, Syrah thrives in a continental climate, resulting in wines that balance fruitiness and structure.

The Cape Winelands of South Africa have become a hotbed for Syrah production. Regions like Stellenbosch and Swartland are known to produce high quality Syrah wines. Depending on the style the winemaker is looking for, South African Syrah wines can be the old-world, elegant, French-styled Syrah, or the modern, dark fruit driven, Australian-styled Shiraz.

Languedoc, with its diverse terroir, is home to Syrah plantings yielding wines ranging from easy-drinking and fruit-forward to more complex and age-worthy. Here, Syrah is often blended with other Mediterranean varieties like Grenache, Mourvedre, Carignan, and Cinsault, though varietal wines are still made.

Syrah has found a home in wine regions across the globe. In Spain, central and southern Italy, Chile and beyond, you can always find its presence. As a versatile grape appreciated by both winemakers and wine lovers, in some regions, Syrah blends with local grape varieties, creating a distinctive flavor profile for Syrah-based wines.

Syrah and Shiraz Wines Worth Trying:






As we raise our glasses to toast International Syrah/Shiraz Day, let's start to explore the two faces of this fascinating grape. Whether you lean towards the refined elegance of a Northern Rhône Syrah or the bold exuberance of an Australian Shiraz, there's a Syrah, or Shiraz for every palate.


Sylvia Ba

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