Hi everyone, Marc Supsic here, partner wine expert of WTSO.com. International Syrah day is February 16th so I thought it would be fun to talk a little about the grape and the wines that it makes!
The History of Syrah
The Syrah grape is from France, where it’s been used for centuries to make exquisite, full-bodied and complex red wines. In the Rhône Valley, close to the Mediterranean, the Syrah grape thrives in the warm climate. Here it’s used to make single variety wines like Cornas, Hermitage and St. Joseph, but it’s also used to blend into wines like Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
The grape enjoys huge success in Australia too, where it’s known as Shiraz.
Unfortunately it’s been less popular in the United States, and that’s in part due to how grapes came to America, particularly California, in the 1800s. Simply put, Europe’s most famous varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinot Noir, got here first. And with Napa winemaking icons like Robert Mondavi, Cabernet and Merlot gained momentum while Syrah largely went unnoticed.
The good news is that since the 90s Syrah has been coming into its own in California. Winemakers are finding that it does better in warmer locations like Paso Robles and Santa Barbara. And now there are a few wineries in Baja California, Arizona and Texas that champion the grape too.
What Does Syrah Taste Like?
When grown properly, Syrah is an explosion of dark fruit flavors. I always say if you could taste the color purple, this would be it. Imagine a powerful red wine, full of candied blackberry preserves, sometimes chocolate or licorice in the mid-palate, and a spicy black pepper finish.
As Syrah or Shiraz ages, it’s well-known for its musky, animal like smell. It can even have a slightly meaty and savory quality which adds a level of complexity.
When Syrah is used to blend into red wine types like Châteauneuf-du-Pape, it’s put there to add some body, fruit and spice. Its distinct musky notes and pepper are usually detectable in an older bottle of CdP.
In general, wine drinkers say that Old World Syrah is more light, acidic and savory, with more of that musky meaty quality, whereas New World Syrah and Shiraz shows more emphasis on the fruit, spice and overall power.
So there’s our quick dive into Syrah for International Syrah Day! We’ll be be tasting a Châteauneuf-du-Pape in our upcoming Premium Wine Club tasting. If you’d more information about joining us for future wine tasting sets, visit Wines ‘Til Sold Out.