Syrah or Shiraz? So, what is Shiraz wine anyway? Shiraz is the Australian way of saying Syrah. Syrah is a grape which is best known as the predominant variety of the northern Rhone Valley in France. It makes an appearance in the villages of Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage, Cornas, and Core-Rotie to name a few. It has also been a rising superstar in California, Washington, and Oregon, but most of the Cabernet Sauvignon drinkers out there aren’t yet hip to it. So, how did those Aussies come up with Shiraz out of the French word Syrah?
Well, that is thanks to the father of the Australian wine industry, James Busby. Back in 1831 Mr. Busby went to France and Spain to collect cuttings that he brought back with him to Australia. Mr. Busby used some old spellings of the grape- Scyras & Ciras. With those spellings it is much easier to see how “Shiraz” came out of the mouths of those early Australian winos. Syrah/Shiraz is a grape that responds greatly to different climates which is why at times a Syrah grown in a cooler region such as Crozes-Hermitage is going to be much different than a warmer climate Barossa Shiraz. In California and the rest of the “New World” wine growing regions most producers have chosen to go with the Syrah spelling, although if they wanted to they could and some do use the Shiraz spelling, in my opinion adding to the confusion.
Now, Petit Syrah is a hybrid between Syrah and a much lesser known grape- Peloursin. The resulting hybrid vine produces a smaller berry with thicker skin. The thicker skin contributes higher tannins and in some cases more primary fruit than Syrah.