What’s in a name? Shiraz and Syrah are the same variety. They are interchangeable and while some people claim they denote a style (don’t get me started on Gris/Grigio) it is simply not true in every case.
But what does Shiraz taste like?
Good question and this is where it gets a bit trickier: The climate and wine maker influence are big factors.
In cooler climates and/or seasons it is very much driven by white pepper, red and blue fruits and even some floral notes. It is often a lot more savoury with earth/meaty/gamey elements being more evident.
Warmer climates and seasons can see tastes of dark fruits, fruit cake, plums, jam, chocolate, stewed fruits, liquorice and the savoury flavours are more of leather and dry earth.
Oak is important and the level can be anywhere from imperceptible to this isn’t wine, it’s oak tea served in oak cups with a side of toast. French oak tends to be more subtle, savoury and spicy and American oak is the big flavoured, sweet, vanilla (think Bourbon).
Structurally the wines tend to have moderate acidity and moderate to strong tannins no matter where it comes from (the wine maker has a lot of control here).
As it ages it becomes more savoury and earthy as well as becoming more porty (currants, sweet fruited and perfumed), with the tannins really softening out over time.
Featuring six Syrah from around the world the represent the different flavours and styles. I discuss what the variety tastes like on my blog article What The Hell Does Syrah Taste Like Anyway? But the true key to understanding wine is tasting. It’s also most fun way to learn.