International Syrah/Shiraz Day
Whenever the occasion calls for it, we do not hesitate to toast with a good glass of wine. But on certain dates it is the wine itself that becomes the object of celebration, to the point that, as we know, once a year each of its most important varieties has its own international celebration. In this respect, Syrah wine is truly privileged, as it enjoys two celebrations: International Syrah Day on February 16, and Shiraz Wine Day in Australia on July 23.
Where does this wine variety come from?
Beyond the dates and the different names, it is the same grape variety, which for many years was surrounded by a halo of mystery due to its supposed legendary origins, associated with ancient Persia and the city of Shiraz, as well as the Greek colony of Syracuse.
However, despite thefact that this wine seemed to come out of the Arabian Nights, scientific tests carried out in the late 1990s have revealed that there is no genetic connection between Syrah grapes and the wines of ancient Shiraz, as previously believed, and it is also the result of an ancient natural cross between the dureza and mondeuse blanche vines, developed on the northern slopes of the Rhone Valley, perhaps since Roman times.
From there, Syrah has expanded to other French regions such as Languedoc-Roussillon and has crossed international borders in a remarkable way to become one of the main grape varieties planted worldwide. In the 19th century Syrah arrived in Australia where, in time, it achieved great success until in the 1950s it became the emblem of Australian viticulture and was renamed Shiraz to differentiate it from the French variety.
Top Syrah producers
According to data from Syrah du Monde®, an association that annually awards the best Syrahs in the world at the ancient Château d’Ampuis in the Rhone Valley, the main producers in order of importance by area under cultivation are France, Australia, Argentina, South Africa, California, Chile, Washington and Italy (especially in the Tuscan area of Cortona, and in Lazio), resulting in wines that encompass a rich sensory range, reflecting such diverse terroirs, climates and winemaking practices.
Syrah has a well-established reputation as one of the great red wines, with strong personality and unique character. It is also used to make delicious rosés and even a sparkling Shiraz, very popular in Australia.
Syrah wines are powerful, but not as strong as Bordeaux or certain Cabernet Sauvignon, and are usually full-bodied. Over-ripening and oak aging add intensity. A glass of this violet-colored wine can contain a wide range of aromas and flavors as it reflects well the personality of its terroir: from violets and dark berries or blackberries to chocolate, coffee, and black pepper. In some cases, the primary flavor and aroma notes are complemented by earthy notes such as leather and truffle.
Syrah or Shiraz?
In terms of naming and labeling, most Australian and South African wines are labeled as shiraz, while most European and Argentine varietal wines use the term Syrah, although the varietal name is not the norm in Europe. In other countries, producers or merchants usually opt for Syrah or Shiraz depending on the style of the wines: “Syrah” for those that resemble the classic wines of the northern Rhône (more elegant, tannic, with smoky flavors and similar fruitiness), and “shiraz” for those more similar to Australian or New World wines (fruitier, less tannic, with more spicy than smoky flavors, more drinkable when young, lighter and sweeter).
Remember that in Europe the varietal name does not have to appear on the label, so the way to find a French Syrah, for example, is to use the specific appellation that uses this grape, often combined with other grape varieties. There are numerous AOC wines made from Syrah as the main grape in France, including the perfumed Côte-Rôtie, fruit of the sunny slopes of the same name, and the more mineralized and tannic Hermitage, both in the northern Rhône Valley, or the Chateauneuf-du-Pape, further south in the valley, recognized by the papal coat of arms engraved on the wine bottles, in homage to its use in the court of the Avignon popes.
At this point we could ask ourselves if the review we have shared about syrah/shiraz has contributed to end its mystery or if it has awakened even more curiosity. Isn’t wine, each wine in particular, a mystery in itself? If each uncorking brings us a new surprise and sensation, the world of possibilities of a varietal as far-traveling as Syrah is an inexhaustible mirror of the landscapes it inhabits today. So, on the occasion of its celebration, we invite you to open a bottle of Syrah as if it were an Aladdin’s lamp and let yourself be transported on a magic carpet of perfumes and flavors to distant lands, from the Rhone and Tuscany to California, from Australia to the Andes Mountains.
Happy day, Syrah!