Syrah is the primary grape of the Northern Rhone region of France (Hermitage and Côte-Rotie) and is grown worldwide, with plantings in France, South Africa, Australia, California, and Washington State. In California it's the most widely-planted of the Rhone varietals, and accounts for the greatest amount of acreage planted to any grape in Australia.
As with many of the Rhone varietals, its introduction to California can be credited to the work of the Rhone Rangers who introduced it to the region as a wine grape in the 1970s. It is an ancient grape of unknown origin; legends have it arriving in France from Persia in 600 BC, with Romans from Syracuse in 300 AD, but it is most likely a native of France. However it remained a relatively obscure grape Stateside before enjoying a renewed interest from California winemakers in the 80s and 90s.
Syrah is an incredibly versatile grape and outcomes may vary widely based on growing conditions (including temperatures, slope, and soil) as well as wine making technique. The vines are heat loving and vigorous, thrive in poor soils and have a tendency to heavy foliage which often requires aggressive canopy management. The berries themselves are small and grown in close, dense clusters that yield intensely flavored juice.
In temperate climates, wines made with Syrah tend to be medium-bodied with higher levels of tannins and dark berry and spiced flavors. Syrahs grown in hotter regions result in fuller-bodied wines with softer tannins. Depending on the style and the fruit, Syrahs may be enjoyed young or be ageable.
Generally speaking, Syrahs are experienced as powerful and full-bodied wines with good aging potential. In blends they bring bold fruit to the wine and may introduce savory notes, mineral and spice.
Syrah produces powerful, full bodied wines with earthy, savory, or spiced notes. Flavors of violets, dark berries, and chocolate as well as leather and truffle are common. Less extracted or tannic bottlings may be enjoyed young, but Syrahs often improve with age.
PRODUCERS: UNITED STATES
Gracie Creek Vineyard
Tablas Creek Vineyard
Hill of Grace
The Secrets to Syrah Wine