It’s the most popular wine variety in Australia with almost half a million tonnes harvested annually around the nation’s wine growing regions. Shiraz can be a big, jammy, full bodied wine or tighter, elegant and spicy depending on where it is grown and how it is made. This means it’s suitable for different occasions from casual meaty barbeques to top end restaurant meals, to special events such as weddings or openings.
Australian shiraz vines originally came from France, where it is called Syrah. There it is a late budding and late ripening red grape that is the foundation of famous wines including Hermitage and Côte Rôtie.
In 1832 James Busby, the father of the Australian wine industry, imported vines including Syrah from France. It was planted around Sydney and in the Hunter and was known as hermitage and claret but by the mid 19th century the name shiraz was adopted to describe the grape variety we love today.
Shiraz is an amazing variety that produces grapes with a great diversity of flavour and aromas depending on the climate in which they are grown.
In warm regions such as the Hunter and Barossa Valleys, shiraz is known for producing wines that are big on flavour and alcohol, with jammy, blackberry and plum fruit characters. These bold and popular styles of shiraz are great to match with a big, juicy, medium-rare dry-aged steak or a rich and flavoursome beef or lamb stew.
Shiraz also thrives in regions with warm summer days but cooler nights, such as the Adelaide Hills and Margaret River – home to wines like Tomich, Totino Estate and Capel Vale. Here shiraz develops more aromatic notes of pepper and chocolate, and elegant acidic structure superb with modern dishes such as kangaroo with pepper and Davidson plum, or beef brisket with spice rub.
Cooler regions like Mornington Peninsula and Tasmania’s Tamar Valley produce shiraz with aromas described as raspberry, liquorice, capsicum and white pepper, wines perfect to be partnered with grilled vegetable salads and Australian cheeses.
It is this diversity of flavours, aromas, regions and brands that allows all Australian wine lovers to find a shiraz that suits not only their taste, but the food they love.
This article appeared originally in the 2021 winter edition of Gulp