Also known more frequently in its New World guise as Shiraz, Syrah is one of the most widely planted grape varieties in the world, with a steadily loyal fan base thanks to its unique and characteristic depth and spiciness. Hailing from the Northern Rhône region in France, Syrah wine is also widely grown in Spain and Italy, or – beyond Europe’s borders – in Washington State and Napa Valley in the US, along with Argentina and South Africa, not to mention Australia of course, where this variety is predominant in McLaren Vale and Barossa Valley wines. Indeed, the Barossa Valley is home to the oldest Syrah vines outside of France, thanks to the Australian James Busby, who introduced this grape to the region back in the early 1830s. Incidentally, the area’s prestigious Penfolds winery also produces the most expensive Shiraz, retailing at almost $1000 a bottle.
Any description of Syrah wines has to start with its colour: this is an intense, dark and almost opaque red wine, with a velvety appearance. Indeed, Syrah wines are some of the darkest reds produced worldwide. On the nose, spicy notes of pepper and clove tend to prevail, along with aromas of dark chocolate and tobacco. The mouthfeel is complex and rich, with a fresh finish reminiscent of mint. Of course, these are generalisations: given the variety of regions in which this grape is grown, the resulting wine displays a wide spectrum of specific flavours and aromas, depending on the particular terroir. Syrah wines from cooler climates tend to be lighter, with a tarter flavour and slightly lower alcohol content (below 14%); whilst those from hotter areas are generally punchier, with more fruit and an alcohol content of 14% or more. These are wines which go on evolving as they age – often over multiple decades in their most refined incarnations.
Here at Tannico you will find the best Syrah wine, both as a single varietal but also in a broad range of blends. Indeed, as Syrah is such a powerful, forward-flavoured wine, it is often blended with other grapes to produce a more ‘complete’ or balanced wine. The addition of Cabernet Sauvignon, for example, fills out the drinking experience mid-palate, whilst the fruitier Grenache grape can be used to lift and lighten the overall taste profile. As a single varietal, some of the best Syrah wine is produced in the AOC known as Hermitage: try our Crozes Hermitage Rouge “Les Meysonniers” – Chapoutier for example, or for a special celebration, the “Hermitage Rouge” from the Guigal winery. In Italy, good 100% Syrah wines can be found in Sicily Tuscany for example: try the Sicilia Syrah DOC “Butirah” from the Principi di Butera winery and the Toscana Syrah IGT “Podere 277” from the Campo alle Comete winery respectively.
What food goes well with Syrah wine? Successful pairings with Syrah need to be able to stand up to this wine’s full flavours and relatively high alcohol content. Roast meats will always work well, with fruitier Syrah’s providing a pleasing complement to tomato-based pasta dishes or mushroom risottos, and spicier varieties working well alongside fragrant Asian or Indian dishes. Perhaps more surprisingly, Syrah can also pair well with dark chocolate (60% or more), so can be considered for dessert options, as long as these are not too heavily sugared.
Why not pick a few bottles and hold a Friday night tasting with friends?