Darren Barefoot.
Photo by Darren Barefoot

The traditional Syrah gained its reputation in the Rhone region of France (note that this is the same region which the white grape Viognier gained its reputation: think of Syrah as Viognier’s red counterpart; and note that French vintners often add a little Viognier to their Syrahs). The Rhone region also grows several other grapes, and a combination of some or all of these are known as a Rhone blend.

When young, Syrahs are tannic, very peppery, and can have tar and spice qualities. When they age, they mature into a wine with dark fruits like blackberries, plums and cherries, and tar flavors are replaced with subtle smokiness. Sometimes there is a “pork fat” flavor and mouth coating found in Syrahs.

Syrah is the most widely planted grape in Australia, where they label it “Shiraz.” It is technically the same grape, but be cautious: the grape is often vinified (another word for grown/produced) into a very different tasting wine. Australian wines are typically very fruity, (they have gained the nickname “fruit bombs”).