Syrah Vs. Shiraz – DING! DING! DING!

What’s the difference between Syrah and Shiraz?
This is a very common question and while it may be common wine logic to some, it’s still a mystery to the average wine drinker.  Syrah and Shiraz are the same grape.  The difference between Shiraz and Syrah comes down to style.

Shiraz is what “Syrah” is called in Australia; everywhere else around the world it’s called Syrah. The only exception is it’s sometimes called Shiraz in regions like South Africa and Chile.  Whether it’s French Syrah, Italian Syrah or Australian Shiraz it’s all the same grape;  it’s just a different style of wine depending on where it’s from.

Syrah made its mark in the Rhone River Valley wine region of France. In the Northern Rhone Syrah is the grape of the famous sub-regions Cornas, St.Joseph and Hermitage. In the Southern Rhone Syrah is part of the blend used to make Chateauneuf Du Pape, Gigondas and Cotes du Rhone.

WINE TIP: When you see a bottle of wine labeled St.Joseph, Cornas, Hermitage or Croze-Hermitage the wine you are drinking/buying is Syrah.

Syrah Characteristics
Medium to Full Body
Medium Tannins
Medium to High Acidity
Flavors/Aroma/Bouquet: Blackberry, Blueberry, Black Pepper, White Pepper, Smoke, Bacon Fat, Cassis, Mint, Floral

Here’s where Shiraz differs:
Shiraz shares the characteristics listed up above. In Australia however, they generally make a more extracted, fuller-bodied riper style of wine. Some might call Shiraz a fruit bomb, but there plenty of excellent producers of Shiraz in Australia who can make very well-balanced less extracted styles.

But hey, those fruit-bomb high alcohol styles of Shiraz are some of the best easy drinking wines you can get.

Syrah from France tends to be less extracted, lower alcohol with less of the juicy ripe fruit-forward style you get from Australia. You can still get a riper style, just not to the extent of Australia.

Washington State also specializes in Syrah. You could say Washington Syrah makes a style in between the styles of France and Australia.

WINE FACT: Syrah and Shiraz are sometimes blended with Viognier (a white wine) to soften the wine.

Favorite Syrah Producers:
French Syrah – J.Chave, Alain Voge and Guigal
Italian Syrah – Armille
Washington Syrah – DeLille, Owen Roe and Charles Smith

Favorite Shiraz Producers:
Australian Shiraz – D’Arenberg, Mollydooker, Torbreck, Two Hands and Yalumba.

WINE FACT:  G.S.M. is a term you will hear regarding wines from California, mainly Paso Robles.  It stands for the three grapes in the blend:  Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre.  Those are also the main components of the Southern Rhone Blends mentioned earlier.

Yours Truly,
-The Modern Somm

7 comments

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  • A number of Australian wineries label their shiraz as “syrah” these days. Really to differentiate their wines from the warm climate South Australian style that people probably see more of in the United States – especially because of Robert Parker’s influence there. (The examples you give are exactly the kind of RPJ favourites I am talking about.) New Zealand wineries tend to do the same, like those from Hawke’s Bay, and with a lot of success I think. Other wineries making a shiraz in cool-climate regions like Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, Geelong and Sunbury (all of these are in Victoria by the way) put “shiraz” on the label and they are a world away from the shiraz you usually get from the Barossa and McLaren Vale shiraz that most American drinkers might be more familiar with.

    • Oh wow, that’s really interesting. I’ve never seen a bottle of “Syrah” from Australia, but like you said, it’s about what we get here in the states and yes, we all know that Robert Parker loves his robust wines. Any producers of Australian Syrah that you recommend I try out?

  • From Australia – Oakridge 864 Winery Block Syrah, Clarendon Hills Syrah (various labels), Witches Fall Syrah, Head Wines Syrah, Sutton Grange Estate Syrah, X by Xabregas Syrah (various labels), De Bortoli Estate Syrah (and a Reserve label), Jamsheed Syrah (there are various vineyard labels), Rochford Syrah, Punt Road Syrah, Clonakilla Syrah (the SV without the viognier), Larry Cherubino Syrah, SC Pannell Syrah, Punch Bannockburn Vineyards Syrah, Nazaaray Syrah, macforbes Gruyere Syrah, Luke Lambert Reserve Syrah, Domaine Carlei Syrah (various ones), Battely Syrah (try this one from Beechworth), Castagna Genesis Syrah (try this biodynamic one from Beechworth) and Curlewis Syrah (and this one from Geelong).

    A very short list of Australian shiraz (and very different to the ones you listed) that you might look for – Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier, Paringa Estate Shiraz (or the Reserve label), Voyager Estate Shiraz, Craiglee Shiraz, Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz, Seppelt St Peters Shiraz, Port Phillip Estate Quartier Shiraz (or the Serenne), Howard Park Scotsdale Shiraz (or the Leston), Dalwhinnie Moonambel Shiraz (or the Eagle if you can find it), Tahbilk 1860 Vines Shiraz (or even the standard label shiraz with a bit of age on it).

    A few from Hawke’s Bay in New Zealand that have fans – Te Awa Syrah, Te Mata Estate Bullnose Syrah (also their Woodthorpe Syrah), Trinity Hill Homage Syrah, Stonecroft Wines Reserve Syrah, Eske Valley Syrah and Craggy Range Gimblet Gravels Vineyard Syrah.

  • Great post! I recently posted on Syrah/Shiraz vs Petite Sirah. I love the Boom! Boom! Syrah (and really all Charles Smith wines). I often wondered why you often see Viognier blended with Syrah – great info, thanks!

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