Monday, August 11, 2014

Que Syrah, Shiraz

Syrah and Shiraz is the same exact grape varietal. Do not feel bad if you thought they were two different grapes. It is a common misunderstanding. Think of them as synonyms just like mom and mother or bike and bicycle. They are one and the same. The reason for the name difference is based on where the grape is grown.
In Australia they refer to the grape asShiraz. Early Australian documentation uses the spelling “Scyras”. It is thought that Shiraz is a strinization—a made up word by stringing words or accents together. For example, avagoodweegen in Australian means, “Have a good weekend”. Scyras became Shiraz.

In the Rhône Valley of France the grape is referred to as Syrah. The grape is indigenous of France. DNA profiling proved Syrah to be a genetic cross of two obscure varieties, mondeuse blanc (a white grape) and dureza (a red grape). These parents still exist in Southeastern France close to northern Rhône allowing researches to conclude Syrah originated from northern Rhône.
In Australia and in California the grape name, Shiraz or Syrah, will be displayed on the bottle. In France, the regulations do not allow for the grape name to be on the bottle. Instead the name of the appellation (geographical region) is on the label. The only red grape allowed in northern Rhône is Syrah. The appellations are: Côte-Rotie, St. Joseph, Crôzes-Hermitage, Hermitage, and Cornas.

How does a French Syrah differ in flavor profile from an Australian Shiraz? The soil and the climate in which the grape is grown do cause variation in aroma and taste. Syrah/Shiraz requires a warm climate or heat to fully ripen. Because the skin of this grape is thick and dark, the color of the wine in the glass will be very dark red/purple in color.

A Syrah from Northern Rhône is grown on steep, rocky, sunbathed hillsides. The wine has high natural acidity and is powerful, full-bodied, earthy and rich with aromas of pepper, violets, raspberry, and spice. They are harsh in youth but become softer and develop a beautiful bouquet with age. These wines can age for 20+ years.

A Shiraz from Barossa, McLaren Vale, or Coonwarra , Australia is grown in a warmer climate with much higher temperatures resulting in a wine with very ripe fruit and lower acidity. The tannins are softer and there is luscious dark blackberry and black currant fruit with chocolate and spice. The alcohol levels tend to be quite high due to longer ripening.

Petite Sirah is a genetically different grape than Syrah/Shiraz. It is grown in California and DNA testing has proven most plantings are the Durif grape that originated in Rhône, France. It is often blended with Zinfandel. The spelling varies from Petite Syrah to Petit Sirah to Petit Syrah which merely confuses consumers. When vinified it has a deep color, high tannins, and a peppery aroma. It is pleasant, but not usually very distinct on its own. It is best when blended with other grapes.

If I were a food date going out with a Rhone Syrah, I would be a roasted lamb. If I were a food date going out with an Australian Shiraz I would be barbecued ribs.

Syrah and Shiraz are the same grape, but they have different expression and personality like a charming, fashionable French man vs. a rugged, sexy Australian bloke.

In the Okanagan Valley both terms are used and in theory its use should reflect the style of wine the winemaker is aiming for ( old world vs new world). C.C. Jentsch Cellars has an award winning Syrah (2012) with the earthy characteristics of the northern Rhone style, earthy and smoky and co-fermented with 6% Viognier. I like to say you can smell the land and the forest. When I drink it, I spend a lot of time just smelling it, it so aromatic. Below are the tasting notes. Remember if your favorite liquor store does not carry it, just for it to be brought in.

Syrah 2012

A full bodied Syrah with enticing aromas of dark chocolate, cherry and a complex smoky meatiness. These rich aromas are joined by bright floral notes of violet and plum on the palate, complexity created by co-fermenting 6% Viognier with the Syrah and toasty oak barrels.
Alcohol 13.0% Acid 8.4g/L Residual Sugar 0.7 g/L

Decanter UK 2014- Silver
National Wine Awards of Canada 2014-Silver

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