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The Syrah Wine Grape:
The Great Red of the Rhône

Syrah Wine Grape

Syrah has been appreciated as a truly fine varietal for a long time, with the wines from Hermitage in the northern Rhône revered by connossieurs even during the 18th century. Unquestionably, the grape's popularity has only increased in the past several decades, driven at least in part by the arrival of Australia's tremendous production of 'Shiraz' (the same thing as Syrah).

The History of Syrah

Syrah is an ancient grape variety that originated in the Northern Rhône from two more humble parent varieties sometime around the 1st century A.D. Because the grape is bottled as 'Shiraz' in Australia, some suggested perhaps the grape came instead from the town Shirazi in Iraq, but DNA testing has shown that its true origins are in the Rhône.

Qualities of the Syrah Grape

Extremely dark-skinned, Syrah tends to be more hearty than other fine varietals and can be grown well in a wider range of climates. When planted in warmer zones such as the southern Rhône and Australia's interior, the grapes show much riper character although can become less balanced, and frequently warm-region Syrah is used in blends. For single-varietal bottlings where the grape must stand fullly on its own, cooler climates such as the Northern Rhône provide excellent conditions.

Syrah Wine Characteristics

Body: heavy
Tannins: medium to heavy
Acidity: medium
Flavors: dark fruit, especially blackberry and black currant, as well as black pepper and savory gamy notes

Regions Where Syrah is Grown

- France's Rhône Valley - northern Rhône bottlings contain only Syrah for reds; in the southern Rhône, Syrah is blended and Grenache may be the predominant grape 
- France's Languedoc-Roussillon, where Syrah is frequently blended with other varietals
- Australia, where it is the country's most popular red grape
- in the U.S., throughout California as well as in Washington state
- To a smaller extent in Chile and Argentina

Syrah Fast Facts

- Bottled by regional name in France's Rhône Valley and Languedoc-Roussillon
- Bottled by varietal name outside of France
- Also bottled as 'Shiraz' in Australia and occasionally in other New World regions
- Villages of the Rhône: Hermitage, Côte-Rotie. Cornas, St. Joseph, Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Chateauneuf-du-Pape
- Famous Producers: Jean-Louis Chave, E. Guigal, Chateau Beaucastel, Penfolds, Tablas Creek
- Some vintages can be drunk young, but wines can also have excellent aging potential: 10 - 30 years

Syrah  Wine & Food Pairing

- Delicious paired with hearty cheeses and meats, especially those with a bit more 'gaminess' to them such as lamb
- Easy Food and Wine pairings with Syrah:
    NY Strip Steak with Red Wine Sauce & Parmesan Fries
     Ribeye Steak with Creamed Spinach & Garlic Mashed Potatoes
     Grilled Salmon with Creamy Dill Sauce
     Porcini Mushroom Asparagus Risotto
     Braised Lamb Shoulder Chops with Mint Gremolata

Here are some of our favorites:

2006 Novy Syrah, Santa Lucia Highlands 
Impeccably balanced, slightly earthy/gamey flavors play off the mushrooms deliciously. ($30)

2006 Luca Syrah, Mendoza, Argentina
A blend with 30% Malbec, deep red fruit flavors and pepperiness are matched by a sauve body. ($26)

2008 E. Guigal, Côtes du Rhône
Guigal is a great producer, top to bottom. Their entry-level Côtes du Rhone is a great value. ($10)

Delas Côtes du Rhône 'St. Esprit'
Wow! We can't believe this wine is only $12. Elegant and balanced, with nice complexity and excellent fruit quality. ($12)

2007 Chateau Pesquié, Côtes du Ventoux "Cuvée des
         Terrasses"

A smoky, gamy touch on the nose echoes the flavors from the grill. Full yet balanced. ($11)


Next Variety:  Tempranillo Wine Grape

 



 

 


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