Over the last few years Shiraz and Syrah wines have enjoyed a steady increase in popularity. In fact the grape varietal is currently the fifth most planted red grape. The popularity of this wine is well deserved. Full bodied and dark, its fruity, peppery flavour is bold and uncompromising, making it an ideal pairing for rich meats and grilled foods of all kinds.
However, before you rush off to buy a bottle it’s important to know exactly what you’re in for.
What’s in a name?
Depending on its point of origin, this wine will either be called Syrah or Shiraz. French, and indeed most European vineyards, label wines of this varietal as Syrah, while new-world producers in Australia, South Africa, and South America favour the term Shiraz.
While both wines use the exact same grape varietal, in recent years a distinct difference has developed between Syrah and Shiraz. Syrah wine tends to be lighter in body, while wines labeled Shiraz will often be full-bodied, rich, and peppery.
One wine, two bodies
So which option should you go for? Well, it all really depends on your preference. When trying to choose between a Syrah and a Shiraz keep the following in mind:
Shiraz: Full bodied with a rich, intense fruity flavour. The wine will most likely feature plum, blackcurrant and plum notes and a distinct peppery flavour. These wines tend to have a higher alcohol content than Syrah thanks to their longer ripening time.
Syrah: Lighter than shiraz with less body. These wines tend to have a more complex flavour profile than shiraz. Expect flavours of cherry, smoke, and plum, as well as a distinct earthiness. Syrah’s are more acidic than shiraz and have softer tannins.
While in most cases you can reasonably expect the above flavour profiles to match the wine in question, occasionally the use of these names is not always consistent. Make sure you read the wines description on the label before purchasing.
What to pair them with
Thanks to the differences between Shiraz and Syrah, food pairings can be a little complicated.
Food that goes well with the lighter Syrah might not compliment the full bodied Shiraz, so keep that in mind when picking your poison. Both Syrah and shiraz go extremely well with grilled meats and vegetables, making them perfect wines for sunny days spent around the BBQ. Dark fruit and peppery dishes will bring out the spicy and juicy aspects of both wines. Finally, unless you really know what your doing, try to avoid pairing Syrah or Shiraz with fish dishes.
As the lighter of the two wines, Syrah pairs well with delicate foods. The delicate flavours of lamb pair extremely well with Syrah. Other meats to try included braised beef, grilled chicken, and duck. When it comes to vegetables, grilled peppers, onion, and mushroom will pair well with the wines earthy profile. Thanks to its low tannins Syrah pairs well with aged cheeses. Try some aged gouda, cheddar, or an intense blue cheese to really bring out the flavor.
The full bodied intensity of Shiraz pairs well with fatty grilled meats like pork ribs, beef short rib, and sausages of all kinds. Like Syrah, this wine also pairs well with grilled veggies. It’s also worth giving it a try with certain fruits. Try matching it with some apricot for an intense fruity punch. The strong tannin flavour makes this wine less suited to have with aged cheese.
This is only a small taste of the many foods that pair well with Syrah and Shiraz. Feel free to experiment with different foods and flavors. Cheers!