Although they are spelled differently, Shiraz and Syrah are primarily the same grapes. In California and France Shiraz is called Syrah (and you’ll see it as a Côte Rôtie or a Hermitage), and in Australia, Shiraz is simply Shiraz.
Shiraz made a big boom in the early 2000 decade. I remember working as a wine steward in 2003 and Shiraz was all the rage amongst our diners. Australian Shiraz took the world by storm with its jammy notes of blackberries, hints of chocolate and scents of vanilla from American oak. Australian Shiraz differs from French or American Syrah in that it is sweeter, with a touch of cinnamon or clove. American or French Syrah tends to be earthier and gravitate towards cedar, wood smoke and black pepper aromas and flavours.
Shiraz can be priced low to super high. This is a wine that can be aged in oak and develop further through age. Typically you’ll find the higher priced Shiraz in Australia where the vines are incredibly old, particularity wines from the Barossa Valley. These wines have a cult following for their rich saturated fruit mixed with vanilla and espresso. Moderately priced Shiraz will still offer decadent jammy flavours and spicy overtones.
Expensive bottles of Shiraz, with its jammy flavours and spicy overtones, are perfect with Lamb, Veal, Venison, Wild Boar, Cassoulet, Duck, or Barbecued beef/game. Earthier and acidic French Syrah variants are perfect with meaty and earthy dishes like Beef Wellington and French Onion Soup.
Syrah and Venison Pairing
Syrah has an earthy and smoky component that makes it perfect with the rich and earthy aspect of Venison. Heavier Syrah is perfect for fattier cuts of Venison as it will provide more tannin to hold up to the richer flavours. Meanwhile mid-bodied Syrah is best for leaner cuts, where the jammyness of the wine won’t overpower the subtle meat flavours.
I love how the black pepper notes of Syrah contribute extra flavours to the venison. Syrah also has silky tannin which provides a velvety mouthfeel and showcases intense blackberry, black cherry and blueberry flavours that elevate the Venison’s wild taste.
Australian Shiraz and BBQ Steak Pairing
Shiraz is amazing with barbecue as a lot of people pick up cedar and wood smoke aromas in the wine that flatter any steak you toss on the barbecue. Especially if it’s a French Syrah.
With Australian Shiraz, for fattier cuts, such as Ribeye Steak, you’ll want a heavier Shiraz, where the tannin helps the wine hold up to the juicy flavours of this hefty steak.
A more tender cut of steak like Filet Mignon requires a medium-bodied Shiraz as the flavours of this wine are incredibly tender. A bold Australian Shiraz would simply crush Filet Mignon with its jammy blackberry flavours. However, a dry and mid-bodied Shiraz will ensure you taste both the wine and meat on the finish.
The same logic applies to roast beef. For a prime rib roast, which is fattier, you would want a heavier Australian Shiraz, whereas a leaner roast, such as a medallion of beef tenderloin would require a medium bodied Shiraz.
California Syrah and Cassoulet
Cassoulet is a dense food due to the meat and starchy bean content. This requires a red wine with solid tannin balanced with a crisp acidity such as a California Syrah. We love how the espresso flavours and vanilla mingle in with the rich flavours of Cassoulet, while the blackberry jammyness of Syrah keeps our mouths refreshed.
Lamb and Australian Shiraz Pairing
With an Australian Shiraz, you have a fruity red wine with lots of spicy notes, such as pepper. As popular Australian Shiraz is bold and jammy, it’s best with flavourful cuts of Lamb like a Shoulder cut. For grilled lamb, such as a lamb burger, or a lamb gyro, choose a Shiraz that is more refined and restrained. Again, we don’t want to crush those tender lamb flavours, as with wine pairing we want to taste both the wine and the meat on the finish.
Wild Boar and French Syrah Pairing
Wild Boar is a leaner but stronger flavoured and gamier meat than pork. Due to the stronger flavours, it demands complex and bold wines. Our number one pick would be a rich and spicy but earthy and smoky French Syrah. This dark fruit flavoured wine shows off its richness and complexity when paired with barbecued or roasted pork.
We also love how the cedar notes and smoky aromas of Shiraz meld well with the roasted wild boar flavours!
Chicken Tandoori & Shiraz Pairing
Here’s an odd one, red wine paired with white meat, but with Tandoori Chicken it totally works. Tandoori Chicken after being marinated and cooked has incredibly rich flavours of smoke and spice that enable it to be paired with red wines that would typically overwhelm chicken.
If your Shiraz is low in alcohol and tannin, it will make for a beautiful wine pairing with Tandoori Chicken. The subtle smoky nature of Shiraz, along with its peppery backdrop melds well with the smokey and exotic spices used with Tandoori Chicken. Meanwhile, the jammy blueberry flavours add depth, and enrich the exotic spices even further.
Do note, that Shiraz should only be paired with Tandoori Chicken that is not spicy hot. The alcohol content, plus any tannin in the wine will burn your mouth further when paired with heat.
Common Scents / Flavours of Shiraz:
Cherry, Blackberry, Cassis, Prune, Fennel, Black Olive, Fruit Cake, Violet, Tea Leaf, Menthol, Graphite, Truffle, Cocoa, Smoke, Toast, Coffee, Peppercorn, Bacon, Leather
Notable Producers of Shiraz:
USA: Cline, Ojai, Betz Family
Other Great Shiraz/Syrah Pairings:
- Beef Stroganoff
- Cheddar Cheese
- Pepperoni Pizza
- BBQ Steak