You say Syrah, I’ll say Shiraz

You say Syrah, I’ll say Shiraz

While in the mall Christmas shopping, we were struck with a few humorous memories.  Remember the beanbag chairs of the 70’s? Those brightly colored stuffed bags of fluff found in everyone’s family room are back bigger and fluffier than ever. Or how about those cheesy white wines that were labeled so importantly, “California Chablis”, but were sheer shams of a true chardonnay. Its funny how trends come and go and the question of “what’s new” often precedes “what’s good”. Fortunately, one of the recent trends in the wine world is both new and good!

Syrah lovers already know what wine drinkers around the world are discovering, syrah is an easy drinking food friendly variety that is hard not to like. Unlike many popular red varieties such as cabernet sauvignon and merlot, syrah adapts well to many different growing climates expressing itself differently in each region.  Properly cultivated, syrah produces wines ranging from full-blown fruit bombs to elegant and complex wines that each time you raise your glass there is something new to be discovered.

Indigenous to the Rhone Valley of southern France, syrah is one of the noble black varieties of the vitis vinifera family of wine grapes. In the northern Rhone, syrah produces some of the most sought-after wines on the planet. The greatest wines from Cote Rotie and Hermitage are made almost exclusively with syrah and come from select vineyards.  These wines are the benchmark for the variety that others aspire to offering complexity and aging potential not easily reproduced.

Australia is leading the charge for syrah in the new world. Here the grape is known as shiraz as it was once believed that the vines originated in the Persian region around the city of Shiraz. The best Australian shiraz are blends from several regions, vineyards and even vintages selected by the winemaker as the best of the best to be included in top wines such as Penfolds Grange. They offer an assertive wine full of blackberry jam, smoke and vanilla.

California syrah falls somewhere in between France and Australia regarding flavor and aroma profiles due to the many diverse growing climates the state contains. California wine growers are making exciting discoveries with syrah as they find the best locations for the grape to thrive and how to best manage the vineyards for each region. Berries, black fruit, pepper, smoke, vanilla and floral notes are typical in the best California syrah.

The central coast area of Paso Robles is fast becoming California’s syrah hotspot. Here, natural climatic conditions lend themselves to syrah’s success as evening ocean breezes permeate the region replacing the day’s heat helping the grapes to retain their acidity while still ripening fully. Paso Robles syrah is a harmonious, elegant blend of fruit and spice offering the wine lover new pleasures with each sip. Now the fourth most planted variety in the region, syrah is elevating this appellation to new heights in their already great reputation.

Be careful not to spill your wine when you slip into your new beanbag.