WWBG: Shiraz and Syrah — What’s the Difference?

Editor’s Note: This biweekly column is sponsored by Dominion Wine and Beer (107 Rowell Court, Falls Church). This week’s Guide is written by Arash Tafakor of Dominion Wine and Beer.

One of the most repeated questions I get from customers is, “What’s the difference between Shiraz and Syrah?”

The simple answer from a wine merchant is nothing, there’s no difference: same grape, different name. While Australia and some other regions call the grape Shiraz, other regions such as France, California and Washington state call the grape Syrah.

But there are definitely differences in styles and taste profile; all based on the climate the grape is grown in. It has almost become industry standard that in warmer climates, the wine is called Shiraz and in cooler climates the wine is called Syrah. We will explain what Petite Syrah or Petite Sirah is another time, but Petite Syrah is a completely different grape.


Syrah wine is originated in the Rhone region of France. Appellations in Northern Rhone such as Côte-Rôtie and Hermitage use only Syrah grapes for their red wines while Syrah in Southern Rhone is used to blend.

Syrah from Northern Rhone tend to have more earthy-tasting notes than your typical red. Premium Syrah typically come from Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage and Saint-Joseph. These regions produce Syrah that contains an intense level of tannins, complex flavors and a long wonderful finish.

Want to try a Syrah from France? We recommend Saint Cosme Côte-Rôtie 2016, review below.

Saint Cosme Côte-Rôtie 2016, Côte-Rôtie, France

“The 2016 Côte-Rôtie comes all from the Côte Brune side of the appellation, which is all schist soils. Fermented with no destemming and aged mostly in older barrels, it’s a rock star Côte-Rôtie and offers loads of blackberry fruits, spice, tapenade, cured meats and pepper. With medium to full body, a deep, layered mid-palate, present tannins and a huge finish, it needs short-term cellaring but is an undeniably gorgeous Syrah that will have two decades of longevity.”

94 Points — Jeb Dunnuk


In the early 2000s, Australian Shiraz sales were booming. American wine consumers couldn’t get enough Australian Shiraz. The brand Yellow Tail was created and, along with other quirky Australian wines, took over grocery store’s wine shelves. Wine makers in Australia realized this and started producing high-end Australian Shiraz like crazy which led to the market being flooded with it.

Wine consumers probably have noticed wine shelves containing less and less Australian Shiraz the past few years. People are simply not buying these wines anymore. Now that consumers are not drinking Australian Shiraz as much as before, the wine is much better than what it was ten years ago. Australian wine makers have perfected their craft and make top quality wines.

Australian Shirazes are grown in Australia’s hot, dry climate. The warm climate produces powerful wines with dark ripe fruit, jammy and silky smooth. Top quality Shiraz producing regions in Australia are the Barossa Valley, Mclaren Vale and Coonwarra. Want to try an Australian Shiraz? We recommend Molly Dooker Blue Eyed Boy Shiraz 2016, review below.

Molly Dooker Blue Eyed Boy Shiraz 2016, Mclaren Vale, Australia

“The 2016 Blue Eyed Boy Shiraz displays a heavy overlay of smoky, maple syrup and caramel oak but also rich chocolate, boysenberry and plum fruit. It’s full-bodied and velvety in texture, with a coarse, slightly open-knit finish. Drink it over the next 4-5 years.”

92 Points — Robert Parker

United States

Syrah from North America is usually a tough sell to consumers. Our North American Syrah section has some incredible wines stocked. Yet consumers are not usually looking to buy them, even though North American Syrah is world class. The Syrah market in California has been stagnant for some time now, but its northern neighbor, Washington, has seen a boom of Syrah-producing wineries.

Top-quality regions for Syrah in Washington State are Columbia valley and Walla Walla. The climate of these regions typical have sunny warm dry days and cool nights making it perfect for the Syrah grape. Syrah from these regions produce a plump, full-bodied, ripe wine with a perfect amount of acidity.

Looking to try a Syrah from North America? We recommend Sleight of Hand Psychedelic Stoney Vine Vineyard Syrah 2015, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, review below.

Sleight of Hand Psychedelic Stoney Vine Vineyard Syrah 2015, Walla Walla Valley, Washington

“Somewhat lighter in color, this wine has expressive aromas, with notes of cigar box, green and black olive, fresh parsley, funk, grilled asparagus, wet stone, ember, black pepper, prosciutto and fresh herb, leaning hard into the savory. The palate shimmers with intensity, packed with sleek but rich, incredibly flavorful flower, earth and smoked-meat notes that persist on the ultralong olive and smoked-meat filled finish. It’s a stunner.”

94 points — Wine Enthusiast

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