Know the Grapes: Syrah

Syrah is a red grape variety that gives us rich, powerful wines. It is grown all over the world today, in both hot and cool climates. It originated in the Rhône Valley of France – some of the most well-known and expensive Syrahs come from Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie.

In Australia, Syrah is the most widely planted grape. It is called Shiraz there. The Barossa and Hunter Valleys are world-renowned for their full-bodied, concentrated versions of Shiraz.

Terroir and Climate Influences

“Terroir” plays a critical role as to what a Syrah will taste like. Northern Rhône winters say that Syrah likes a vineyard with a view as the grape seems to perform best in the steep, rocky hillsides found in the Northern part of the Rhône Valley. They are filled with gravel, schist, limestone, iron, granite, and sandy soils.

Cote Rosie vineyards

Syrah can also be found in many blends around the world. Its relatively small grapes are high in color and tannins. They add structure and depth to the Grenach and Mourvedre dominant wines of the Souther Rhône appellations of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas  and Cote du Rhône Villages.

Two of the most interesting Syrah blends that I have tasted recently are the “Moschopolis 18” and the “Aiora”. The Syrah grown on red soil with high stone content slopes overlooking the mythical Mount Olympus complements and elevates the two native Greek grape varieties it’s blended with.

Climate is also a decisive factor. Syrah grown in warmer climates gives a bigger-bodied wine with juicier fruit, smooth tannins, and spice notes. Syrah grown in cooler climates yields less jammy fruit, bolder spices, more earthy complexities, and stricter tannins.

Syrah wine characteristics

Syrah wines typically have deep ruby color and depending on the regions they are from aromas of plum, blackberry, black cherry, blueberry, chocolate, and licorice from warmer and cassis, blackberry, and intense black pepper from cooler climates.

In the mouth, Syrah wines range from medium to full body with sometimes high acidity and high tannins. Warmer climate wines have jammier black fruit while cooler climate Syrah’s are earthier with intense peppery notes.

Best Food Pairings for Syrah

Syrah is often the best wine for all types of roasted, grilled, or smoked meat dishes like; duck, beef, veal, sausage, grilled meats, barbecue, and chicken dishes and can also be easily paired with most hard and soft cheeses.

 

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