The classic Australian red wine
Originally from France’s Rhone Valley, Shiraz was one of the first grape varieties planted in Australia. James Busby, a Scotsman often known as the Father of Australian Viticulture brought cuttings from Europe, planting them in the Hunter Valley and at the Sydney Botanical Gardens back in 1831. In 1839 the variety was first planted in South Australia and by the 1860s, was widely planted throughout the country and initially used mostly to make fortified wines such as Tawny and Vintage Ports.
Style and Flavour
Shiraz is an interesting variety in that it is very good at adapting to various climates and so can have significant variation in style and character depending on the region in which it’s grown. Dark fruit flavours of plum, blackberry and blueberry are generally mainstays, however climate will affect both the overall flavour profile and style of wine. In Australia, there are generally considered to be three main styles of Shiraz.
Shiraz or Syrah?
Syrah is the French word for Shiraz. The words are actually synonyms for the variety and are, in theory, interchangeable. In Europe, New Zealand and mostly in America the name Syrah is used, whereas Shiraz is the more traditional name in Australia. However, there is a tendency for Shiraz growers here to denote a lighter style of wine by labelling it Syrah. If the wine is labelled this way, you can generally expect it to be produced from a cooler climate, with finer, spicier fruit flavours.
As a full-flavoured wine, Shiraz works well with full-flavoured foods. Red meats, especially those with roasted, grilled, barbecued or chargrilled flavours are the perfect foil for the rich fruit.
Shiraz works really well with strong hard cheese, particularly aged Cheddar, and the sweet fruit palate also balances well with soft, rich blue cheese without too much pungency that can clash with the tannins. Chocolate is also a winner, especially with fruitier Shiraz styles.