Wine reviews – By Michael Wolsey
Syrah is the main grape used in the production of red wine from France’s northern Rhône region. In southern Rhône it is more often a blending grape.
Exactly the same dark-skinned grape is grown in Australia but there they call it Shiraz. Same grape – but different soil and different methods of production give a different wine. You might know they were cousins but you would never call them brothers.
Shiraz wines are full bodied with an intense ripe fruit taste – think plum, blackberry or cherry. Names to look for include Yellow Tail, Lindeman, and Gumdale and, generally, they are not expensive, around €10 a bottle.
Syrah wines are lighter, more complex – same fruit flavours but not as intense, which suits me but is not to everyone’s taste. Look for such names as Hermitage, Saint-Joseph, and Côte Rôti.
You will pay at lot for the Grand Crus but in general French Syrahs retail around €12.
The grape is also grown in California, South America and New Zealand and manufacturers confuse the issue further by using both names depending on the style of wine they are producing: Shiraz, fruity and bright; Syrah, spicey and light.
According to the Guardian’s wine critic, Australian Shiraz can “taste of baked pencils in the Hunter Valley, cough syrup in the BarossaValley (arguably its spiritual home), chocolate in McLaren Vale and black pepper in cooler parts of Victoria and New South Wales.”
I’m sure he’s right. Who would argue with a man who knows what baked pencils taste like?