Syrah is one of the world's great red wine grapes. It has a principal aroma and flavor of black raspberries. In its native northern Rhône, it is long-lived and can be stiff and somewhat unappealing in its youth, but it can be full of glorious, sensuous fruity and savory characteristics in its maturity. Grown in Australia, where it is called Shiraz (also called Shiraz in other regions where the desire is to communicate a warm-climate character), it comes in two basic styles: laden with jam qualities in hotter climates like Barossa or McLaren Vale, and elusive and edgy--more akin to its Rhône cousin--in cooler areas of Margaret River or Victoria.
Syrah is the northern Rhône's main grape variety. Famously long-term wines come from the appellations of Côte-Rôtie and Hermitage, but equally ageworthy wines hail from the small appellation of Cornas, where a minimum of ten years maturation is the norm for even the entry-level wines. Syrah is used to add some backbone to wines across southern France, usually giving longevity to Grenache-based wines. It is grown is every region of Australia, and is particularly successful in the central coast of California, and in the Columbia Valley of Washington.
Syrah has only recently been definitively determined to be a native of the Rhône Valley. The variety was for years conjectured by some to have originated in or around the ancient Persian city of Shiraz (located in modern-day Iran). A few blustery legends developed around this, but in 1999 a comprehensive ampelographic study determined it to be the offspring of two wildly obscure French grapes, Mondeuse Blanche and Dureza.
Syrah with Food
From the cooler climates, it is excellent with cheese, grilled duck, lamb, osso bucco, steak, venison, and wild mushrooms.
From the warmer climates, good pairings include barbecue sauce, BBQ chicken, BBQ ribs, chili, hamburgers, ribs, and grilled sausages.
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