Every wine-enthusiast may believe they know all there is to know about the various types of wines available, but even the most experienced of masters have some trouble distinguishing between Shiraz and Syrah. Both big, bold red wines, there is little to no obvious disparities in both the aesthetics and taste of Shiraz and Syrah, but they remain two different types of wine. Here at Tanglewood, we thought we’d set out the differences between the two wines once and for all, discovering what sets one apart from the other and taking a closer look at how this may or may not affect which one you choose next time you find yourself browsing bottles.
A Quick History
Shiraz and Syrah are like two peas in a pod – quite literally, because they are made from exactly the same grape. Said grape has been around for hundreds of years, with some evidence suggesting it has been around since the ancient Phoenicians times, a civilisation from 3000 years ago that was based in what we now know today as Lebanon. However, more recently, Australian winemakers have re-invented the grape to make it what it is today. The name Shiraz is the capital of Persia and there is evidence that some of the earliest wines were created there, but a close look at the results of DNA testing proves that both Syrah and Shiraz are indigenous to France.
The grape is dark purple in colour and sets an aroma of which most of us would associate with chocolate and black pepper. You may well be sceptical at first, but these notes are so apparent that one winemaker even named her wine The Chocolate Block. It is, perhaps, this unique flavouring that applies to both types of wine that makes it more difficult to differentiate between the two.
Known colloquially as the Australian Sibling, Shiraz is a heavy, fruity wine which gets its sweet flavour from residual sugar. This makes pairing Shiraz with food particularly straightforward to pair with foods. The mouth-filling wine is best enjoyed when it is young, or at least within a few years of when it was made as it is one alcoholic beverage that certainly doesn’t get better with age. Wines coming from the Barossa Valley are renowned for being of high-quality and are available at a range of different price points. Shiraz is a key element in what is often to referred to as Australia’s greatest red wine, Penfold’s Grange. In short, if you have a bottle of Shiraz, chances are it is from somewhere in Australia.
Known as the King Grape of the Northern Rhône region, Syrah is produced with slightly higher levels of tannins than the wine made with the same grape in Australia. Unlike Shiraz, Syrah will benefit from over ten years in the bottle before consumption and with some types, including Côte Rotie and Cornas, this patience is a necessity for enjoying the wine. Syrah is accredited for some of the most fantastic French wines, including Cote du Rhonereds which can be enjoyed on even the most modest of budgets. Other fine wines from this variety of grape include Hermitage, an earthy red with aromas of red berries, leather, earth, cocoa and coffee. If you own a bottle of Syrah, you’ll probably find that it is French.
The main difference between the two wines is not the ingredients used given that they come from the same grape, but the style of winemaking, which results in two very different but equally delicious red wines. Overtime, the choice of Shiraz or Syrah has been used to indicate the style of wine within. For example, a winemaker may bottle a ‘Shiraz’ to convey a rich, lush, ripe and fruit-forward variety in Australian spirit. Alternatively, they may use ‘Syrah’ to describe their wine to indicate a more traditional, Old World approach to fine wine. More recently, these terms have been used inconsistently making it difficult to know whether you are getting a genuine Shiraz or Syrah but observing the country of origin is a good way to start.
Following the widespread success of these wines, other countries have tried to get on board with these variations of red wine, with some experiencing considerable success. South Africa and South America are prime examples of successful newcomers who have utilised the grape to create further adaptions to the wine, with Reyneke Syrah being just one of the many that are becoming increasingly available from all over the world. As more and more wine-producing countries reap the successes of the Syrah/Shiraz grape, it will become even more difficult to distinguish between the two and blurred lines are likely to appear over what characteristics can be used to identify each one.
That concludes our guide to these famous red wines and how you can tell the difference. Whether you love red wine or are just interested in industry, we hope you learned something new and can put your knowledge to the test at the next dinner party. Should you wish to compare the two and find yourself in need of a new wine cabinet to store all your lovely bottles, don’t hesitate to browse our extensive range of wine storage solutions online today! Our cabinets will ensure you can display your Shiraz and Syrah with pride and inform everyone and anyone who asks about the differences between the two.