“Que Syrah Syrah” Shiraz/Syrah, is there a difference? Part 1

This is probably THE most asked question I’ve come across over the years and in honesty, the answer is unresolvedly YES!!! There is a difference.

Firstly, the spelling is different!!!Oh ha, ha, ha, I’m so funny!!! But herein lies an interesting fact. The comparison between Australian Shiraz and to be more specific American Syrah is based on historic principles more than those driven by the consumers. The American wine industry was very much heavily influenced by the French in its infancy, and still is in some ways more so than the Australian industry.

Because of this, early grape vine material was imported and made with the ideas and philosophies based on French winemaking from the home of Syrah in France, the Rhone Valley. Co-fermenting with Viognier, blending with white varietals such as Marsanne and Roussanne in the North and red varietals of Grenache, Mourvedre, Carignan and Cinsault in the South, fermenting with whole clusters (stalks and all, not just the berries) gave the American winescape a very different beginning than in Australia.

Australia looked at this variety and jumped, boots and all into producing high alcohol, fortified wines like Ports and Sherry’s at the time, high in sugar and very ripe from our “endless sunshine” climate. For us Aussies, it was more a process of yield, sugar, alcohol and get it to market for our early explorer’s enjoyment. America had the same demand for wine of this style, but for them, the workhorse of the US wine industry was Zinfandel, but more on that in another post.

But times have changed, the great Australian workhorse, Shiraz has morphed and is now used in everything from white wine (the juice is clean, the skins are red), rose’s, sparklings and fortifieds but thankfully the focus over the past few decades has been on table wine, cool, warm and hot climate, big and juicy to finely balanced and darn near “elegant”. I’ll talk about the stylistic differences next up!!!

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