This grape is known
as Syrah in France
and Shiraz in Australia.
In the United States, it can appear under either name depending
on the style of the winery. The grape is thought to be named
for a city in Persia (Shiraz) where it probably originated.
It produces full rich wines of intense color and flavor.
In warmer climates like Australia, the grape produces wines
that are sweeter and riper tasting. In cooler climates like
the Rhone valley of France, it often has more pepper and spice
aromas and flavors. Syrah usually becomes drinkable at an
early age and most are produced for consumption within a year
after release (2rd year from harvest). On the other hand,
there are Syrah/Shiraz examples of very long lived wines such
as Hermitage in France and Penfold's Grange in Australia.
brought into southern France by a returning crusader, Guy
De'Sterimberg. He became a hermit and developed a vineyard
on a steep hill where he lived where he lived in the Rhone
River Valley. It became known as the Hermitage.
The use of Syrah spread in the Rhone River Valley of France
and it is now very important to the best wines of that region.
It is often blended with Grenache and is an essential grape
in the production of Chateauneuf du Pape.
The grape was introduced
to Australia in 1832 by James Bushby who brought in vines
of several varieties from Europe. By 1844 Shiraz was a recommended
variety for Australia
in Sir William Macarthur's Letters based on his own research
and experience. For at least its first hundred years in Australia,
Shiraz was used as a 'field blend' variety and not vinified
separately. It's late blooming nature suited the warmer growing
conditions found in Australia.
In Australia, Shiraz
has found a real home. The Shiraz grape is the most widely
planted red grape variety in Australia where it is sometimes
blended with Cabernet
Sauvignon or occasionally
Whether in France,
Australia or elsewhere, this grape has shown it can create
some fabulous wines in the right conditions. It is important
to find the right site for planting and to restrict the growth
of the vine and its crop to achieve the best results.
As a side note,
there is a grape variety (group is probably a better definition)
in California called Petite Syrah. This name probably originally
applied to Syrah vines that were brought from the Rhone valley
(possibly from the Hermitage) around 1870. In the years since
that time, the name has been applied to a great many old red
grape vines in California. It has included what we now know
to be Durif, Peloursin and many others. In short, Petite Syrah
has nearly become a generic name rather than a true indication
of a grape variety.