(Part 3 of a 5-part series.)
Syrah (called Shiraz in Australia and elsewhere) may have been introduced to the Barossa valley as early as 1847 and it has emerged to produce a version of this grape, distinct and showing the influence of terroir on wine. Shiraz can claim with some authority to be truly an Australian wine, able to stand with the world’s best if judged by quality standards. Shiraz, like Syrah, is a wine that shows depth and length as well as any other red wine and a distinctiveness and complexity along with its well-known affinity with oak from all regions. Tasting the same fruit in different barrels, as I have been privileged to do on several occasions, can be a revelation of its affinity to oak and its subtle expressiveness of its oak home.
In the Old World, wine was a matter of place and tradition, but in the hands of the technical Aussies, it was a matter of numbers and winemaking expertise. They make wines with technical flawlessness and are now turning more and more to experiment with the art in winemaking. Realizing their potential and the opportunity for a marketing ploy, Max Schubert named their best example Grande Hermitage, from which the name Hermitage has now been dropped in deference to its French home. The Syrah/Shiraz grape has become an international sensation and star. It hold’s its identifying flavors wherever it is planted and yet reveals some of the distinctiveness of its local terroir. The surge of this grape’s popularity is in the Languedoc and around the world, its attractiveness has also been demonstrated.
The juice can be thick and some winemakers complain of how it gums up their equipment. The skin can hold a high percentage of anthocyanins — the healthy good stuff. The taste is brawny too. A little in a blend will deepen the color and shore up a thin wine, so watch for many varietals to have a little Syrah added for this purpose. Until the mid 19th century, Syrah was added to some of the higher priced Bordeaux wines to strengthen them a little. Does that surprise you?
Syrah/Shiraz has been planted in almost all wine regions of the world, including Italy, South Africa, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, and in the US (in Texas, Colorado, Mendocino County, Napa Valley, San luis Obispo County, Santa Barbara County, Sierra Foothills, Sonoma County, Temecula, and Washington State) to name a few regions.
Fruity or Stern and Hard?
Both! The typical Northern Rhone Syrah needs about five years before it can be approached and appreciated, but modern winemaking can make even the densest versions soft and fruity, ready for immediate consumption.
Here’s Something You may not Know
The more acid in the juice, the redder the color of the wine due to the anthocyanins changing form.