Shiraz, one of the most popular grape varieties in the UK is a particular favourite here in the north.
Its warm, spicy nature is ideal for those damp evenings and accompanying warming winter stews, casseroles, steaks and even sausage and mash!
The Shiraz grape is called Syrah in France (pronounced Sirraaahhh). In fact, Syrah is its original name, so how did it come to be called Shiraz?
It’s a long and complicated story, and some of it is legend or myth, but I’ll try to explain.
As protected designations for regional wines emerged there were a few clashes where new world wines had adopted the European
regional names when making wines with same or similar grapes.
This was the case with Syrah and the Rhone region of Hermitage.
It was common for the name Hermitage to be used in Australia for Syrah wines, although the grape variety was the only similarity between these wines and Hermitage wines (and even that was dubious in some cases). So in order to avoid problems in certain market places, the Australians chose to use Shiraz to describe wines made from this grape.
Why? Well there was a long-held belief that the grape’s origins lay in the old Persian capital Shiraz and so this seemed a natural choice to make.
However, in 1998 a DNA study of the grape found that it was the offspring of two ancient French grape varieties Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche.
Interestingly, the two names Syrah and Shiraz have now both been adopted across New World wineries in Chile, California, Argentina and South Africa and
often chosen depending on the style – lighter, more elegant wines taking the Syrah name while Shiraz has become synonymous with big fruit-bomb high-alcohol wines.
Both have a place in the market and both categories can produce some delicious wines.
In Australia the Barossa Valley is famous for its unctuous juicy Shiraz with hints of pepper and vanilla from oaking with South African regions following suit.
If you want to compare the two styles try these examples….
Peter Lehmann H&V Shiraz. The late Peter Lehmann from the Barossa was known as Mr Shiraz and a great wine-maker. Aged in French and American oak this delicious 14.5% wine is fleshy fruit and spice with concentrated blackcurrant and bramble, hints of coffee and dark chocolate. A classic Aussie Shiraz from Majestic.
Domaine Pochon Crozes-Hermitage. The area of Crozes-Hermitage surrounds the smaller and rarer Hermitage and similarly makes wines from 100% Syrah. A rich wine with blackcurrant aromas and a hint of liquorice. Lively acidity, and a hint of smoky spice. Available from Waitrose.
Porcupine Ridge Shiraz made by Boekenhoutskloof the ‘Chocolate Block’ people this French oak matured wine is rich and powerful with dark fruit and loads of pepper.
This one is available from both Sainsbury’s and Waitrose.
Woolloomoolloo Shiraz from DVino, another classic Aussie Shiraz but a little more restrained than the Peter Lehmann with ripe berries, pepper, a touch of mint and vanilla from oaking in French and American barrels.