People often ask me if and what is the difference is between Shiraz and Syrah grapes? In fact, they are both names for the same red wine grape variety and the choice of Shiraz or Syrah depends on where the vine clone originated and the style of the wine produced. Legend has it that the Shiraz is originated from a city in Persia, bearing the same name, but studies have shown that the grape is a native of the Rhone valley in France.
The grape is considered to have an aroma and flavor profile of spicy dark fruits (blackberry, dark plums) herb and peppery characteristics. Often there are additional notes of anise, bitter chocolate, mocha and even meaty notes. In Syrah wines from the Rhone valley aromas of olives can be found as well. Of course, this is where the terroir (and the winemaker) makes all of the difference resulting in a wide array of wines. Winemakers in the Rhone valley also like to add some Viognier to their Syrah wines which adds both to the color and aroma profiles of the final result.
When looking at food pairing options, much depends on the style of the vino – lighter Syrahs like those found in the Rhone valley will go well with cured meats or lean cuts of grilled lamb. On the other hand, heavier fruit-forward vinos will pair well with peppery grilled meats, game meat (which is hard to come be in Israel) or sharp aged cheeses like Cheddar or Gouda.
Over the years the Shiraz and Syrah wines in Israel have shown excellent results and following are several Israeli Shiraz/Syrah based vinos that will make an excellent addition to your holiday meal:
Binyamina, Reserve, Shiraz, 2011 – 100% Shiraz grapes, 14 months oak, bright ruby in color, the wine is medium bodied, suggesting aromas and flavors of cherries, blackberries, those followed by hints of chocolate and white pepper leading to a long (and slightly bitter) finish.
Dalton, Reserve, Shiraz, 2012 –The Shiraz 2012 is dark purple in color, full bodied, good supporting acidity, with concentrated aromas and flavors of dark berry fruits and flowers followed by pleasant peppery notes and sweet spices leading to a long and mouth filing finish.
Golan Heights, Yarden, Syrah, 2011 – along with the Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon, the Yarden Syrah is usually a safe bet and the 2011 is up to par with previous releases. 100% Syrah grapes from the Golan Heights, bright ruby with a purple rim, this is a full bodied wine with plenty of fruit, fresh herbs and a touch of smoke leading to a long and satisfying finish.
Tulip, Reserve, Syrah, 2011 –95% Syrah and the balance Petit Verdot, the wine is dark ruby in color, a bit firm when first poured and opens to suggest generous notes of dark and ripe berry fruits, plums, dark chocolate, coffee and thyme leading to a long finish. As of the 2010 vintage all of the Tulip wines are kosher.
Yatir, Syrah, 2009 – 98% Syrah and 2% Viognier, deep purple towards garnet, this is a full bodied wine, showing plenty of fruit (black berries and cherries come to mind) and a touch of spice coming together nicely on the long finish. Good structure on the palate and overall, this is a very enjoyable wine.