What is the difference between a Shiraz and a Syrah?

A Shiraz is a Shiraz is a Shiraz…unless of course it’s a Syrah…and in that case it’s a Shiraz.

Whether you’re talking about a Shiraz or a Syrah you’re speaking about the same grape. So why is the same variety referred to by two different names? To begin with, Shiraz is the name the Australians use exclusively for this grape. It’s believed that this grape’s origins come from the ancient city called “Shiraz” (now known as Iran) but after it found its way into the Rhône Valley the French added their own flair by calling it “Syrah”. The Australian winemakers have always maintained that they have named this grape after the city in which it originally came from. The Shiraz has been around since the mid 1800’s and is in fact one of the most widely planted grapes in Australia. It’s just been more recently that we’ve seen some California wineries start using the name Shiraz instead of Syrah and that’s partly due to marketing and the migration of some Australian winemakers who are holding steadfast to the name.

Regardless of the fact that the Australian Shiraz and French Syrah share the same botanical profile diverse regional terrain, climate and wine making methods produce wines that show differences in character.
The Shiraz growing regions in Australia are both hotter and drier than those in France therefore Australian Shiraz’s tend to be more fruit forward and jammy with a unique peppery flavor.

Australian winemakers also tend to press or remove the skins from the grapes prior to the completion of fermentation producing wines that are typically dryer with a softer edge than those produced by French or American winemakers of the Syrah style whereas they leave the skins on throughout the entire fermentation process thus producing wines that have higher tannic levels.

So…you say potāto and I say potahhhhhto….if it’s a full bodied spicy wine your after there’s no question that either the Shiraz or Syrah is your best bet!

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