Syrah. What do I say about Syrah? Lots of things. It’s my quintessential BBQ wine. Specifically lamb. Although it has many, many other culinary opportunities. But so many people don’t even know the grape. And certainly many people don’t know how truly great it can really be. It has been a struggle for Syrah makers to sell their well-crafted juice.
I sometimes equate Syrah to Dippin’ Dots, you know, the ice cream they sell at the local mall who’s slogan is “Ice Cream of the Future”. That’s been their slogan for almost 20 years. When is it going to become the ice cream of present? Probably never. Will Syrah overcome? I hope so.
Syrah’s ancestry goes back to the Rhone region of France where it is planted in copious amounts. But it’s the Australians that have made it famous under the label Shiraz. Shiraz and Syrah are the same grape. The Australians believe that the Syrah grape originated near Shiraz, Iran (Persia) and named it after the city it was from. Who’s right? I’m not sure, but it’s certainly worked for the Australians. They sell a lot of that type of wine.
Syrah is unique in that it can grow in cool, warm and hot climates. Most grapes only thrive in one area. Depending on where it’s grown, it can offer a wide range of characteristics. Everything from bright cherry to dark plum, smoke and tar to deli meats. It’s no wonder the American public hasn’t embraced this varietal. It’s totally unpredictable.
When most people go out to dinner and order a bottle of wine, they want to have an idea of what they are going to get. Usually with Cabernet, Merlot or even Chardonnay there’s more of a consistent profile, but with Syrah it’s all over the map. Order the duck and some Syrah wines may overpower the dish, while others would be just perfect. The question is which ones? The answer is almost always the same: it depends. Consumers wind up confused and they choose to just stay away from the wine type rather than experiment until they find one that works.
It’s probably no surprise that I’m drinking Syrah tonight. Which one doesn’t really matter. I will tell you that it is a warm climate Syrah. This particular wine has changed immensely since we popped the cork tonight. I’ve noticed this more with Syrah than any other varietal – it goes through many stages in the minutes and hours after it was opened. This just adds to the complexity of understanding Syrah and likely why many Americans have strayed away from the grape.
So, like many other wines, I’ll keep tasting to try to understand the intricacies of this particular grape. Oh and one more thing – don’t go too crazy making Syrah the grape of the ‘now’….it will just drive up the price on a wine type I’m enjoying.