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Syrah vs Shiraz: Understanding the Nuances (2024 Comparison)

Syrah vs Shiraz

Syrah and Shiraz are two wine types frequently confused with the other. Some wine drinkers will tell you they’re the same thing, while others will adamantly swear they couldn’t be more different.

I’m here to settle the dispute and enlighten your confusion about Syrah vs Shiraz once and for all. With all my years of studying different wines, I know exactly how to tell one another apart.

Syrah vs Shiraz Quick Comparison

Bottle and a Glass of Syrah Wine

First, you must know that Syrah and Shiraz wines are made from the same grape variety called Syrah grape or Shiraz grape. This is currently the sixth most planted grape in the world. [1]

Syrah can also be called Shiraz, depending on where you’re from.

“Syrah reveals its symphony of flavors with each sip, from the elegance of its red fruit to the crescendo of its peppery finale.” – Liquor Laboratory

However, despite this, Shiraz and Syrah taste totally different and are made from different regions. Syrah tends to be lighter in body with delicate tannins, while Shiraz is bolder and has a higher alcohol content.

This discrepancy between Syrah and Shiraz has to do with where the grapes are grown and how the climate influences their final flavor profile.

Syrah vs Shiraz Wine Styles Comparison Table

CharacteristicSyrahShiraz
Originating RegionsFranceAustralia
BodyThin and lightFull-bodied and viscous
Flavor ProfileLight and savoryRich, dark fruits 
TanninsLight tanninsFirm tannins
AcidityHighLow
Aging Potential5 to 15 years 5 to 15 years 
Average PriceStarts at $20Starts at $20
Climate PreferenceCoolWarm
Star Rating★★★★★★★★★

Key Differences

History & Origin

Some folks claimed that Syrah hailed from Sicily or even ancient Persia, while others believed it descended from an ancient Rhone variety that Romans loved.

However, in 1998, DNA profiling revealed that Syrah grapes come from Mondeuse Blanche and Dureza, native to the Rhône Alpes region of France. This is where this grape variety grew up and developed its character. [2]

Syrah is not to be confused with Petite Sirah, a blending grape in California comprising Syrah, Durif, and two other related wines.

On the other hand, the Shiraz grape made its way to the Land Down Under in 1832 thanks to James Busby, father of Australian viticulture. Australian winemakers made Shiraz their own and found that the climate suited the grape perfectly.

Today, Barossa Valley in South Australia is known as the home of the Australian spirit. The grapes are also grown in McLaren Vale, South Australia, Hunter Valley, New South Wales, and Yarra Valley, Victoria.

Winemaking Techniques

Syrah and Shiraz wines share key winemaking traits despite their different names and origins.

Syrah’s thick-skinned grapes and potential for high tannins mean start with cold soaking. Winemakers worldwide do this, but when it comes to the Syrah vs Shiraz showdown, Shiraz tends to have a longer cold soak.

After the cold soaking process, yeast is added to start the fermentation process to convert the natural sugars of the red grape into alcohol. [3]

Syrah and Shiraz wines are aged in French oak barrels, but they do it differently. In France’s Rhone Valley, Syrah lounges in large oak barrels, which helps it become the fruit-forward wine we know and love.

On the other hand, the Shiraz red wine is typically aged in smaller French oak barrels in Barossa Valley. This cozy stay gives the Australian wines rich, fruity vibes and hints of vanilla and baking spice notes.

Wine Styles

Close Up Image of a Wine on a Glass

Both Syrah and Shiraz refer to distinct styles of wine, although they do come from the same grape.

Syrah wines tend to be lighter in body and alcohol, with leaner and softer tannins, while Shiraz is richer and has a fuller body.

This can be attributed to the grape’s journey through different growing conditions and climates. Australia’s Shiraz grape, for example, has firm tannins and unique aromas due to the warm climate.

Shiraz is sometimes labeled Syrah if its style is closer to the Rhone Valley Syrah. 

Believe it or not, even some French Syrah wineries are slapping “Shiraz” on bottles that share Australian Shiraz’s style.

Syrah vs Shiraz Flavor Profile

Palate

French-style Syrah wine from the Northern Rhône Valley exhibits a leaner body, crisp acidity, and a delightful blend of floral aromas. It’s all about natural, earthy qualities – think blackberries, cherries, and blueberries.

You’ll also find a more floral aroma and a savory palate with hints of black pepper, olives, and cured meats.

Southern Rhône Syrah delivers a smoother ride with well-rounded flavors, like red and black fruits with pepper spice notes.

On the other hand, Australian Shiraz red wine boasts a full-bodied character, refreshing acidity, and a fruitier flavor. Some subtle oak adds richness to complement the pepper profile.

Aroma

French Syrah wines have crisp and floral aromas intertwined with the spiciness of black pepper. You might even catch a whiff of intriguing notes like smoked meat or hints of blood.

Australian Shiraz offers a bold experience with ripe, black fruit aromas and rich, dark chocolate notes. [4]

Appearance 

French Syrah wine is relatively light in body, with an opaque, deep ruby-red hue, darker than Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir.

In contrast, Shiraz wine from Australia has a dense, almost impenetrable purple-red hue. It’s also more viscous.

Finish

Northern Rhône Syrah has a crisp, peppery finish that lingers until you’re ready to take that next sip.

Australian Shiraz leaves you with a bold, lasting impression. Its finish resonates with the richness of dark chocolate and the warmth of a peppery embrace.

Calories

Syrah wine is a leaner option compared to Shiraz. A typical serving of Syrah contains about 125 calories, as opposed to Shiraz’s 175 calories.

However, since Syrah and Shiraz are dry wines, they don’t carry a lot of sugar. Instead, the calorie content primarily comes from alcohol.

Are Syrah & Shiraz The Same Thing?

Bottle and a Glass of Shiraz wine

No, Syrah and Shiraz aren’t the same thing, but they come from the same grape.

However, the intrigue comes in when we consider their different wine styles. In the wine world, they can signal a difference in the way the wine is crafted and the climate in which the grapes are grown.

Syrah wine tends to be associated with cooler climates, like the Northern Rhône Valley in France. Here, the wine tends to be lighter in body and more focused on elegance, with subtle peppery and herbaceous notes.

“I enjoy a glass of Shiraz… You can savor its layers, its history, and its evolution in every sip.” – Neil Patrick Harris, Actor 

On the flip side, when you see “Shiraz,” you’re often delving into wines from a warmer climate, especially in Australia. These wines are known for being bolder, with ripe fruit flavors that practically jump out of the glass.

FAQs Related to Syrah vs Shiraz

Why does Australia call Syrah Shiraz?

Australia calls Syrah “Shiraz” to deviate from the French Syrah name. When the Syrah grape was brought to Australia, it seemingly took on a new personality, with more intense flavors and a unique style.
The name “Shiraz” celebrated the unique New World-style wine they produced from the same grape.

Which is smoother, Syrah or Shiraz wine?

It depends. If you prefer wine with a leaner body, bright acidity, and a more elegant, savory profile, the smoother option for you might be Syrah.
Shiraz wine is full-bodied, rich, and bursting with ripe fruit flavors, so if you prefer this wine style, this might be the smoother option for you.

Are there differences in taste between Syrah and Shiraz wines?

Yes, there can be differences in taste between Syrah and Shiraz wines. Syrah wines tend to be more elegant, with flavors of dark fruits, spices, and earthiness. Shiraz wines, on the other hand, often exhibit riper fruit flavors, with notes of blackberry, plum, and sometimes a hint of peppery spice.

Why are the names Syrah and Shiraz used interchangeably?

The names Syrah and Shiraz are used interchangeably due to historical and cultural reasons. Syrah is the original French name of the grape variety, while Shiraz is the anglicized version of the name used in Australia. Winemakers in other New World regions, such as the United States and South Africa, may also use the term Shiraz.

Do Syrah and Shiraz wines have different aging potentials?

While both Syrah and Shiraz wines can age well, there may be differences in their aging potential depending on factors such as winemaking techniques, vineyard conditions, and grape quality. Generally, high-quality Syrah/Shiraz wines from reputable producers can age gracefully for several years, developing complex flavors and aromas.

Are Syrah and Shiraz wines produced in different regions?

Yes, Syrah wines are traditionally associated with regions in France, particularly the Northern Rhône Valley, where the grape originated. Shiraz wines are primarily associated with Australia, especially in regions like the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale. However, both grape varieties are grown in various wine-producing regions around the world.

Can the terms Syrah and Shiraz indicate different winemaking styles?

Yes, the terms Syrah and Shiraz can sometimes indicate different winemaking styles. Syrah wines are often made in a more restrained, Old World style, focusing on showcasing the grape’s natural characteristics and terroir. Shiraz wines may lean towards a more fruit-forward, New World style, with riper fruit flavors and oak influences.

In Summary

To summarize what we’ve learned about Syrah vs Shiraz today, they are both dry wines made from the same grape called Syrah grape. Their differences lie in their country of origin, flavor profile, and winemaking technique.

Syrah is primarily French and shines in cooler regions. It offers a leaner, more elegant profile with lively acidity and herbal hints.

Shiraz, born in the warmth of Australia, delivers a richer, fruit-forward experience with a velvety texture. Many foods pair extremely well with Shiraz, such as gamey meats, barbecue, and burgers.

Both wines are aged inside French oak barrels, but Syrah spends time inside large barrels, which gives it a lighter profile. On the other hand, smaller oak barrels are used to get the signature Shiraz taste and texture.

References:

  1. https://www.britannica.com/topic/wine/Species-and-varieties
  2. https://www.britannica.com/place/Rhone-Alpes
  3. https://www.britannica.com/topic/wine/Fermentation
  4. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/yes-you-should-stick-your-nose-in-the-wine-glass-before-you-taste-it-heres-why/2020/05/22/f211607e-99bf-11ea-a282-386f56d579e6_story.html
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