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Que Syrah Shiraz…In India Shiraz it shall be

Posted: Friday, 06 June 2014 17:54

Blog: Que Syrah Shiraz…In India Shiraz it shall be

June 06: Sometimes creating confusion whether they are same grapes or different, Syrah and Shiraz are the same grape varieties except perhaps in the connotation of the style with the Rhone variety in France called Syrah being more elegant and in Australia and other New World countries including India they are known as Shiraz and are more fruit forward and peppery.

I have been asked the question many times if Syrah and Shiraz are the same grapes and if in fact the origin of Shiraz was the city of Shiraz in Persia (now Iran), where they were, according to wine historians,  grown 7000 years ago. My answer is the same-they are interchangeable names although in France-they have been traditionally known as Syrah. Even there, in the Languedoc region producers have now been mentioning it as Shiraz due to the increasing popularity of the varietal wine.

Shiraz is the signature grape of Australia and though brought in there during the later part of  nineteenth century, it became very popular during the late twentieth century. With iconic wines like Grange and Henschke Hill of Grace around, it became synonymous with Barossa and even  Australia. According to the Blog Que Syrah Shiraz (which frankly inspired me to write this Blog) by the Aussie Dan Traucki who  writes for delWine occasionally, there are around 3000 wineries in Australia;  99%  of them produce Shiraz.

The Syrah grape originated in the Rhone area of France and is used to make dry, full bodied reds. It is generally a part of the popular blend Grenache Syrah Mourvedre (GSM). It’s a myth that the grape was imported into France from the city of Shiraz in Iran (then called Persia) about 2000 years ago. There is no actual proof, however, to confirm or disprove the story. 

If you want to understand the real difference in flavours of the two, try doing a side-by-side tasting of a Syrah from the Northern Rhone and a Shiraz from Australia. You may find that the herbaceous and gamey French syrah and the ripe, bold, powerful, fruity Australian Shiraz with a shade of chocolate would taste quite different. The French terroir comes into play with the moderate climate of Rhone Valley producing a much different wine than in the hot and sunny Australia.

Syrah or Shiraz wines are usually very bold and flavourful wines. In India where it is de facto known as Shiraz, notes of pepper are as predominant as the dark ripe fruit, like blackberries or black cherries sometimes. They are quite luscious with silky tannins. The well-made versions are fragrant and flavourful and given the preference for spices, Indian palate adores Shiraz.

One uniquely Australian application of Shiraz is to blend it with Cabernet Sauvignon. This blend is not prevalent in the Old World, but has become so popular that it now represents a sizeable proportion of Australian red wine blends- the popularity reaching  India as well. Some producers in India also follow the wine style of Cote Rotie in Northern Rhone and add a small proportion of Viognier to add to the complexity and roundness.

The name Shiraz has become so widely recognized that in many countries even in the Old World, Shiraz is used to describe the variety. Sometimes Hermitage is also used to describe the grape. However, one should remember that Syrah is a totally different variety than Petite Syrah.

Shiraz in India

Most Indian producers make this most popular red wine variant, including the Top Five who make Shiraz as a varietal or use it in the Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz blend. Sula, the leading producer makes Dindori Reserve Shiraz as also the top ended Sula Rasa which is truly an age-worthy wine.  It is the finest red wine produced from grapes from their own vineyards .The complex and opulent wine is also elegant.

Interestingly, Grover was the first Indian winery to have started growing Shiraz and making wine with French collaboration and could have perhaps called the varietal Syrah. But it chose to call it Shiraz and the name seems to have caught on. Barring Zampa then owned by Vallee de Vin which named the varietal Syrah, all others including Four Seasons, Nine Hills and Fratelli chose to call it Shiraz as a varietal.

In fact, Four Seasons Winery also has a Barrique Reserve Shiraz which is matured for8 months in the new oak barrels- on the lines similar to Rasa but also uses about 10 % of Cabernet and 3% of Viognier to make the wine well rounded.

Sula, Grover and Fratelli also produce Cabernet Shiraz. Even La Reserve from Grover is a blend of 60% Cabernet and 40% Shiraz. Fratelli has an interesting and unique blend- Cabernet Franc and Shiraz.

Whether they call it Syrah or Shiraz it is the same thing in India with a wider range available in different styles , including the Rose from Grover and Fratelli produced using Shiraz grape. Serve Shiraz slightly cooled at 16˚C so it is pleasant 16-18˚C by the time it reaches your palate. Enjoy the spicy flavours with strawberry, blackberry or cherry and other back fruits with or without food but preferably red meats, chicken and even some vegetarian cuisines like aubergines and mushrooms etc.

Subhash Arora


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