Wine Photo Credit: Western Living

Okanagan Wine School Lesson #6: Is There Any Difference Between Syrah and Shiraz?

Same grape, different name (and a different taste, too).

No. And yes. At the most basic level, they’re simply interchangeable names for the dark-skinned grape that’s the seventh-most planted variety worldwide. But on a higher plane, it’s like saying men named Chris and men named Topher have the same name—technically, they’re both Christophers, but in reality, you can probably tell the Topher at 20 paces. Syrah is the benchmark here, having been grown with great success in France’s Rhône region for nearly two millennia. Its hallmarks are a high acidity and notes of black pepper, violet and blackberries. Shiraz, on the other hand, is the name the grape took in Australia, and while the DNA is the same, in the hands of the Aussies it grew to be much riper, and the resulting wines—which took the world by storm starting in the 1980s—were higher in alcohol, very ripe and very jammy. In B.C., syrah has won the battle of the names, with shiraz showing up only as mostly low-end wine with a few decent exceptions, like the Black Sage Shiraz, which, while ripe, has some semblance of balance. Syrah, on the other hand, is quickly making a play to become our signature red—with examples from Black Hills, Laughing Stock and Stag’s Hollow showing all the finesse of France—spicy and elegant, dark yet nuanced—at about one-third the price.

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