The origin of Syrah is still debated by many. According to popular myth, Syrah comes from Shiraz, a city in Iran; brought from the Middle East to the South of France by a knight called Gaspard de Sterimberg in the aftermath of a crusade in the 13th Century.
This has been the popular origin story for many years, and was the reason behind the variety having the name Shiraz in the new world: James Busby, who brought the grape over from France to Australia, wrote in his diaries about its origin being from Persia. However, in 1999 DNA testing was done on Syrah and found it to be a natural crossing between two local varieties to the Rhône Valley (Douresa & Mondeuse Blanche). Despite the scientific discovery, many people are still divided as to where Syrah/Shiraz really came from. Wherever the grape originates from, and wherever it is now grown does nothing to stop it from making some incredible wines.
Syrah can be characterised by different fruit flavours but consistently presents flavours and aromas of pepper. This spice-driven wine has created a fantastic reputation for itself all over the world, generally relying on warm weather & sunshine to ripen well, allowing time for development of flavour and absorption of terroir.
For our wine club at the beginning of October 2017, we selected four very different examples from very different locations to showcase this unique grape:
Delas Frères, Crozes-Hermitage "Les Launes”, 2015
The region that this wine originates from is found on the outside of Hermitage, and is one of the best locations to find Syrah in France. Becoming an AOC in 1937, this wine-growing area has become Rhone’s largest. An element that makes this iteration of Syrah stand out from others is that wines from the area often have a floral note to them.
This wine is fermented in temperature controlled conditions and in open top concrete vats, allowing for a unique preservation of the core elements of the variety - in particular the tannins. The grapes have also been de-stalked pre-fermentation for a purer flavour. This Crozes-Hermitage has a wonderful nose full of cassis and plum notes, with a bouquet of violets softening the strength of the fruit. On the palate, the wine has a strong tannic structure, soft dark fruit flavours, and a long finish that allows for that ground black pepper spice to come through gently. It’s a powerful wine, perfect for grilled meats or even chocolate, which would help to soften those intense tannins.
Shiraz, Kanu, South Africa, 2014
This South-African number is basket pressed which creates a very different style of Shiraz; the wine is pressed through a large basket, allowing the juices to flow through the holes in-between the weavings. This aids in extracting the delicate flavours of the wine, and helps to soften the tannins.
On the nose, the wine is full of morello cherries, black plums, chocolate and mocha sweetness, stewed rhubarb and even a eucalyptus finish. On the palate, the wine opens with tartness of the rhubarb, followed by the sweetness of dark cherries, and ends with the peppery and cedar spice. A vanilla sweetness from oak coats the mouth along with a pleasant sensation for the wine’s soft tannins. This wine is a sumptuous roast dinner accompaniment, with plenty of complex notes and flavours that create a harmonious balance between texture and palate.
Syrah, Feudo Arancio, Mezzacorona, Sicily, 2015
Mezzacorona is a fantastic wine co-operative that has a number of estates across Italy, all governed by the intention of creating wine that is sustainable throughout its lifecycle. Sustainability is the desire the restore and maintain the land for the grapes, and taking care of the environment as you do so. The wine industry interestingly is the most sustainable out of all food industries in the world, because it relies so heavily on terroir and its intricacies in order to create variety in wine and great flavour.
This particular branch of their co-operative is based in Sicily, and the wine is a very interesting and unique one, displaying the subtleties of the Sicilian terroir perfectly. On the nose, there is an underlying presence of white pepper, with wild blueberry and blackberry fruit aromas, and a refreshing creamy aroma honed by oak sweetness. There is also a herbaceous note of thyme and other warming herbs, reminiscent of the Sicilian countryside and terroir. On the palate, it’s like having blueberry jam and cream to begin with, followed by velvet tannins and herbaceous notes, leaving a lingering sensation of the soft white pepper to finish.
This wine is fantastic for bold flavoured dishes and complex herb based cuisine as it offers a balance between sweetness, texture and spice.
Shiraz, Irvine “The Estate”, Eden Valley, 2015
This is old vine shiraz, meaning the intensity of the fruits is greater since these older, gnarled vines produce a much smaller yield in comparison to something younger or grafted; this means that these smaller batches are concentrated with more flavor complexity and intensity. What singles out this vineyard is their passion not only for the wine, but for the heritage of their vineyard, terroir, and the grape variety themselves; they aim to create a more elegant and sophisticated Shiraz than connotations of the Aussie staple allow for, and tasting the wine you can certainly see the direction in which they’re aiming.
The nose of this 2015 vintage opens with liquorice root spice with rich black fruits, and fresh ground coffee adding a subtle bitterness to counter balance the sweetness of an underlying marzipan aroma. The palate is rich, soft and well rounded, with delicate tannins interplaying with the juicy blackberry, dark cherry, and chocolate flavours. The mineral and peppery spice persists on the palate, creating a bold new world wine with an old world feel.
Shiraz & Syrah are not one style of wine, not even one style of grape with one history. Syrah is the richness of the terroir’s earth and the care of the winemaker; able to play with sweetness, spice, and tannin, and despite its sheer capacity for variance, Syrah/Shiraz is undoubtedly a wine meant to warm the soul with sunshine and spice.
Pairings hosted our regular wine club, with the theme of Syrah/Shiraz, on the 12th of October. Our wine club occurs on the first Monday of every month. If you're curious about our future events, they can be found here