on the grapevine

SAM WYLIE-HAR­RIS ON... WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SHI­RAZ

Bangor Mail - - The Food Focus -

BUY­ING wine can be com­pli­cated, es­pe­cially if the la­bel’s in French or Ital­ian. But one thing we do seem to be con­fi­dent about is our taste for shi­raz – the UK’s top sell­ing va­ri­etal red over the past year.

But do you know your shi­raz from your syrah? We look at the story be­hind its suc­cess and why it’s such a win­ner for ev­ery­day en­joy­ment...

WHY DOES IT HAVE TWO NAMES?

SHI­RAZ and syrah are the same grape. It’s syrah in France and shi­raz in Aus­tralia – other re­gions use ei­ther name.

France’s Rhone val­ley is its spir­i­tual home, but shi­raz is the most planted grape in Aus­tralia.

The Per­sian city of Shi­raz is ac­tu­ally cited as be­ing its ori­gin. Ac­cord­ing to leg­end, a cru­sad­ing knight took some cut­tings home to Her­mitage in the Rhone Val­ley, and the name was changed to syrah.

WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?

IT all de­pends where it’s grown. There’s pow­er­ful Her­mitage with pep­pery, earthy, smoky fruit or more delicate, fra­grant, rasp­berry en­riched Cote-Rotie from the north­ern Rhone wine re­gion.

Aus­tralian shi­raz is richer, softer and inkier with the same pep­pery, spicy char­ac­ter – some­times more leath­ery choco­latey notes.

Or as Cather­ine Fal­lis, mas­ter som­me­lier and au­thor of Ten Grapes To Know (Coun­try­man Press, £14.99) writes: “If I am French, I am shy and re­luc­tant but worth seek­ing out. If I am from Aus­tralia, I am an open book – pleas­ant, friendly and for the most part will go with the flow.

WILL IT IM­PROVE WITH AGE?

EX­U­BER­ANT shi­raz such as a Pen­folds St Henri Shi­raz 2015 (£68, Laith­waite’s) are built to last. This rich, plush red is ready to en­joy now, but the sug­gested drink­ing win­dow is from 2020 to 2045. Pen­folds is Aus­tralia’s most iconic win­ery and its flag­ship shi­raz, Grange, is one of the most fa­mous and ex­pen­sive wines in the world.

In France, Her­mitage re­mains one of the coun­try’s most pres­ti­gious wines with the po­ten­tial to age for many decades.

WHAT SHOULD I PAIR IT WITH?

THIS full bod­ied red loves red meats but keep hot, fiery spice at bay.

Bot­tles from the Langue­doc re­gion in the south of France, Chile and of course the juicy, spicy, Aussie shi­raz most of us guz­zle, are the best value for money – and re­li­ably good.

Shi­raz/syrah is made the world over, but each vine­yard brings its own char­ac­ter

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