I’m having a disagreement with a friend of mine and I hope you can resolve it. She says that Shiraz and Syrah are not the same thing but I thought they were. Are they the same?
Syrah and Shiraz are the same grape, however, the style in which the wines are made are often very different. As one of the Wine Ladies likes to ask, which one are we opening tonight…the one with the “h” or the one with the “z.”
Syrah is most often associated with French wines, in particular those from the Rhône Valley. It is the dominant grape in wines from Northern Rhône—most notably Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie—and is usually only blended with a little Viognier. However, Syrah is also a component of the Grenache-dominated blends in the Southern Rhône, like my favorite Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Shiraz is the Australian name for Syrah. Shiraz tends to be a bigger, jammier, more fruit-forward wine than the French-styled Syrah because the Shiraz is usually made with riper grapes.
There is an increasing number of Syrahs coming from both California and Washington State, as well as from Chile. As both the U.S. and Chilean wines tend to emulate the less fruity, more peppery, spicy style of the Rhône wines, they are usually labeled Syrah. Countries like South Africa that have adopted the fruitier, riper Australian-style tend to label their wines as Shiraz.
Hope this helps end the disagreement, and maybe you and your friend can grab a bottle of French Syrah and Australian Shiraz to see what you think. It is fascinating how the same grape can make wines that taste so completely different.
Question of the Day: Do you have a preference between Syrah and Shiraz?
Thanks for emailing! Cheers!