Syrah, “…the kind of guy who wears cowboy boots with a tuxedo. Rustic, manly, yet elegant….” A well put description from Karen McNeil in her book, The Wine Bible.
Syrah originated in France, specifically the Rhone region. In Northern Rhone (where the only red grape allowed is Syrah), it shows itself as an elegant and savory wine. In Southern Rhone, it is used in blends, especially with Grenache and Mourvèdre, often referred to as the popular blend “GSM” (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvédre). Washington Syrah tends to lean more toward the style of Northern Rhone while Australia and California Syrah is often velvety with more jam and spice characteristics. In case you’re wondering, Shiraz from Australia and South Africa is in fact, Syrah, it was just renamed when it landed in those countries. Syrah is grown in many other countries such as Argentina, Spain and Chile to name a few.
Syrah is inky dark and comes with a good hit of tannin (that bitter/astringent feeling on the front of your gums and on your tongue) especially when bottled on it’s own. Any way you slice it, Syrah is showy and full bodied with fruit forward flavors of blackberry, blueberry, boysenberry, and plum rounding out with leather, tar, tobacco, smoke, smoked meat, spice and chocolate (to name a few).
It is important to note that California Petite Sirah, which has similar characteristics, is not the same as Syrah. There are a few theories but, in my opinion, the most legitimate explanation is that Petite Sirah is actually Durif, a cross of Syrah and Peloursin (both grapes from the Rhone region in France).
By the way, if you’re looking for a Valentine’s Day gift, I would like to point out that Syrah (and Australian Shiraz in particular) has the ability to pair quite well with dark chocolate.