Syrah, also known as Shiraz (mostly in Australia) is one of the most important red wine grapes all over the world. It’s ancestral home is in the Rhone Valley of France, where it has been grown since before the Romans invaded Gaul. It has now spread to almost every wine growing country.
Wherever it is grown, Syrah makes a dark colored wine characterized by dark fruit flavors and scented with black pepper. It will generally be fairly high in alcohol, even higher in warmer climates. Depending on the climate in which it is grown, the acidity level will vary dramatically. In addition, cooler climates will generally produce more complexity – a whole range of secondary flavors from earthy to smoky. Warmer climates will tend to produce wines with richer fruit flavors, and are less likely to have the bacon flavors associated with many wines from the Northern Rhone.
The great wines of the Northern Rhone include Hermitage, Cornas and Cote Rotie, with more reasonable priced wines coming from Crozes Hermitage and St. Joseph, with a few from the Cotes du Rhone. Australia produces an incredible variety of Shiraz, with the best coming from areas such as the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale, and from cooler areas such as Margaret River. California produces some fine Syrah, particularly from the cooler areas of Santa Barbara County. There are good examples (such as Montes Alpha) coming from Chile, Argentina and South Africa as well.