Who’s Your Daddy?: Syrah

In this second edition of “Who’s Your Daddy?”, we’ll take a look at the origins of the Syrah grape.

Syrah, a grape that is about 2,600 years old and gaining popularity throughout the world (it is now the 5th most planted varietal), is a relatively easy-growing grape, and adapts easily to a board range of climates (from warm to hot).  It does ripen relatively late, so is not the ideal grape for places with unpredictable fall weather events, such as here in Virginia (though in some years, would do very well). 

Syrah, which is also known as Shiraz, is found exhibiting many different styles and characteristics, depending upon where it is made.  A French Syrah, found in Hermitage and Côte Rôtie, is a dark and robust wine, which often requires cellaring for many years before being consumed.  French Syrah has characteristically strong tannin structure, blackberry fruit, with a soft smokiness and black pepper kick.  In the United States, Californian Syrah is very similar in structure and flavor.  In Australia, the style brings forth a fruitier characteristic, with dark fruits, with an often found chocolate character.

So, where does Syrah come from?  Some people speculated that Syrah may have originated from the Iranian city of Iran, which at one point in its history (before Jesus), produced a “Shirazi” wine, the name in which bears a striking similarity to “Shiraz”.  One flaw with this theory is that Shirazi was a white wine, and nowhere was it explained how a white wine could go on to name a red grape, nor is there any evidence on how it could have travelled to France during those times.  Another theory is that Syrah came from Syracuse in Sicily, though evidence is extremely lacking for this.

All hypothetical origin speculation aside, in 1998, the same group led by Dr. Carole Meredith, from the University of California at Davis, that determined the origins of Cabernet Sauvignon (see my first “Who’s Your Daddy” post to learn all about that), again used DNA testing to determine with near 100% accuracy the exact origins of Syrah.

So:  Who’s your daddy, Syrah??

Using DNA evidence, Syrah is the love child between the French grapes:



Mondeuse Blanche!


Since these two grape varietals have only ever been grown in the Ardeche and Savoy regions of France, it can be said with great confidence that the Syrah is originally from an area just north of the Rhone Valley in South Eastern France.

If you have a specific grape varietal you’d like to learn more about, comment, Facebook, or Tweet, or email me with suggestions!  @TheAcademicWino  or  Becca@academicwino.com/

I am not a health professional, nor do I pretend to be. Please consult your doctor before altering your alcohol consumption habits. Do not consume alcohol if you are under the age of 21. Do not drink and drive. Enjoy responsibly!