What Is a Syrah Wine?

Americans are drinking more wine now than a decade ago. The gradual increase in wine drinking may have something to do with our health concerns — after all, it is widely believed that a few glasses of red wine a week have a significant heart health benefit. Also, wine in moderation is just plain healthier than swilling beer.

There is also the fact that more wine, and a greater variety of wine, is available to us in America. One example of this is the growing popularity of a wine called Syrah.

How Did Shiraz and Syrah Wine Get Their Names?

Known by two names, Syrah and Shiraz, this wine is made from a grape of the same name. The Syrah grape is native to the Rhone valley in France, and is best known in France for its use in Hermitage wine. In Australia, this wine is exclusively referred to as Shiraz, and makes up the majority of Australian wine. There are some excellent Shiraz wines coming out of Australia, and often their price is affordable to most wine lovers. McLaren’s 2004 Linchpin Shiraz is an outstanding example of this dark and mysterious grape, and can be found for under $25 at most wine retailers. Wyndham Estate, also from Australia, produces amazing Shiraz wines, and both their reserve and standard labels can be found for $30 or less.

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Of course, you don’t even have to spend this much to enjoy a good Shiraz. Many domestic bottlers are marketing their Syrah wines as “Australian style Shiraz”. Tomasello Winery, an American winemaker, features Aussie-style Shiraz labels for under $20, some as low as $14.99 suggested retail. Columbia Valley Syrah (note the more common American spelling) will set you back only about $15 and has won more than a few domestic wine awards.

Common Flavor Notes for Syrah Wine

Syrah is known to be a dark colored, heavy red wine. The most common flavor notes for Syrah are blackberry, pepper, plum, and spice, though many wine enthusiasts talk about Syrah in terms of licorice, mocha, etc. It is a relatively complex wine that is easily paired with food, especially spicy “ethnic” foods like Mexican or Indian cuisine, and especially beef dishes.

This dark skinned grape is the 6th most common grape grown for wine in the entire world, and is climbing steadily. Whether this is just a flash in the pan for wine lovers or a long term love affair is yet to be seen. One thing is sure — Syrah blends well with other wines, and this will ensure it will be grown in large numbers for quite a while, as blended reds are themselves some of the more popular wines in the world.

Do not be confused by a similarly named varietal — Petit Sirah — which is a wine made from a different grape entirely from Syrah. While the Durif grape (used to make Petit Sirah) is in fact a cross breed between a Syrah grape and another grape (Peloursin), it produces a completely different wine with its own flavor profiles and history.

It is recommended that Syrah be served around 64 degrees Fahrenheit, which is incredibly warm for wine, even red wine. A good Syrah can be aged for up to five years before enjoying, and this aging process will only serve to further mellow out the spiciness of a good Syrah. So take your time, age your Syrah, cook up a good steak, and enjoy this dark wine native to France but made most popular by the Australians.

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