What's The Difference Between Shiraz and Syrah?

The short answer is yes. Even though both wines are made from the same grape variety, the difference in name has become synonymous with differences in wine styles.

Where do the Syrah and Shiraz names come from?

To begin with, the different names were more to do with the origin of the variety rather than its style. Syrah originates from the Rhône Valley in France whereas Shiraz is the Australian name for the variety. The reason for the name change by Australians is thought to be nothing more than a mistake! It is widely accepted that cuttings brought to Australia in the 1830’s by Scottish viticulturist James Busby were incorrectly labelled and this combined with the good old Aussie accent resulted in the variety being called Shiraz rather than Syrah.

Cool climate old world versus Warm climate new world wine regions.

The style of wine is generally determined by the climate of the region where it is grown. It just so happens that with a few exceptions, much of the Syrah is grown in old world, cool climate wine regions like the Rhône Valley. Cool climate regions produce Syrah that is lighter, spicier and more elegant with lower alcohol and less tannins.

Conversely, Shiraz in Australia was first grown in the Hunter Valley and McLaren Vale and Barossa regions of South Australia. These new world, warm climate wine regions produce Shiraz with riper fruit flavours, lower acidity and higher alcohol.

Why do the names now reflect stylistic differences?

Australia has embraced the Shiraz grape and is now the second largest producer of the variety in the world. The Australian grown, warm climate, bigger, bolder style of the variety has become synonymous with the name Shiraz just as the more elegant and refined cool climate style of the variety has become synonymous with the name Syrah.

Why does Witches Falls use Syrah rather than Shiraz?

This is a deliberate strategy to manage expectations. If we called it by the Australian name of Shiraz, it would automatically set up expectations of a big, bold, jammy Barossa style Shiraz. Our Syrah is more European and elegant in style, so we use the Syrah variety name to reflect this. The Granite Belt is a cool climate region and the fruit from the area produces a wine the is simultaneously light, full-bodied and complex.


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