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Syrah, shiraz—same thing, right? Well, sort of. Although wines by both names are produced from the same variety of grape, the style of winemaking, and thus the flavors, associated with each is quite different.
Shiraz is a dark-skinned grape variety used to make medium to full-bodied red wines. Its parent grapes are dureza and mondeuse blanche. Shiraz is used to make both monovarietal wines and blends. In the case of the latter, shiraz is frequently blended with cabernet sauvignon.
Shiraz and syrah are simply two different names for the same grape variety. However, over time, the connotations associated with these names have come to signify different styles of wine. Syrah is nearly always the term used for the wine produced in Old World wine regions (think France), whereas New World wine regions (like Australia, California, Chile and South Africa, to name a few) now use either shiraz or syrah. Wines labeled syrah tend to be more restrained, earthy and floral, whereas those called shiraz are usually lusher, riper and more fruit-driven on the palate. The syrah grape originates from France; however, wines produced from this grape referred to as shiraz find their origins in Australia.
Shiraz is made in a variety of styles although, more often than not, the wines tend to be big and bold. The flavor profiles of shiraz are heavily dependent on the vinification techniques used; it’s vinified and aged in a variety of vessels, ranging from oak to steel, cement and beyond.
Wines labeled shiraz tend to be jammy, full-bodied and loaded with ripe fruit-driven flavors of red and black fruits, licorice, plums, anise, tobacco, leather and/or sweet spice. The tannins in shiraz are generally softer and more approachable than those found in syrah, and the acidity is usually relatively high.
Shiraz’s bold fruit-driven flavor profiles make the wine perfect for sipping with grilled meats and veggies, barbecue favorites, hearty stews, juicy hamburgers or veggie burgers and more.
These are five shiraz bottles that will get you acquainted with the grape.
This estate-produced shiraz oozes with flavors of blackberries, licorice, nutmeg, citrus zest and smoked meats. Think of it as Old World winemaking meets New World fruit. Bright acid and smooth well-integrated tannins lead to a complex and savory finish. Sip it slightly chilled.
The Chook Sparkling
For a fun, fizzy twist on everyone’s favorite Australian red, look no further than The Chook. Notes of blackberries, blueberry jam, licorice and black tea lead to a soft and velvety finish. Lovers of lambrusco, you absolutely need this in your glass. Serve it chilled with pizza, cured meats or pasta with red sauce.
D’Arenberg The Footbolt
Produced by one of Australia’s most eccentric winemakers, Chester Osborn, this weighty palate-coating wine is just as vibrant as the man who makes it. Notes of blackberry jam, red fruits, pepper and sweet spice are balanced by fine-grained tannins and juicy acidity. This bottle is an absolute steal for the price.
After spending numerous years discovering Australia’s viticultural scene, American master sommelier Jonathan Ross took to the vines himself and founded Micro Wines. Fruit for this wine is sourced from Bannockburn Estate in Geelong and is 20% whole-bunch fermented in steel tanks, followed by 12 months of lees-aging in large casks. Lively notes of plums, cured meats, briny olives and salt lead to a pleasantly well-balanced finish.
Penfolds Koonunga Hill
This classic Australian shiraz comes from one of the country’s oldest wineries, founded in 1844. Notes of ripe forest berries, raspberry compote, bramble and sweet spice harmoniously collide on the palate and lead to a long-lasting finish. (The estate also makes a bold yet balanced shiraz-cabernet sauvignon blend. For a delicious and affordable side-by-side comparison, you know what to do.)