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Shiraz grape

Shiraz is the name of a grape used to make a popular style of red wine, either on its own or blended with others. It is known as Syrah in French, though some argue the grapes have diverged sufficiently to be considered separate varieties.

In France it is the main grape of the Northern Rhone, associated with classic wines such as Hermitage and Cote-rotie. Although its best incarnations will age for decades, it is usually regarded as an early-drinking wine. For this reason it has been widely used as a basic blending grape in the red wines of many countries.

It is Australia's most popular red grape (also sometimes called Hermitage there), and is grown in many wine producing regions around the world. Shiraz has not always been in favor in Australia; in the 1970s white wine was so popular growers were ripping up unprofitable Shiraz vineyards, even those with very old vines. Many factors, including the French paradox and the affinity of influential wine critic Robert M. Parker, Jr for the lush, powerful wines produced from Shiraz caused a turnaround in demand, and plantings expanded dramatically through the 1980s and 1990s.

Wines made from Shiraz are quite powerfully flavoured and full-bodied, with a distinctive "spicy" finish. With time in the bottle these flavours are moderated, and indeed many premium Shiraz-based wines are at their best after some considerable time aged in a cellar. The large Australian firm of Penfolds says that its flagship Shiraz-based wine, Grange, does not start giving its best until 12-15 years from the vintage.

In Australia, and other New World countries, it is common to blend Shiraz with either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, and such wines are labeled with the grape providing the largest volume listed first. For instance, a blend with a majority of Shiraz and a minority of Merlot would be labeled "Shiraz-Merlot".

Shiraz is also used to make the unique "sparkling Shiraz," an alarmingly blood-red sparkling wine that is not usually exported from Australia.