It’s time to rug up against the cold and pour yourself a glass of something warming and complex with our guide to syrah/shiraz wines
Words: Jane Lyons Image: Josh Griggs
Syrah, shiraz, heaven in a glass – whatever you call it, this delectable red is seducing wine drinkers around the globe with its style and spice. With the rich, full body of a merlot and the fragrant and fresh tones of a pinot noir, there is no questioning why syrah is perhaps the “it girl” of the red world. In New Zealand, we’re head over heels for the stuff – in the 1990s we had under 50 hectares of this bold variety planted in our soils. Today, we have more than 400 hectares.
What’s in a name?
In Australia, they call it shiraz and in New Zealand we call it syrah, but they’re the same grape – what’s up with that? Although people are quite hazy about how this came about, the most common explanation is due to the fact that the grape first originated in Shiraz, Persia. The Aussies may have adopted the name to honour its place of birth.
Predominantly grown in Auckland, Northland and Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand syrah takes on characteristics from each region in its flavour and feel. Hawke’s Bay styles are renowned for their spice and aroma, while Waiheke Island syrah is more bold and rich. In the cooler climates of the Wairarapa and Martinborough, syrah is thought to be more refined and complex.
Fruity ’n’ feisty
The syrah produced in New Zealand has a fruity, aromatic profile with notes of fresh plum, boysenberries and black pepper – a stark contrast to the bold, rich Australian version. The peppery kick found in New Zealand and other cool climate syrah isn’t imaginary. Scientists have discovered that syrah shares a compound with peppercorns.
Serve it up
Syrah is best served at around 15-20°C in a large glass. A wider glass provides a larger surface area of wine to let ethanol evaporate and the wine taste smoother. If you’re drinking a high tannic syrah (tannins are a textural element in some wine and foods e.g. black tea and dark chocolate, which cause a dry mouth feel), then serving it at a slightly warmer temperature (closer to 20°C) will help it to smooth out a bit.
This bold tipple is best suited to bold bites. Barbecued meats, burgers, rich sauces and strong cheeses are great companions for syrah as they match the intensity of the wine and help bring out smoothness and fruit factor.
- Wine growers and makers sometimes say “syrah likes a view” because the best vineyards are usually sitting at the tops of hills where there is less soil, making the vines produce more concentrated grapes.
- It is thought that the word syrah may have come from Syracuse; a city on the island of Sicily, Italy.
- Hawke’s Bay grows around 70 percent of New Zealand’s syrah.
From Left: Yealands Syrah, RRP$16.99. I Am George Shiraz, RRP$22.99. Jacobs Creek Double Barrel Shiraz, RRP$23.99. Brown Brothers Shiraz, RRP$17.99. Taylors Jaraman Shiraz, RRP$29.99. Sacred Hill Halo Syrah, RRP$27.99. Tyrrell’s Hunter Valley Shiraz, RPP$19.99.