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Grape Varietals

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SYRAH / SHIRAZ

see-RAH / shi-RAHZ

Two names, same grape. The grape is called Syrah in France; it's Shiraz in Australia. Meanwhile, California vintners go both ways.

Flavors and aromas: The flavor profile varies with its price point. Versions under $10 are usually jammy and light. At the high end, the grape's signature spicy/peppery side comes out, and the wine features more body, concentration, and tannic bite. Rhône aromatics may include smoke, bacon, and leather; Aussies lean toward eucalyptus and coffee.

 

Color: Usually a dense, inky-colored wine with dark purple hues.

Prominent plantings: This grape is classic in France's Rhône Valley, where Syrahs are bottled under regional names, such as Hermitage and St. Joseph. In France's Côtes du Rhône region, Syrah is often blended, most famously with Grenache in wines labeled Côtes du Rhône. Australia makes great wines with this grape. The vast majority of Australian Shiraz is labeled Southeastern Australia; two sub-regions known for intense Shiraz are Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale. Critics are keen on Syrah's potential in California's Central Coast and Washington state in general.

Pairing with food: This wine's mix of fruit and spice meshes well with garlic, onions, and herbs (especially herbes de Provence). Also try Shiraz with burgers, sausages, and practically anything off a grill.

Insider tip: Australians are making some interesting blends using the Shiraz grape. Some blends mimic the French appellation of Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre); and Shiraz-Cabernet blends are very common. The breakdown of grapes usually appears on the front or back label.

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