Varietals - Syrah


Deep in color, and a rather lush, full-bodied red wine with conflicting flavors of blueberry and an animal-like aroma and flavor. Bacon fat, smoky and earthy are used also to describe this grape no matter where it is grown.

It is very fussy about yields and when appropriately pruned will make a powerful wine. A little less pruning makes a dramatic difference in the wine causing it to become much lighter and losing a lot of its character in the process.



Australia and Syrah (it labeled Shiraz) are now almost synonymous. Its finest red wines come from this one grape. As with life, Australians seem to try and outdo each other with this grape as many are as big a wine as is imaginable. Syrah from here takes a turn seldom seen elsewhere with the use of new oak and for an appreciable amount of time. So, along with the typical smoke, bacon, currant and earth flavors are the sweet vanilla components and spiciness of oak. Unique for sure and very popular. Conversely, Syrah also accounts for many of Australia's inexpensive and everyday offerings when grown under higher yields and lesser areas. While these versions are no match for the big boys, they still account for the country's best values.


Very popular with both winemakers and the consumer where it has enjoyed incredible growth, especially in Santa Barbara where many of the finest examples are made. Added to the typical smoky and earthy components is an engaging ripe plum and cranberry amalgam that causes it to be compared to its Northern Rhone brethren. Napa and Sonoma have made their share of examples, but few growers are willing to sacrifice their Cabernet cash cow for the superb, but admittedly less popular, Syrah.


The Northern Rhone villages of Côte Rotie and Hermitage are considered the holy grail of Syrah. Cornas is a close second and St. Joseph and worthy contender. The best are very big wines with enough smoke to start a three alarm fire and aging potential for decades. At times the tannin levels can get a little out of balance, but generally the Northern Rhone produces the worlds best examples of this grape. Syrah plays a relatively small role in the Southern Rhone and always as a supporting player with the more highly regarded Grenache in Chateauneuf du Pape and Gigondas.


A few experimenters have played with it, almost exclusively in Tuscany and with great success, but it has a way to go to compete with the other French favorites, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The few stand alone from top producers can be compared to the best from California, France and Australia.

South Africa

As with Australia, a very popular red grape and is also similarly labeled Shiraz. Produces some of this country's best red wine. Normally not as dense and imposing or with as much oak as the Australian version, but still delivering the heady components of the grape.

South America

Argentina has made impressive inroads with the grape and may establish its best reputation with it.

United States

Washington is the only state to even come close to comparing with California. While gaining in popularity, it still plays a distant third to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.