Shiraz is one of Australia’s best loved and most iconic grape varieties. It’s dark and rich and full of delicious fruit flavour. So let’s discover a little bit more about the ultimate Aussie crowd-pleaser.
First, a little bit of history. Originally from France’s Rhone Valley, Shiraz was one of the first grape varieties planted in Australia. James Busby, a Scotsman often known as the Father of Australian Viticulture brought cuttings from Europe, planting them in the Hunter Valley and at the Sydney Botanical Gardens back in 1831. In 1839 the variety was first planted in South Australia and by the 1860s, was widely planted throughout the country and initially used mostly to make fortified wines such as Tawny and Vintage Ports.
Style and Flavour
Shiraz is an interesting variety in that it is very good at adapting to various climates and so can have significant variation in style and character depending on the region in which it’s grown. Dark fruit flavours of plum, blackberry and blueberry are generally mainstays, however climate will affect both the overall flavour profile and style of wine. In Australia, there are generally considered to be three main styles of Shiraz.
Firstly, there are the cool climate Shiraz styles, grown mainly in Victoria, the Canberra District and cooler coastal, and higher altitude regions of South Australia, such as Robe or the Adelaide Hills. These tend to be lighter styles with finer body and structure, more savoury spice, and both black and white pepper characters.
Then there are the warmer climate styles, the renowned Shiraz of the Barossa, McLaren Vale and the Clare Valley, which tend to be deeper and richer, with more concentrated, dark fruit flavours. Warmer climates also often produce secondary characters of chocolate, coffee, liquorice and black olive and may also have riper characters like plum pudding or Christmas cake.
And finally, there are the unique Shiraz stylings of the Hunter Valley. These wines are generally more earthy and tarry in nature, and tend to be very long-lived, developing complex, leathery characters over time.
Being based in the Barossa Valley, Shiraz has always been a key red variety for Wolf Blass. However, to create a range of different wine styles, we source Shiraz from across many South Australian regions including McLaren Vale, Eden Valley, Langhorne Creek, and the cooler climates of Robe, Mount Benson and the Adelaide Hills.
Shiraz is also a great blender. It fills out the mid-palate of the longer, leaner, more structural Cabernet Sauvignon or adds richness and depth to the soft fruit of Grenache.
Shiraz vs Syrah – what’s the difference?
Syrah is the French word for Shiraz. The words are actually synonyms for the variety and are, in theory, interchangeable. In Europe, New Zealand and mostly in America the name Syrah is used, whereas Shiraz is the more traditional name in Australia. However, there is a tendency for Shiraz growers here to denote a lighter style of wine by labelling it Syrah. If the wine is labelled this way, you can generally expect it to be produced from a cooler climate, with finer, spicier fruit flavours.
As a full-flavoured wine, Shiraz works well with full-flavoured foods. Red meats, especially those with roasted, grilled, barbecued or chargrilled flavours are the perfect foil for the rich fruit. Beef, lamb, kangaroo, venison and game are delicious, but pork and game birds also work very well, especially with cooler climate Shiraz.
Peppery flavoured and dark fruit sauces like plum or cherry are great with Shiraz. Full sweet Shiraz flavours can balance well with warm spicy foods like Mexican chilli, Chinese five-spice and Hoisin. More herbal flavours, fennel and pepper are great with spicy, cool climate styles.
Shiraz works really well with strong hard cheese, particularly aged Cheddar, and the sweet fruit palate also balances well with soft, rich blue cheese without too much pungency that can clash with the tannins. Chocolate is also a winner, especially with fruitier Shiraz styles.
And of course, the versatility of Shiraz makes it equally at home with a night in front of the telly, a burger and fries or a slice of pizza. A wine to enjoy to the fullest.
View our outstanding range of Shiraz.