10/17/13 – Syrah vs. Shiraz

By xander on October 10, 2013

Ahhhh Syrah.  The big, bold, often tannic beast hailing originally from the famed northern part of the Cote du Rhone region in the southwest of France.  Syrah can produce incredibly high-caliber wines, worthy of aging for decades, but can also express explosively fruit-forward characteristics in less expensive representations that make them pleasant to drink younger. Pair with anything being pulled off a grill.  Especially meat.

Syrah, however, is not just grown in France.  It is a robust grape that can thrive in hot climates around the world, and for this reason is widely planted in California and Australia.

But, hold on, you say – this tasting isn’t just Syrah!  It’s Syrah VERSUS Shiraz.  So, what are we comparing?  Well, confusingly enough, Syrah and Shiraz are actually the same grape, but are referred to differently based on which part of the world the wine comes from.  Generally, Syrah is used to refer to French wines, and Shiraz to refer to Australian.  To make it even more confusing, other places in the world may use one name or the other, as this helpful snooth article points out. Maybe I should have called this tasting Syrah vs Shiraz vs Sirac vs Schiras vs Marsanne Noir.

While this tasting is nominally called Syrah vs. Shiraz, it will really be focused on the stylistic differences between new world and old word representations of the varietal.  Syrah grown in northern Rhone, such as Hermitage or Cote-Rotie, falls into the “old-world” category, whereas Shiraz grown in Australia is largely considered “new-world.”  California versions of Syrah/Shiraz don’t fit quite as neatly into this category as, increasingly, California growers are both experimenting with new styles and attempting to recreate Rhone-style blends.

For a great overview of some of the stylistic elements generally found in “new-world” Rhone wines, check out our blog post and tasting notes from our “Rhone Blends from le monde noveau” back in 2011.  Do note, however, that this tasting was of all Rhone wine varietals, not just Syrah.  Additionally, we have done Syrah vs. Shiraz tastings before, so I would like to you refer you all to the 2011 blog post, 2005 blog post (one of the first Wino meetings ever), and several march madness events we’ve held on this topic.  I didn’t have the pleasure of attending any of these, so I’m looking forward to this one.

Since old world Syrahs tend to be a bit pricier, I thought we’d try something a little different.  Instead of everyone bringing a bottle of wine or $10, I will ask everyone to include in their RSVP whether they will either bring $10 or a new-world Shiraz (from Australia or California).  When I get a count of how many folks are bringing cash money, I will go out and buy a couple of bottles of slightly-nicer-than-what-we-usually-drink-at-Winos Syrah from Rhone.  It will be a lower bottle-to-person ratio for the entire meeting, but it will give us the opportunity to taste some of the finer elements that higher-end French Syrahs can offer.

The meeting will take place next Thursday, October 17th at Tara’s place in Silver Lake. Remember, either bring $10 or a Shiraz, not a Syrah from France. Feel free to post to the Facebook group if any clarification here is needed.  The meeting will start at 8pm.

The RSVP system functions like this: if you want in, you click on this link and tell me so (don’t forget your full name, e-mail address, and a cute message conveying to me your intentions), and I’ll send you a confirmation e-mail with the address.  Again, for this tasting in particular, please include in your rsvp if you are bringing $10 or a Shiraz so I know how many Syrahs to buy for the group. Looking forward to exploring a new wine with everyone on Thursday at 8pm.