Mailbag Monday: Syrah vs. Shiraz?

Dear Alleigh:
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!

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  1. Courtney says

    I did not know that they are made differently. I was always under the impression that they are the same grape. Thanks for the tidbit!

    • says

      Courtney…they are the same grape, so you’re impression is right. It’s just that the grape is handled differently to make wine that tastes different, which results in the two different variation on the name.

      And, you’re welcome for the bit of wine trivia! I’m always happy to share. 🙂

  2. Kami says

    This caused me a lot of trouble and confusion for a while, because I knew they were the same grape, and I knew that many Syrah/Shiraz wines had a quality that I hated, while others I loved. I knew what the taste was that I didn’t like, but I couldn’t describe it or name it, so I just steered clear of all of those wines. I finally learned – from a lovely bartender at Lela Bar in the West Village in NYC (highly recommend) – that the flavor I hate is from the cask that is used in most Australian Shiraz. I think it might be something like eucalyptus or menthol or something? In any case, it was a huge revelation when I could finally identify what I didn’t like and made it so that I could order Syrah. Hooray!

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