Eager to know everything about Syrah wine before buying one for your collection?
Hailing from Rhone Valley in France, Syrah is elegant and bold and is the perfect wine for joyous celebrations. Luscious flavors aside, Syrah wine is also a favorite among wine collectors for its remarkable age-worthiness.
But, was Syrah first grown in the Rhone Valley? How is it different from Shiraz? How does it taste?
In this article, let’s explore the world of Syrah - its colorful history, taste, the best food pairing, and the best Syrah wines in 2021. Also, find out the easiest way to buy and invest in this famous wine.
This Article Contains
- A Quick Intro to Syrah Wine
- A Brief History of Syrah Grape
- The Syrah Grape and its Terroir
- The Difference Between Syrah and Shiraz
- Major Syrah Wine Regions
- Syrah Wine: Taste and Food Pairings
- Best Syrah Wines to Buy in 2021 (Including Tasting Notes, Prices)
- 1990 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Ermitage 'Cuvée Cathelin', Rhône, France
- 1980 Marius Gentaz-Dervieux Cote Rotie Cote Brune, Rhône, France
- 1999 Noel Verset Cornas, Rhone, France
- 2003 Sine Qua Non The Duel Estate Syrah, Sta Rita Hills, USA
- 1987 Marcel Juge Cornas, Rhone, France
- 2013 Sine Qua Non 'Le Supplement' Syrah, Sta Rita Hills, USA
- 1991 Domaine Jamet Cote Rotie Cote Brune, Rhône, France
- 1985 E. Guigal Cote Rotie La Landonne, Rhone, France
- 2007 Marie et Pierre Benetiere Cote Rotie Le Dolium, Rhone, France
- 2014 Penfolds Grange Bin 95, Australia
A Quick Intro to Syrah Wine
Although Syrah is said to have originated in France’s northern Rhone Valley region, it is now one of the most widely planted red wine grapes of the world.
Syrah wines are admired for their dark fruit flavors, brisk acidity, and peppery aromas. They are usually full-bodied, opaque, and have an ABV (Alcohol by Volume) of 13%-15%.
Although Syrah produces delicious varietals, it is also blended with Grenache, Mourvèdre, Carignan, and Cinsault grape varieties to produce more fruit-driven wines. But the most age-worthy bottles are usually 100% Syrah.
Also read: Here’s how to design a perfect wine cellar in your home.
A Brief History of the Syrah Grape
Syrah’s origin has been a topic of debate for a long time. Some historians claim it was the Romans who spread it across Europe from Syracuse in Sicily, and others say that the Greeks planted it 500 years before the Romans!
Some even believe it to be named after the Iranian city - Chiraz or Shiraz.
Irrespective of these hypotheses, the research conducted by Carole Meredith (owner of Lagier Meredith wines in Napa) in 1998 at UC Davis showed that Syrah is an offspring of Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche grape varieties found in the French Alps.
From there, it reached Rhone Valley and slowly to different parts of the world. As it traveled the world, Syrah evolved into a range of unique styles.
The Syrah Grape and its Terroir
Syrah is a dark-skinned grape hailing from the Rhone Valley in France.
It grows best in dry and warm climates. That’s why the best Syrah vineyard plots of northern Rhone are found at the hilltops of Cote Rotie’s “Roasted Slope” and in Hermitage.
The hilltops get maximum exposure to the sun, and the soils are well-drained with a little limestone. The limestone retains the heat and produces concentrated Syrah grapes.
Now let’s see how Syrah is different from Shiraz.
The Difference Between Syrah and Shiraz
Syrah and Shiraz are the same grape and share the same DNA profile. The difference is that it is Syrah in France and other Old World wine regions, and it is known as Shiraz in Australia and South Africa. (Much like Pinot Noir is known as Pinot Nero in Italy.)
So is there any difference between Syrah and Shiraz wine?
Even though the grape is the same, Australian Shiraz wines are fruitier than the floral and dense French Syrah wines.
This brings us to another common question.
Are Syrah and Petite Sirah the same grape?
The Difference Between Syrah and Petite Sirah
No, Syrah and Petite Sirah are not the same grape.
Petite Sirah (not Petite Syrah) or Durif is a distinctive grape variety (a cross between Syrah and Peloursin) that is widely planted in California.
Also read: Explore the best sparkling wines from across the globe.
Major Syrah Wine Regions
Syrah is known by many names around the world - Shiraz, Sirac, Marsanne Noir, Entournerein, Serène, and Hermitage. Let’s see where this grape is grown.
Here are the three major Syrah wine regions in the world.
France is the spiritual home of Syrah. A range of blended and varietal Syrah wines - from tannic Hermitage wines to perfumed Cote Rotie Syrah - are produced here.
Syrah is also a key blending grape in Cote du Rhone blend (blended with Grenache and Mourvedre.) Crozes-Hermitage, a northern Rhone Valley appellation, is another major Syrah wine region.
In Southern Rhone (especially Languedoc and Chateauneuf-du-Pape), it is added to Grenache wines to add structure. Unlike northern Rhone, Southern Rhone winemakers don’t produce many high-quality Syrah varietals.
Syrah vines were planted in Australia in 1832 by James Busby, an immigrant from Europe. It is known as Shiraz and has become one of the region’s most loved red wine grapes.
In Barossa Valley, South Australia, Shiraz is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, and the wine is aged in new American oak. On the other hand, the cooler climates of Margaret River produce French-style wines that are less alcoholic.
Other than Barossa Valley, Australian Shiraz wines are also produced in McLaren Vale and Adelaide Hills.
3. United States
Syrah is known by its French name in the United States. But, producers use ‘Shiraz’ on their wine label if the wine is produced using new-world winemaking techniques.
First planted in California in the 1970s by Rhone Rangers (a group of viticulturists that promoted Rhone wines in the United States), Syrah is now also grown in Washington State, Ohio, and Oregon.
Sonoma County, Santa Barbara, and Paso Robles are the key California Syrah wine regions. Although Sonoma is mostly known for its Cabernet Sauvignon wines, it produces delicious French-style Syrahs.
In warmer regions like Napa, Syrah is often blended with other Rhone Valley grape varieties, while in cooler climates, the winemaker sticks to varietal wines.
4. Other Syrah Wine Regions
Syrah wines are also produced in Italy, Spain, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina, Portugal, and Chile.
Now for the best part:
Syrah Wine - Taste and Food Pairings
Syrah is a dry, full-bodied red wine with brisk acidity and robust tannin.
Although Syrah wines showcase primary flavors of red and black fruit, smoke, licorice, and black pepper in general, New World and Old World wines are quite distinctive.
New World Vs. Old World Syrah
Old World Syrah wines from Italy and France are more terroir-driven and have higher acidity with dominant herbaceous flavors. On the other hand, New World Syrah or Shiraz wines, especially from Australia, have more fruit-forward flavors than earthy notes.
Syrah’s earthy flavors make it a great companion with grilled meat dishes, sauteed vegetables, steak, and soft cheese.
Don’t know the best Syrah wine to pair with your delicious meal or to store in your cellar?
We’ve got you covered!
Read more: Counting calories? Read this comprehensive guide to estimate calories in your red wine glass.
Best Syrah Wines to Buy in 2021 (Including Tasting Notes, Prices)
Here are some of the best Syrah wines to buy in 2021.
1. 1990 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Ermitage 'Cuvée Cathelin', Rhône, France
A beautifully aged enigma, the 1990 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Ermitage 'Cuvée Cathelin' has a range of complex flavors.
The nose gives off truffle, forest floor, black cherry, earth, peppery spice, and herb notes. The palate is voluptuous, rounded, and has a lasting finish.
Price of 1990 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Ermitage 'Cuvée Cathelin', Rhône, France: $14,053
2. 1980 Marius Gentaz-Dervieux Cote Rotie Cote Brune, Rhône, France
The 1980 Marius Gentaz-Dervieux is a 100% Syrah wine from Cote Rotie. It’s a deep red color in the glass. The nose gives off aromas of red berries, violet, pepper, and spicy notes.
Price of 1980 Marius Gentaz-Dervieux Cote Rotie Cote Brune, Rhône, France: $4,667
3. 1999 Noel Verset Cornas, Rhone, France
The 1999 Noel Verset Cornas is a deep red wine with purple hues. The nose opens with dark fruit aromas with plum and wild berries. The palate is elegant, with vibrant acidity and a lasting finish.
Price of 1999 Noel Verset Cornas, Rhone, France: $1,087
4. 2003 Sine Qua Non The Duel Estate Syrah, Sta Rita Hills, USA
Sine Qua Non is a cult winery specializing in Rhone grape wines, mostly Syrah, Grenache, Pinot Noir, and Viognier. This vintage is made from the grapes sourced from the “Eleven Confessions” vineyard.
It is a well-balanced wine with the perfect balance of fruit and aging notes. The palate is intense, with notes of red and black fruit and subtle smokey flavors.
Price of 2003 Sine Qua Non The Duel Estate Syrah, Sta Rita Hills, USA: $2,252
5. 1987 Marcel Juge Cornas, Rhone, France
The 1987 Marcel Juge Cornas is a rare vintage that showcases the finesse of traditional French winemaking.
The aging has allowed the wine to develop earthy notes while still maintaining its savory dark fruit flavors. The palate is smooth and has a long finish.
Price of 1987 Marcel Juge Cornas, Rhone, France: $1,449
6. 2013 Sine Qua Non 'Le Supplement' Syrah, Sta Rita Hills, USA
The tannins of this 2013 vintage by Sine Qua Non are still firm, and the wine can spend a few more years in the cellar.
The nose gives off a range of aromas, including black plums, blackberry, black pepper, spices, and herbs. You may also notice subtle notes of earth, violet, and truffle. The palate is dense and smooth.
2013 Sine Qua Non 'Le Supplement' Syrah, Sta Rita Hills, USA: $669
7. 1991 Domaine Jamet Cote Rotie Cote Brune, Rhône, France
Another full-bodied red wine from northern Rhone, the 1991 Domaine Jamet is loved for its dominant spice notes and hints of red fruits.
Price of 1991 Domaine Jamet Cote Rotie Cote Brune, Rhône, France: $2,306
8. 1985 E. Guigal Cote Rotie La Landonne, Rhone, France
The 1985 E. Guigal Cote Rotie La Landonne is a well-layered wine with primary fruit flavors with subtle earth and smoked meat notes. The palate is full and rounded.
Price of 1985 E. Guigal Cote Rotie La Landonne, Rhone, France: $1,732
9. 2007 Marie et Pierre Benetiere Cote Rotie Le Dolium, Rhone, France
This 2007 vintage from northern Rhone has a layered nose and rounded palate. The nose has smokey and tobacco notes. The palate is full of plum, blackberry, and black currant flavors.
Price of 2007 Marie et Pierre Benetiere Côte Rotie Le Dolium, Rhone, France: $680
10. 2014 Penfolds Grange Bin 95, Australia
Rich, intense, and concentrated, the 2014 Penfolds Grange deserves a place in your must-try wines list.
This Australian Shiraz wine is full of fruity flavors with subtle vanilla, cedar, and Earl Grey tea notes. The palate is full, rounded, and has a long, savory finish - a great wine to have with grilled meat.
Price of 2014 Penfolds Grange Bin 95, Australia: $745
Should You Invest in Syrah Wine?
Depending on the area of production and the producer, Syrah wines can age from anywhere between 5-20 years. But the highest quality northern Rhone Syrahs from Hermitage and Cote Rotie can age for 25+ years.
Also, top Syrah wine producers like E. Guigal, Domaine Jean-Louis, and Domaine Jamet have shown significant price appreciation over the years.
For example, the 2009 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage’s average price grew from $100 in 2018 to $125 in 2020. Also, Juge Cornas saw a 16% hike in prices from mid-2019 to mid-2020.
Some Syrah wines also perform well at auctions. For example, in 2007, the Paul Jaboulet Ainé Hermitage La Chapelle 1961 set an auction record when its 12-bottle lot was sold for $247,747.
That’s why Syrah is a good choice as a serious long-term investment.
But, how do you find the best Syrah wine for your wine collection? How do you buy one at the right prices?
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