For those non-oenophiles (an oenophile is a “wine junky”) out there, here is a quick history lesson on Syrah (or for our “mates daun undah” Shiraz), a lesser known but up and coming grape and therefore wine. For those already familiar with this bold full-bodied red wine, (and the bold full-bodied hangover that comes with consuming too much of it) read on-you still might learn something.
There are various opinions on where the Syrah grape originated, but the two most popular are:
1. The grape was originally grown in Iran and was made famous by the city of Shiraz and
Shirazi wine back in 600 BC.
2. Syrah grapes were originally brought by Roman legions from Syracuse, (Go ‘Cuse! -
No…. the city in Greece) to Emperor Probus sometime after 280 AD.
To put these myths to rest they ran DNA tests (Yup-they CSI’d a grape), and found that the fruit originated in the Rhone region of southeastern France and was the offspring of two obscure grapes- Monduese Blanche, and Dureza.
Syrah as a wine actually was made famous in the 18th century by a town in the Rhone region named Tain-l’Hermitage and specifically the hill above the town, Hermitage where they made excellent wines.
In 1831 James Busby, a Scotsman but resident of Australia at the time, travelled back to Europe to collect vine clippings to introduce back to the continent. Of the many he brought back the “Father of Australian viticulture” included Syrah, which has since become one of the most planted there.
The introduction of Syrah to the United States has been relatively recent compared to its origins. The first records of grape plantings here are as recent as the 1970s in the central coast of California.
- Hot stuff: Syrah is a hot wine for a couple reasons. Not only does it have one of the highest recommended serving temperatures of 65°F, but it tends to thrive in warmer regions and climates than other wine producing grapes.
- Tommy-J: One of the earliest fans of Syrah was none other than Thomas Jefferson who was an oenophile. He was famous for saying: “Good wine is a necessity of life for me.”
- In 2004 Syrah was the 7th most grown grape with more than 352,000 acres planted worldwide.
Syrah grapes are very dense and concentrated and typically produce a wine with high tannins and acidity, (that’s what non-oenophiles call “pucker factor”), and rich dark color. Because of this it was traditionally used as a blending wine to help add flavor and color to already big red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon.
Since then Syrah has become very popular on its own as many wineries have experimented with the grape and done much bigger blends with Grenache and Mourvedre (two other traditional blending grapes) known as GSM. It also may be because Syrah has a higher average alcohol content (well north of 14%)-so less is more if you know what I mean, (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).
After successfully reading this post you can now consider yourself an oenophile…