Spotlight on shiraz: 8 things you need to know about this hugely popular grape

Buying wine can be a complicated business. While most producers list the grape on the label, it can be a guessing game if you don’t know which region to look for. Especially if the label’s in French or Italian.

But one thing we do seem to be confident about is our taste for shiraz. According to new data from retail analyst Nielsen, shiraz was the UK’s top selling varietal red over the past year. We’re slurping more of this reliably rich, dark-skinned grape than any other.

Red Wine GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

But do you know your shiraz from your syrah? We look at the story behind its success and why it’s such a winner for everyday enjoyment…

1. Why does it have two names?

Shiraz and syrah are in fact the same grape. It’s syrah (pronounced see-rah) in France and shiraz (pronounced shee-rahz) in Australia. Elsewhere, it can be pot luck as other regions use either name.

2. Where does it grow?

France’s Rhone valley is its spiritual home, but shiraz is the most planted grape in Australia.

3. What is its history?

The Persian city of Shiraz is cited as being its origin. According to ancient legend, during the 13th century Crusades, a knight took some cuttings back home to Hermitage in the Rhone Valley, and the name was changed to syrah.

4. What does it taste like?

Guigal Côte Rôtie 2015, France, £29.99 (was £39.99), Waitrose (E Guigal/PA)

As with any grape, it all depends where it’s grown. There’s powerful Hermitage with peppery, earthy, smoky fruit or more delicate, fragrant, raspberry enriched Cote-Rotie from the northern Rhone wine region.

Australian shiraz is richer, softer and inkier with the same peppery, spicy character – sometimes more leathery chocolatey notes – and concentrated.

Or as Catherine Fallis, master sommelier and author of Ten Grapes To Know (Countryman Press, £14.99) writes: “If I am French, I am shy and reluctant but worth seeking out. If I am from Australia, I am an open book – pleasant, friendly and for the most part will go with the flow.

5. Will it improve with age?

Penfolds St Henri Shiraz 2015, £68, South Australia, Laithwaite’s (Laithwaite’s/PA)

Exuberant shiraz such as a Penfolds St Henri Shiraz 2015 (£68, Laithwaite’s) are built to last. This rich, plush red is ready to enjoy now, but the suggested drinking window is from 2020 to 2045. Penfolds is Australia’s most iconic winery and its flagship shiraz, Grange, is one of the most famous and expensive wines in the world.

Crozes Hermitage 2014, £13, France, Marks & Spencer (Marks & Spencer/PA)

In France, Hermitage remains one of the country’s most prestigious wines with the potential to age for many decades.

6. Which country offers the best value?

Bottles from the Languedoc region in the south of France, Chile and of course the juicy, spicy, Aussie shiraz most of us guzzle, are the best value for money – and reliably good.

7. What’s the best food match?

Steak GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Whether it’s a shiraz or syrah, this full bodied red loves red meats, BBQs, rustic cassoulet, chilli, meatballs, pepper sauces, herbs, while the fruit notes also pair well with savoury spice such as Indian and Moroccan, but keep hot, fiery spice at bay.

8. Is petite sirah another name for shiraz?

Sounds similar but petite sirah (American name for durif) is a red grape grown predominantly in California and Mexico. The wines are robust and tannic with good ageing potential – and anything but petite.

- Press Association

More on this topic

Could Madhmoon spoil Ballydoyle’s Derby party?

Airtricity League wrap: 10-man Bohs suffer late defeat

Rylan Clark-Neal condemns May resignation for ‘taking shine off’ Spice Girls gig

Barcelona hoping to banish Champions League nightmare with domestic double

More in this Section

H&M has announced its latest incredible designer collaboration – and it goes on sale tomorrow

Ask an expert: What’s the best way to quickly potty train my toddler?

Album review: Flying Lotus - Flamagra

Special delivery: Rare postbox among items at Sheppard’s auction

Latest Showbiz

Theresa May impersonator strips off during BGT audition

Mel B hopes sound ‘will be much better’ for next Spice Girls concert

Max George considering children with new girlfriend Stacey Giggs

Spice Girls dazzle in Dublin as first arena tour in a decade kicks off

More From The Irish Examiner