Syrah is the king of the Rhône and rides the wave of fashion, matching Cabernet Sauvignon in richness, structure and ageability. Its famous, historic home is the Northern Rhône; here its aromatic character includes black pepper, violets, plums, bacon, tar and leather. It is the origin of such great, powerful wines as Hermitage and Côte Rôtie. The other archetypal Syrah hails from Australia where it is called Shiraz and is much prized in warm regions such as Barossa. Here the aromas become more chocolaty with dark, ripe, sweet and spicy flavours. Producers usually align the style of their wine to one of these two archetypes and label them accordingly as either “Syrah” or “Shiraz”.
Syrah is a vigorous grape variety with a short ripening period making the window for optimum harvesting rather fine. Its berries are small and dark and tend to shrivel once over ripeness has been reached. Syrah is widely grown across the world in varying climates. In France it is increasingly used in Provence and the Languedoc alongside other Rhône varieties such as Grenache and Mourvèdre. Spain is in the midst of Syrah fever and in the New World, it has found success in South Africa, Argentina and Washington State.
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