I am often asked the about the difference between Syrah and Shiraz. The truth is that they are the same grape! So why the different name?
To answer that question you have to dive a little deeper into the grape’s history. While there are many rumours that this grape has origins in Shiraz, Ancient Persia, it found a perfect home in the Cote Du Rhone in France. Here, the French called it Syrah, and it thrived, becoming a main component in some of the countries best wines including the famed Hermitage. In 1831, James Busby is known for bringing the Syrah grape from France to its other favourite location, Australia. Originally these wines were labeled Hermitage in honour of the great French Syrah’s, however due to changes in wine laws in France that protected the names of regions, Hermitage in Australia had to change. The name Shiraz was chosen to distinguish itself from French wines.
Stylistic comparisons of this grape plainly show two different styles according to the region and winemaking. The French Syrah is traditionally made in an elegant, earthier style full of black pepper whereas Australian Shiraz is juicy and rich focusing on intense ripe fruit flavours.
Nowadays, no matter the name, this grape has become one of the 10 most grown grapes in the world. In emerging wine regions like Canada, the choice to use either Syrah or Shiraz comes down to whether their wine emulates the classic Rhone or the modern Australian style.
My suggestion is to try an example of each and find the style you prefer the most. I recommend tryingCave de Tain Saint Joseph from the Northern Rhone or Penfold’s Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz from the Barossa Valley as a comparison starting point.