Shiraz or Syrah?

Published on 03/17/2020 by Priscilla Hennekam

My first day working at Two Hands Wines in Barossa Valley, Australia. 

Why is Syrah called Shiraz in Australia? 

If you thought the name Shiraz was related to the city Shiraz in Iran, you might be right. For a long time, it was believed that the origin of Syrah in the French region of the Rhône Valley, was actually grape cuttings of Iranian origin. Legend has it that Sterimberg returning from the "Crusades" brought with him the cuttings of the Syrah / Shiraz grape from Iran to France. And that he became a hermit living on a hill in the Rhône Valley, and there he planted a vineyard, which became known as the Hermitage (one of the most prestigious wines in the Rhône). James Busby (father of Australian Wines) believed this legend and maybe he hoped the name "Shiraz" would add mystery and Iranian flavours to his New World wine-making endeavours. It's a beautiful story, but DNA tests have shown that the Shiraz or Syrah grape is of French origin.

What is the difference between Shiraz and Syrah?

Despite different names, they are genetically the same grape. Syrah / Shiraz is a cross between the Monduese Blanche and Dureza varieties. The grape is known as Syrah in France and is the main grape in the northern part of the Rhône Valley, where with a continental climate, it produces more elegant and subtle wines. Syrah arrived in Australia in the 19th century, where it is now known as Shiraz, and became the country's flagship grape. Australia has the second largest production of Shiraz in the world (second only to the French). The land of kangaroos has a warmer climate, allowing grapes to fully ripen and produce fruity, full-bodied and exuberant wines.


Syrah or Shiraz can be used to define the style of the wine, for example; Syrah "Old World – Elegant Wines”, or Shiraz "New World - Full-bodied Wines". But in reality there are no rules - the producer can label his wines with either of these names, regardless of style.

But it is difficult to associate a wine profile just by the name “Syrah or Shiraz”, isn't it?

In the wine world it is difficult to generalize. Some Shiraz produced in cold climatic regions in Australia, such as Adelaide Hills or Yarra Valley, have a more discreet and delicate profile than those produced in Barossa Valley or McLaren Vale, in which they are more rich and concentrated. In France this is also the case, for example; Côte Rôtie AOP is associated with elegance while Hermitage AOP has a reputation for wines with greater intensity. And to complicate matters, there are other names used for the grape, for example; sira, sirac, sirah, syra, syrac and etc.

But if you don't know Australia, I will tell you a secret; Australians love to create words, for example: Breakkie for Breakfast, Mozzie for Mosquito, Macca’s for McDonald's, Arvo for Afternoon and of course it couldn't be different with Syrah, right?


Did you learn the difference?