Wine Wednesday: Syrah
By: Cecily Gamba
Que Sera, Sera, “Whatever will be, will be.” That’s a great motto and all, but here at the girl & the fig, we prefer Que Syrah Syrah, because, you know, two Syrahs are better than one. 😉
Syrah is a red grape varietal, especially revered in the Northern Rhône. Some may argue that the best Syrahs are French Syrahs, and certainly, the French produce Syrah unlike any other.
Syrah was first documented as having grown in the Rhône region, though it has not been proven that the grape originated there. Syrah came to be as the result of two grape varieties, Dureza and Mondeause blanche, which are now relatively obscure, and are nowhere near as popular as their offspring. Both of these varietals are only documented as having grown in the northern Rhône, hence, it can be concluded that northern Rhône was the birthplace of Syrah. Despite this, arguments have been made for Shiraz (Persia), Italy, and Greece as other places of origin.
In 1958, only about 3,300 acres of Syrah were planted in France, but due to a resurgence of popularity, over 86,000 acres were planted by the mid 1990’s. The grape made its way to Australia in the early 1800’s, and is now the most popular red grape in the country, known there as Shiraz.
Syrah usually grows best towards the top of hills where the soil is thinner. This means the vines will yield a smaller crop, but will produce more concentrated fruit. The vine grows well in hot climates, needing a good amount of sun to fully ripen. Syrah can grow well in moderate and cooler climates, as well, which yield a different flavor profiles.
Typically, Syrahs are full bodied and powerfully flavored. As mentioned, due to the variance in growing regions, Syrah produces a wide range of flavor notes. There can be aromas varying from violets to dark berries to chocolate to black pepper. Primary flavors are generally fruit driven, with dark berry and pepper, and develop into more earthy notes after time in the bottle.
Old World Syrahs (coming from places such as France and Italy) tend to be more earthy and acidic. New World Syrahs tend toward a more fruit driven profile, and are characterized by more spice.
Some of the most famous and expensive Syrahs in the world hail from Rhône’s own Hermitage. These wines are big and bold, and show best after 5-10 years of age. Black pepper, blackberry, black currant, licorice, coffee, candied cherry and smoke make up the flavor profile of these Syrahs. The expensive nature of these wines comes not only because they are consistently ranked the best, but also because of Hermitage’s mysterious and storied history.
Try it at the girl & the fig!
We have an extensive list of Syrahs at the girl & the fig; here are a few to try during your next visit!
Syrah Flight (three tastes of three different Syrahs)
Try three distinct Syrahs, and find out which style you prefer before ordering a bottle or glass!
Mes Amis Français, 2016 Three Vineyards Syrah
Three Northern Rhone Syrah vineyards have been blended to produce this fruit forward, food friendly wine. Low in alcohol, with a spice and pepper nose, this delightful Syrah has light tannins, ample fruit, and a steely clean character suggesting new world winemaking techniques in the cellar.
Sonoma Roadside, 2017 Samantha’s Vineyard, Russian River
Bright bold ripe red berries jump out of the glass forming your first impression. Sour cherries, baked strawberry pie and a touch of potourri reveal themselves with further inspection. This cool climate syrah has a touch of white pepper in the mid palate with the tannis taking a slight lead on the finish.
Barroul & Lynch, 2016 La Pierrelle, Hermitage
Superb expression of the terroir with personality. Rustic, earthy traditional Hermitage with hints of youthful blueberries.