Syrah, a classic Mediterranean Wine Grape
Despite being one of the top French grapes, grown on even more acres in the country than Noble Grapes Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves. Syrah is believed to be one of the more ancient French varieties still well known today, the natural offspring of obscure grapes Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche. It most likely dates back to Roman times when the two grapes crossed naturally.
Today, the grape is one of the most important grape varieties in the Rhône Valley in France, often produced as a single varietal wine in the Northern Rhône and blended with other varieties in the Southern Rhône. Syrah is widely grown not just in France but around the world. It is responsible for some of the darkest, full-bodied red wines in the world, and produces consistently delicious wines whether bottled on its own or blended with other Rhône grapes. It is the #1 planted grape in Australia, where it is known as Shiraz, and it is an important grape in California wine regions as well.
In the Northern Rhône, Syrah is the only important red grape, where it us used to produce the famous Hermitage and Cote Rotie wines. In the Southern Rhône, Syrah is one of the top grapes used in the characteristic blends of the region, often blended with Grenache and Mourvèdre in blends commonly called “GSM”, and one of the component grapes of the highly regarded Chateauneuf du Pape blends.
Syrah is also grown Southwest of the Rhône in the huge Languedoc Roussillon wine region, where it is often blended with Grenache, Carignan, and other red grapes.
Syrah grows widely in California today because it is well suited to growing in a variety of the state’s best wine regions. It produces particularly high quality wines in our vineyards El Dorado and Fair Play. El Dorado’s cooler microclimates can produce wines that mirror that of the Northern Rhône, while its warmer climates produce Syrah in the style of the Southern Rhôned. Syrah’s thick skins are to thank for its signature dark and bold wines, and those skins also help it withstand a range of climates while still producing high quality wines.
Syrah’s Flavor Profile
Syrah produces a range of styles depending on how it is grown. One of it’s signature distinguishing qualities is a smokey meatiness often described as “bacon fat.”
- Fruit profile: Dark fruits such as black cherry, blueberry, blackberry, boysenberry
- Non fruit profile: Pepper, baking spice, vanilla, mint, licorice, chocolate, rosemary, smoked meats, bacon fat, tobacco, and herbs.
- Structure: Medium acidity, medium high tannins, medium high alcohol.
- Ageability: 5 to 9 years generally.
Syrah Food Pairing
With its massive full-bodied taste, Syrah pairs great with bold foods. You can pair Syrah with anything from a blue cheeseburger to barbecue, Syrah loves grilled foods, and the trick for an exceptional pairing is to bring out the subtle nuances in the wine. Cassoulet, Duck Breast, and Braised Lamb or Beef Stew are great choices to pair.
The floral aromatics of Herbs de Provence with lavender, fennel and thyme will compliment well with an old-world style Syrah.
Pair with softer, stinkier cheeses. The fat texture and earthy flavors in a cheese such as Abbaye de Belloc will absorb the high tannin in Syrah. You can also pair with more common and boldly flavored cheeses like Gorgonzola or Smoked Gouda.
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