History of Shiraz
Shiraz is one of the world’s most popular red wines. The Shiraz and the Cabernet Sauvignon are both the most recognised forms of red wine in the world. In Australia, Shiraz has helped to propel Australian winemaking onto the world stage with vineyards in the Barossa and McLaren Vale regions being exported across the world, most notably due to the success of brands such as Jacob’s Creek and Lindemans.
The Shiraz grape has a long history in the Rhône region of south-eastern France. However, it is not known if it was born in this region. While there is a legend that a Roman legion brought the grape to the Rhône region of France from Syracuse in AD 280, there is little documentary evidence to support this tale.
The age of the grape gives rise to this obscurity of origin. While it is not known how old the grape is exactly, Pliny the Elder referenced the grape in AD 77. In France, the grape is referred to as the Syrah, whereas in Australia it is often referred to as the Hermitage.
The wine that made the Shiraz grape famous came from the Hermitage area of the Rhône region. The grapes grown near the Hermitage chapel were famous for their strong and excellent flavour. Although, until the mid 20th Century, the grape attracted little attention outside of France. Most of the Syrah grapes were exported from France to be blended with other grapes.
However, from the 1970s and onwards, the Syrah grape and Shiraz slowly became Australia’s most popular red grape.
What Food Does Shiraz Suit?
An Australian Shiraz is most well known for being sweeter than its European variant and, consequently, it pairs amazingly well with strong flavours and spicy, barbecue food.
Shiraz pairs most notably with roast beef. The sweet nature of the wine helps to perfectly balance the strong, savoury flavours of the roast beef. Furthermore, it is for similar reasons why an Australian Shiraz combines so well with barbecue food. The flavours of barbecued sausages, ribs, and veggies are a perfect complement to the sweet Shiraz.
However, if you’re looking for the perfect Shiraz to pair with lamb, you should look no further than a Western Australian Shiraz. The more restrained, elegant style makes it perfect for lamb.
Perhaps the most Australian pairing is the combination of Australian Shiraz and kangaroo. While it may sound like a cliche, gamey meat like kangaroo or venison perfectly complement an Australian Shiraz.
If you’re looking for a less meaty pairing with an Australian Shiraz, you could pick up a strong cheese, such as cheddar, but the sweet Shiraz could also handle a medium blue cheese.
What Does Shiraz Taste Like?
Shiraz is known as being one of the darkest, most full-bodied wines. Due to this full-bodied taste, Shiraz is often blended with other grapes in order to balance the palate, such as Cabernet Sauvignon. However, in France, the tradition is to the blend the Syrah grapes with a light-bodied Grenache in order to create a Côtes du Rhône classic blend.
In Australia, the Shiraz taste depends on where it originated. A Barossa Valley Shiraz is well known for its plum, blackberry, and cherry flavours. Whereas a Shiraz from the McLaren Vale has a full-bodied flavour, with a deep colour, and dark fruit flavours supported by hints of liquorice, with spicy and violet tastes. Furthermore, there has been a recent trend in Australian Shiraz production that has favoured the use of French Oak, most notably in the cooler regions. The use of this oak allows the wine to develop a more mature, stronger, and spicier flavour. The main way in which Australian Shiraz differs from its European cousin is its sweeter taste.
Shiraz in Australia
The first Shiraz grapes and vines were brought to Australia in 1832 by a British resident of New Zealand called James Busby. While Busby helped draft the 1835 New Zealand Declaration of Independence, he is perhaps most well known as the father of the modern Australian wine industry. Busby earned this title as he was the first to introduce the renowned French, Italian, and Spanish grapes to Australia. One of the grapes Busby introduced was the Shiraz. Busby referred to the Shiraz grape as either a Syrah or a Ciras. The vines were introduced to Australia after Busby returned from France with some cuttings of the Shiraz vines and planted them in the Sydney Botanical Gardens, Hunter Valley, and then South Australia. Due to Busby’s hard work, Shiraz became one of Australia’s most prominent wines by the 1860s.
Where is Shiraz Grown?
The most notable location is South Australia’s Barossa region, home to the world’s oldest Shiraz vineyard at the Turkey Flat in Tanunda. The Barossa is home to some of the world’s oldest Shiraz grapes and is renowned for its rich, earthy flavours. However, there are also other locations that produce comparable levels of wine, such as the Hunter Valley regions of NSW, the Canberra Shiraz, and MT Barker Shiraz. The number of Shiraz producers in Australia places the Southern nation second only to France in terms of production of the Shiraz grape.
Shiraz is one of the most popular red wines in the world and Australia is one of the foremost producers. The legendary soil of the Barossa and McLaren Vale produces some of the most unique flavours of Shiraz in the world, setting it apart from the European variety and allowing it to be paired with different kinds of food to its European cousins.