Syrah or Shiraz – what is the difference?

Many people ask me about the difference between Shiraz and Syrah. Are they different grapes?

Shiraz and Syrah are exactly the same grape. The stories about the grape’s origins are fascinating:

– that the grape’s origins are from the city of Shiraz in ancient Persia (false!)

– that the grape’s name derives from Persia’s ruler, Cyrus the Great (false!)

– the the grape originated in Syracuse on the island of Sicily, hence the name Syrah (false!)

– that the grape was brought to Europe from mysterious origins by Hannibal, carried by his elephants, as he traversed across Spain, Southern France, and Italy in his war against Rome (false!)

– and so on…

Syrah originated in the Northern Rhone Valley, probably in the late Middle Ages. It is the result of a field crossing between Dureza (red grape) and Mondeuse Blanche (white grape). We know this, in part, thanks to the genetic fingerprinting work of UC Davis- Carole Meredith.

In terms of marketing, however, Shiraz is a term used to indicate a more fruit-forward style of Syrah.

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