Is there a difference between Syrah and Shiraz?… YES and NO. They are made from the same type of dark skinned grape, but based on the climate in which the grape is grown, you can expect to find very different characteristics in the wine. By paying attention to whether it is labeled Syrah or Shiraz, you can usually get a pretty good idea of what to expect from the wine.
The Syrah grape originated in the Rhone area of France and is used to make dry, full bodied reds. There are myths that the grape was originally brought to France from the city of Shiraz in Iran. There is no actual proof, however, to back this up. There has. however, been DNA typing of Syrah grapes that prove that they came from two grapes from the Rhone Region of France.
Syrah or Shiraz wines are usually very bold wines. I like to call them ”punch you in the face” wines. They are full bodied and packed with flavor. People often pick out pepper and dark ripe fruit, like blackberries, in these wines. Based on the climate and soil, the grapes that are grown in the flavor profile of this varietal can vary greatly.
European countries that use varietal labeling, label this type of wine “Syrah”. France labels wine based on region rather then varietal, so wines like Hermitage, Cornas and Cote-Rotie are usually predominantly Syrah. Outside of Europe, wine labelled “Syrah” usually indicates that the wineis made in an old world style. You can expect these wines to be rich and earthy.
If the wine comes from Australia or South Africa, it will almost certainly be labeled Shiraz not Syrah. Like the Shiraz from Australia and South Africa, wines from other countries labeled as Shiraz will be a new world style wine– fruit forward and peppery.
Also don’t forget that Petite Syrah is actually a different grape than Syrah or Shiraz, so don’t expect the same characteristics that you would find in a Syrah or Shiraz.
The key when choosing a Syrah or Shiraz is knowing what characteristics you like in a wine. If you like fruit forward, stick with Shiraz but if you like earthy, go with Syrah.