Syrah or Shiraz- What is in a Name?

Syrah or Shiraz- What is the difference between these two red wine varietals. This is the most popular question when it comes to shiraz wines. And, there are a number of answers which point to the fact these two are one and the same thing. There is no difference between the two wines. It is only the nomenclature which is different due to the different ways this word is said in different parts of the world.

Links with Shiraz- The Iranian City

shiraz-iran-city

The first thing which needs to be cleared is that this red wine grape varietal has nothing to do with the Iranian city of Shiraz which has a long history of habitation and growing wines in ancient and medieval times. There is a myth that the famed Shirazi wine grape varietal was brought to the Rhone region by traders. However, there is no solid documentary or DNA evidence to back this claim. In fact, no credible genomic studies of this grape have been done to determine its origin in this city (which was called Syracuse). At this stage, we can safely say that matching of these two names is purely coincidental, and beyond names, there is no commonality between the two.

The Genetic Connections

shiraz-grapes

Shiraz is a popular red wine varietal. In fact, Shiraz red wines are the most consumed wine varietal in Australia. However, on conducting the genetic studies, it has been found that present shiraz grape varietal is actually a cross between the two native grape varietals of France- Dureza red grapes and Mondeuse white grapes. Dureza is a native of Ardeche region of France whereas Mondeuse belongs to Savoy regions. Though genetic connection has helped in determining its parentage, there is no evidence to suggest the time from which this grape varietal is being grown.

Historians have tried to determine its age in an indirect way. Pliny’s Naturalis Historia, written in AD 77, mentions a dark skinned grape varietal which was farmed in those times by the people of Allobroges. Pliny also mentioned that this grape varietal was not in existence about 50 years back. Pliny named it Allobroges, which is considered to be the present Shiraz.

Hermitage and Shiraz

Syrah is the name used to denote this wine in Europe, Latin America and South Africa. However, it is only in Australia that the name Shiraz has become popular. But, Shiraz was not the first name of this grape varietal in Australia. It was Hermitage. The grapes continued to be called by this name until late 1980 when it conflicted with one of the Protected Destination of Origin names of France. So, the name had to be changed to Shiraz and the wine became popular by this name.

Well, whatever be the name, Aussies love shiraz for its style, aroma, flavour and palette.