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Shiraz is a blockbuster of a red wine. Full of rich fruit, spice, and peppery tones, Shiraz isn't for the faint hearted. But, if you like your red wine full bodied and bursting with lots of flavours, Shiraz will definitely be up your street.
Shiraz and Syrah are the same grape, although the Syrah style is sometimes thought to be softer and less spicy than its Shiraz twin. There are plenty of exceptions to this however, and it really depends on the individual wine. You'll generally come across the name Syrah in the Northern Hemisphere, particularly the Northern Rhone area of France where it makes Cote Rotie and Hermitage, and in the Southern Rhone where it is blended to make Chateauneuf du Pape. The term Shiraz, on the other hand, tends to be used in New World countries, specifically Australia, South Africa and Chile. However, increasingly it is being labelled as Syrah in the New World, in an effort to give the impression of a more elegant wine.
Shiraz is an incredibly robust grape, with characteristic thick, dark skins. When the grapes get fully ripe, this produces a deliciously rich red wine, with deep blackberry flavours. Cooler regions tend to give a slightly peppery edge, while Shiraz grown in a warm climate will have spicy, leathery, maybe even liquorice-y tones.
The great thing about Shiraz is you'll find it at all prices. Shiraz is the mostly widely planted grape in Australia and, thanks to the Australians being masters at producing bottles around the £5 mark, you'll find plenty a bottle at the lower end of the scale, as well as many delicious and more exclusive versions at the more expensive end. The Rhone has gained a reputation for producing some of the finest Syrahs in the wine world and indeed you'll come across wines of great finesse. However, they don't come with out their snags and unfortunately they are likely to make a fairly hefty dent in your pocket. If it's value for money that you are after, make sure you check out South Africa, South America and California for some tasty alternatives.
Shiraz is a great food wine. It works wonders with red meat, like beef or steak. All the fruity flavours and deep tannins in the wine are a great match for the textures of the meat.
If you like Shiraz but fancy a change or are looking something a little lighter for a summer's day, then try a sparkling Shiraz. Full of soft, rich berry flavours, a sparkling Shiraz is the perfect partner for a bbq or picnic.