Buying wine can be a complicated business. While most producers list the grape on the label, it can be a guessing game if you don’t know which region to look for. Especially if the label’s in French or Italian.
But one thing we do seem to be confident about is our taste for Shiraz. According to new data from retail analyst Nielsen, Shiraz was the UK’s top selling varietal red over the past year. We’re slurping more of this reliably rich, dark-skinned grape than any other.
- Why does it have two names?
Shiraz and Syrah are in fact the same grape. It’s Syrah (pronounced see-rah) in France and Shiraz (pronounced shee-rahz) in Australia. Elsewhere, it can be pot luck as other regions use either name.
- Where does it grow?
France’s Rhone valley is its spiritual home, but Shiraz is the most planted grape in Australia.
- What is its history?
The Persian city of Shiraz is cited as being its origin. According to ancient legend, during the 13th century Crusades, a knight took some cuttings back home to Hermitage in the Rhone Valley, and the name was changed to Syrah.
- Will it improve with age?
Exuberant Shiraz such as a Penfolds St Henri Shiraz 2015 are built to last. This rich, plush red is ready to enjoy now, but the suggested drinking window is from 2020 to 2045. Penfolds is Australia’s most iconic winery and its flagship Shiraz, Grange, is one of the most famous and expensive Australian wines in the world.
- What’s the best food match?
Whether it’s a Shiraz or Syrah, this full bodied red loves red meats, BBQs, rustic cassoulet, chilli, meatballs, pepper sauces, herbs, while the fruit notes also pair well with savoury spice such as Indian and Moroccan, but keep hot, fiery spice at bay.
- Is Petite Sirah another name for Shiraz?
Sounds similar but Petite Sirah (American name for Durif) is a red grape grown predominantly in California and Mexico. The wines are robust and tannic with good ageing potential – and anything but petite.