Frank’s Tip – Que Syrah Shiraz

Que Syrah Shiraz ?

What is in a name? In the case of Shiraz vs. Syrah, quite a lot is seems.

Firstly, it’s the same thing, no difference in grape, area or clone; Shiraz and Syrah are the same thing…. but are they?

On appearance not much can be learned from a wine label that says Syrah versus Shiraz. One might think Syrah is an attempt to sound fancy or French, but in reality the content of the bottle is what makes the difference.

Simply put Syrah and Shiraz are two different schools of expression, or they should be anyway.

Shiraz is what we know as the ripe, bold, heavily extracted version; pitch black in color, usually with a fair whack of oak, at times even American wood adding a sweet vanilla note.

Syrah on the other hand is usually lighter in appearance, built on taught, dry tannins, higher acidity and very often the sparing or complete use of oak.

Obviously there are overlaps between them. I, for example, necessarily call the Guigal-style wines, albeit very French, as Syrah. They are pretty ripe and stacked with oodles of oak; yet the core is still dry tannin rather than sweet fruit and the acidity is ok-ish.

Then there are the new world examples where the term Syrah is used with abandon, until you taste it, and it’s all sticky sweet fruit, with tart adjusted acidity….. not syrah…. not at all.

Which is the best? No such thing. There are sublime examples of Shiraz coming from Barossa, Adelaide Hills, Gimblett Gravels, Paso Robles, all over SA and various others; and there are the benchmark Syrahs from Cote Rotie, Hermitage, Crozes, Cornas etc.

It comes down to personal taste; I know plenty of people who in a blind tasting will have a very hard time identifying Syrah coming from Saint Joseph or Crozes Hermitage with its almost flea-powder-like pepper intensity, high acidity and bone dry tannins; purely because what they are use to drinking is riper, plusher and more fruit-forward version of this variety.

Regardless which approach you favor (and by the way, the Trizanne Reserve Syrah is very much cutting the line down the middle-bonus!), I am of the opinion Syrah/ Shiraz is one of the most of not the most versatile and exciting grapes out there.

Happy experimenting.

The Tank & Barrel Team

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