26 May Profile: The Shiraz Grape
You love Shiraz, but how much do you know about the wine grape itself? As one might expect of such a mighty grape, it has an interesting history and is now one of the most widely cultivated red wine grape varieties in the world. Read on to be the most knowledgeable person in the room the next time someone starts talking about Shiraz.
Shiraz, a.k.a. Syrah
First of all, why is Shiraz sometimes called Syrah? They are just two different names for the exact same red wine and grape. Though the terms aren’t really used consistently, Syrah can be considered the French version because it is the main red wine grape of the Northern Rhône and often used for blending with other varietals such as Viognier in the Southern Rhône. Australian winemakers often call the same grape Shiraz. So the name is simply a function of the source of your wine.
The history of the Shiraz grape
So much has been lost to antiquity that no one really knows how long the grape has been in existence. What we do know is that Pliny the Elder, a Roman author writing in the early days after Christ, wrote that the Shiraz vines were called Allobrogica at the time. Since Romans derived much of their culture from the even more ancient, advanced Greek society, it’s possible that Syrah was around in the much earlier heyday of the Greeks, which would make it one of the oldest grape varieties known to man!
The Syrah grape caught on in France in a big way in the 1960s. But a hundred years before that, Thomas Jefferson himself was collecting – and raving about the properties of – Shiraz.
Fun facts about the Shiraz grape
Now you can impress people at parties and win trivia games with these fun Shiraz grape facts:
- The Shiraz grape is planted all over the world, but in France more than any other country; it has over 70,000 hectares in that country alone.
- Shiraz is the world’s 6th most planted grape (Cabernet Sauvignon steals the top spot)
- Shiraz was likely the result of a random crossing of a red and a white grape
- Unlike some other wines, shiraz is best aged –for decades
Food pairings for Shiraz
Wines from the Shiraz grape go well with a wide variety of foods, but especially with meats that are grilled or roasted, from game birds to beef, pork and chicken. It’s the perfect wine to serve with a hearty bowl of stew – and equally with the cheese plate that comes after the main meal. No wonder it’s so popular in Canada, where the cold climate makes people reach for comfort food and the accompanying comfort wine. It makes sense that Shiraz tastes so good with food; the Syrah grape typically yields scents of tannin-rich, dark, flavourful fruits and plants like cherries, blueberries, blackberries, plums, licorice, chocolate and truffles.
It’s no wonder the Syrah grape has enjoyed such notoriety for so long and continues to grow in popularity. It makes one superb, versatile wine!