Syrah, Shiraz, same grape, different region. Sort of.
So, traditionally, the grape from France is Syrah, the grape from Australia is Shiraz. And from other regions, it just depends. Technically, California, Washington, Chile, Argentina, and South Africa (where this wine was produced), can label the wine with either Syrah or Shiraz. This is typically consistent with the story that the winemaker wants the wine to tell.
Michael Austin wrote an article for the Chicago Tribune titled “Syrah is Like a Violin, and Shiraz is Like a Fiddle (But Sometimes Not),” which I find in the title itself, is a fantastic explanation for the difference between the two varietals. In my opinion, Syrah is more elegant and refined, whereas Shiraz is more rustic, and down-to-earth.
I start with this explanation because the wine of the week was a South African Syrah. This made me scratch my head – at first I didn’t even know that there was anything but Shiraz in South Africa. However, I believe that it comes down to the story that the winemaker wants to tell. My assessment is that labeling this wine as a Syrah allows it to stand out in a crowd of South African Shiraz. This became evident to me in the tasting of this wine.
If I did a blind tasting of this wine and only knew that it was either a Syrah or Shiraz, I would put money on it being a Shiraz. The deep red color and viscous consistency was not a giveaway of this conclusion, it was all in the aromas and flavors. The smell is of strong leather that overwhelms the dark fruits and a prominence of oak. The taste is acidic, with notes of licorice, leather, olive and a generous helping of cigar. These are all consistent traits with warm production regions of Shiraz. Though an enjoyable wine, I feel a little spoofed by the “Syrah” labeling.
I gave this wine a 3-cork rating and it typically sells for about $14-17 per bottle.