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