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  • Writer's pictureuncorked

Could a grape have any more names?

Shiraz/Syrah/Hermitage/Antourenein Noir/Candive/Entournerein/hignin Noir/ Marsanne Noir/Sira/Sirah/Sirac/Syra/Syrac

Did you know we should have celebrated the 4th of July with a glass of Syrah? July 4 is International Shiraz Day. However, July 22 is Global Shiraz Day, created in Australia, so we are not that late in celebrating Shiraz.

I thought it would be fun to dig into the uniqueness of this ancient grape.

Shiraz, as it is known in Australia, or in France as Syrah, is also known by many other names around the world, as you can read above. However, don’t confuse it with Petite Sirah, this is actually across between Syrah and Peloursin and dates to the late 1900’s.

There is great debate as to when the grape originated. There are many legends but little more than legend. With DNA testing, we know this grape is an offspring of two rare varietals, Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche. Dureza, is a dark skinned grape varietal from the Ardeche region in France. Dureza is currently considered an almost lost grape and efforts to restore the vine are ensuing. Mondeuse Blanche is a white grape still cultivated in small amounts in the Savory region of France. Both Syrah parents come from a small area in southeastern France, close to northern Rhone.

The growing conditions for Syrah are varied. The grape does well in both warm and cooler climates producing two distinct styles. Cooler climate Syrah ripen slower producing an elegant, acidic wine. In warmer climates, the wine has higher sugar levels and lower acid resulting in a fruiter softer wine. Typically, Syrah has notes of black fruit, tobacco, leather, spice, and green peppercorn. It is dry, and medium to full-bodied. Cooler climate Syrah goes well with duck, mushrooms, stews, and pasta with meat sauce. Warmer climate, Shiraz is perfect with BBQ or roasted and braised meats.

Syrah became famous by the wine produced in the Hermitage, France. These wines were considered in the 18th & 19th centuries as excellent and were favored worldwide. Syrah during this time was also used in Bordeaux wines to improve a weaker vintage. France currently plants the most Syrah vines in the world, with over 170,000 acres. The Barossa Valley is home to the largest single quantity of un-grafted, pre-phylloxera vineyards in the world.

In 1831, James Busby, a Scotsman, collected cuttings from France and Spain vines bringing them back to Australia. He planted the cuttings in the Sydney Botanical Garden and in Hunter Region. One of them was Syrah, which was introduced to Southern Australia around 1839. Australia is home to the oldest producing vines, dating to 1843 and they currently have around 10,000 acres of Syrah planted. The last estimate shows Syrah/Shiraz as the 7th most grown grape in the world. Sparkling Shiraz is an Australian creation. This sparkling, first made in the late 20th century, has become an Australian Christmas Day tradition.

In the northern Rhone of France, you will find classic Syrah wines such as Hermitage and Cote-Rotie. In southern Rhone it is used primarily as a blending grape for great wines such as Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Cotes du Rhone. Syrah is known as an amazing blending grape, balancing other varietals. Australian Shiraz is often blended with Cabernet, Grenache and/or Mourvedre. Many other countries and areas are now producing wonderful Syrah/Shiraz wines including the US, South Africa and Switzerland.

Shiraz naturally has high tannins and therefore is considered on of the healthiest red wine varietals. So drink a glass of Syrah or Shiraz for your health today.

“Pour votre santé”

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