Shiraz or Syrah? Who had it first? Where did it come from? There is plenty of debate as to the origins of this ever-popular grape. The French claim it as theirs (of course!), but there seems to be some evidence to suggest that it may have been brought to France from Persia (now Iran), from the wine-making town, Shiraz. The cuttings brought to Australia from France in 1831, were labelled “Scyras.” So who knows?
Whatever its origins, it is now grown across the globe. In France, the Rhone appellations of Hermitage and Cote-Rotie produce some of the most highly acclaimed Syrah in the world. But it is the New World where Shiraz has had the biggest impact. From cooler climate styles that show a lighter, more elegant combination of pepper spice, red fruits and vegetal notes, to the bigger, warm climate styles of jammy, black fruits, vanilla oak and high alcohol, Shiraz is as popular as it is versatile. Major Australian regions producing Shiraz are the Hunter Valley, McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley (home of Penfolds Grange), Eden Valley (home of Henschke Hill of Grace) and Heathcote in Victoria.
In the “Shiraz vs. Syrah” debate, “Syrah” is usually used to define the lighter, cooler climate style of wine (like the original Rhone wines), and “Shiraz” tends to describe the bigger, full-bodied, warm climate style. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you call it – it makes great wines!