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Syrah & Shiraz - What's the Difference?

Syrah & Shiraz - What's the Difference?

The Syrah/Shiraz Showdown

If you’re just dipping your toe into the world of wine, a walk down the wine aisle can be intimidating – there are different countries, regions, and producers – and on top of that, there are literally thousands of wine grape varieties. To make things even more confusing, some places use different names for the same grape! A famous example of this is Syrah and its Aussie alter ego, Shiraz.

At its core, Syrah (Sih-RAH) and Shiraz (Shi-RAZ) wines are both made from the syrah grape – but that’s just about where the similarities end. Let’s break down some of the differences between Syrah and Shiraz!

Spiderman Meme - Syrah vs Shiraz

Where In the World

The most basic difference between Syrah and Shiraz is where they’re from. Syrah is from France, and Shiraz is from Australia. France is both the spiritual and literal homeland of the Syrah grape. Genetic testing shows that Syrah is the love child of two French grapes, dureza and mondeuse blanche, so Syrah is by definition a French grape through and through. However, it was brought to the land down under in the 19th century by James Busby, a Scottish viticulturist who is often referred to as "the Father of Australian viticulture” and has been a major part of Australia’s wine industry ever since.

Australia may be the proverbial new kid on the block, but they’ve taken Syrah and run with it. Though it is the most planted grape in Australia, no one knows why growers started calling it “Shiraz” instead of “Syrah” (accident, accent, just a fun little switcheroo?) Today, in an effort to differentiate themselves from the French style of Syrah, they’ve “rebranded” their wine made from the Syrah grape to “Shiraz.”

While it was first brought to the Hunter Valley and is now grown all over Australia, the Barossa Valley near Adelaide has become prime real estate for Shiraz. It makes up 40% of Australian wines, so it’s no surprise that it is the primary grape in some of the most famous (read: expensive!) Australian wines, like Penfolds Grange (a single, well-aged bottle can run you upwards of $500).

Wine Regions - Syrah and Shiraz Wines

Meanwhile, French Syrah is most commonly found in the Rhône region, a few hours south of Burgundy. France doesn’t typically label wines with the grape variety. Instead, they do this based on where they are from, or their “appellation,” and leave it up to you to know what grape that is. In the Northern Rhône, you’ll see wines made from 100% Syrah – Hermitage, Cornas and Côte Rôtie, for example. In the Southern Rhône, Syrah is often blended with Grenache and Mourvèdre, such as in Côtes du Rhône or Châteauneuf-du- Pape. France is still the leading producer of Syrah in the world, especially as higher-producing regions, like Languedoc-Roussillon in Southwest France, gain popularity with wine drinkers all over the world.

Syrah and Shiraz Are Styles of Wine


Now it may be tempting to think that all Syrah comes from France, and all Shiraz is Australian, but unfortunately, it's not that simple. Syrah grows all over the world, from France to Australia, and everywhere in between. Some countries of note, now making waves with Syrah are: New Zealand, South Africa, Chile, and the U.S. A winery might label a bottle “Shiraz” to indicate that the wine inside is a ripe, rich, fruit-forward wine made in the Australian spirit. Likewise, it might label the bottle “Syrah” to indicate an “Old World” (read: European) style wine that is more savory and austere. At this point, the names have gone from an indication of origin to an indication of style.

There are other wine producing regions that make Syrah including New Zealand (cooler climate), South Africa (warmer climate), and California (depends on where in California…). These places will typically match their wine label to their climate – Syrah for cooler climates; Shiraz for warmer.

As if things aren’t already confusing enough, in recent years, some wineries in Australia have begun labeling their Shiraz as Syrah, if the style they crafted is closer to the Rhône Valley Syrah. And even some French wineries are labeling their Syrah as Shiraz, if they produce a style more similar to that of the Aussies.

Syrah & Shiraz - Wine Specifications

All Wine Made from Syrah Grapes Will Taste the Same?

No matter where it comes from, there are some core varietal characteristics that won’t change based on country or climate. Whether it’s called Syrah or Shiraz, you can expect your wine to have this basic flavor profile: dark fruits (read: blueberries and blackberries), medium to high tannins, a peppery/spicy flavor, and a dry finish. This black pepper flavor is due to a naturally occurring chemical in the Syrah grape called rotundone. It’s also found in rosemary, thyme, and…black peppercorns!

Another similarity is in the winemaking process. Because the Syrah grape has thick skins and can produce high tannins, winemakers around the world will cold soak the grapes for days (sometimes weeks!). This process of cold soaking the grapes increases the color and fruitiness in the wine while reducing the harsh tannins. While this is done around the world, and with many different varieties, for the purpose of our Syrah/Shiraz showdown, it’s more common and usually done for a longer period of time with Shiraz.

This, my friends, is where the similarities end.

Flavor Notes of Syrah vs. Shiraz

French Syrah will typically emphasize the natural herbaceous quality of the grape, with the fruit flavors taking a backseat. Syrah from the Northern Rhône will usually combine flavors of blackberries, cherries, and blueberries with a more floral bouquet and a savory palate (black pepper, olives, cured meats). Northern Rhône Syrahs typically have a leaner body – the tannins aren’t going to be plush and velvety but rather sharp and austere. Syrah blends from the Southern Rhône will be a little more well-rounded, with a nice balance of red and black fruits to complement the peppery notes.

Australian Shiraz, on the other hand, is typically more full-bodied (read: higher alcohol!), ripe, and concentrated. This in-your-face, fruit-forward wine matches the Australian personality – incredibly friendly, blunt, and just plain fun! You won’t ever have to search for flavors in a Shiraz; they will announce themselves loudly to you – blueberries, blackberries, black cherries – often aged in a little new oak to add a richness that will balance out the natural pepperiness.

Syrah & Shiraz Tasting Notes and Comparison

Why do Syrah & Shiraz Taste So Different?

This one’s easy – the climate! I wish it was as easy as Australia is HOT, and France is NOT…but it’s not quite that simple!

Warm climates allow grapes to ripen faster and develop more sugar (which later is turned into alcohol), and typically give wines a fruitier flavor. But if it’s too hot, all the acid will cook out of the grapes, and the wine will taste “flat,” which is not ideal.

The Rhône valley, home to much of the world’s great Syrah, is more of a continental climate – hot in the summer, cold in the winter. But they have a secret weapon. Le Mistral is a force of nature (literally): a strong, cold wind that races through the vineyards, cooling the vines down. This wind is so strong, it can strip the grapes right off the vines! When it’s not wreaking havoc, it’s drying off the grapes so they don’t develop mildew and cooling them off so they don’t get too hot.

Down Under, in the Barossa Valley, temperatures are warm pretty much year-round, so the grapes develop those rich fruity flavors. Luckily, temps drop a little at night, preserving that all-important acidity.

There’s one other major factor that will determine what your Syrah or Shiraz will taste like – oak! In the French Rhône Valley, Syrah is typically aged in large oak “foudres.” These are extra-large oak barrels that can hold up to 1,000 liters of wine (that’s about 1,300 bottles of wine or 2,600 In Good Taste wine flight kits!). At that size, the oak isn’t there to impart strong oak flavors; it’s there to allow some oxygen to permeate the wine. These giant foudres are naturally porous, so they allow the wine to breathe and develop more secondary characteristics before bottling. While there is no guarantee that a Syrah will be oaked in this way, it is more common than not to see Syrahs that have been aged in a neutral oak barrel.

In Australia, and other parts of the New World, Shiraz is aged in smaller oak barrels, with the intent of delivering more vanilla and baking spice notes to the wine without overpowering the lush fruit flavors. Australians are a little more flexible with their wine traditions, so there’s no guarantee that your Shiraz will see oak.

Recommended Glassware for Syrah or Shiraz

What Foods Pair Well with Syrah or Shiraz?

The flavor profile of the wine will guide you towards what to pair it with. A fruitier style of Shiraz will go best with burgers, ribs, or anything on the grill – nothing too fancy! An herbaceous, peppery style of Syrah will go well with lamb, duck, and other gamey meats.

There is a lot of crossover in flavor, so you really can’t go wrong! The only pairings to avoid would be super-light dishes that would be overpowered by the bold flavors of the Syrah – light fish dishes and salads, for example.

So they are the same grape, with different names, that will probably taste different depending where it’s from?

That's right! Congrats, you are now an expert in Syrah (or Shiraz)!

Syrah vs Shiraz Infographic

Rosé of Sangiovese


Sangiovese can be found in both the Chianti and Montalcino regions of Tuscany (it all sounds so romantic, right?) and is known for producing classic medium-bodied wines. Rosé wine is actually made from red grapes, and this is where the Rosé of Sangiovese comes to play. Crisp, fruit-forward, and easy-to-drink, it's everything you want in your bottle of Rosé and more.



Big, bold, and full of flavor—exactly what you’d expect an Italian wine to be! This classic Italian grape produces some of Italy’s most straightforward red wines and is often used as a blending grape. Not here, though. We let Montepulciano do the heavy lifting as a heavy red wine and shine on its own. If you enjoy the smell of leather bound books, nibbling on dried fruit, and complementary notes of bitter, dark chocolate and sweet plums, you will love this Italian wine. No need to pair it with any certain dish—Montepulciano tastes great with all the Italian classics.

Cabernet Sauvignon


If Pinot Noir is the light and juicy queen of reds, Cabernet Sauvignon is her bolder, heavier, meatier sister. Often referred to as just “cab,” it’s the wine of France’s Bordeaux and California’s Napa Valley. There’s nothing subtle about Cabernet Sauvignon—high in alcohol, full-bodied and robust, you can usually find this red served with a ribeye, New York Strip, or filet mignon (re: carnivores love cab). Classic cabs usually offer tasting notes of chocolate, coffee, and darker fruits like prunes and plums. The Unprecedented Cabernet Sauvignon is as classic as they come, and we highly recommend letting the bottle sit and mellow until your next red meat and potatoes dinner!

Pinot Grigio

La Pluma

If you’re looking for more zest in your life, a bottle of Pinot Grigio can provide that. We included a classic Pinot Grigio in the La Pluma collection because we’re all about light and easy here, which is exactly what this grape from Italy is. It has that dry sense of humor that seems so effortless with a punchy acidity to keep you on your toes, all while offering notes of lemon, limes, green apples, and honeysuckle. Long story short; when it’s been a heavy day and your soul is seeking light things only, you’ll be happy to have this bottle on hand.

Pinot Noir


We couldn’t create the In Good Taste Unprecedented collection without the Golden Retriever of wines: Pinot Noir. Pinot is likable, it’s easy, and its natural state of being is simply charming. It’s an incredibly easy red wine to love, which is why so many people do. The grape itself is from the Burgundy region of France, but has made its way to California, Oregon, Australia, Italy, Argentina, and Germany since. Our Pinot Noir has no surprise twists—it’s a classic light red with just the right amount of sweetness to keep you coming back for another glass (or two).

Coteaux Bourguignons


The Burgundy region of France is home to their best Pinot Noirs, but we took the grapes into our own hands to create something extra special with our Coteaux Bourguignons. It’s a blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay, which results in a French red that’s light in body but full in flavor. The ripest blueberries and freshest herbs can be easily detected in this French burgundy blend. May we suggest pairing it with some creamy brie and freshly baked bread? It’s a oui-ning combo.



A little sweet. A little tart. A little salty? You truly get it all with this white Italian wine. If you're into that biting acidity, Verdicchio will probably be high on your list of most-loved wines from our Andiamo collection. Citrus fruits like mandarin, lemon, and grapefruit are at the forefront, but what really sets this Italian wine apart is its distinct notes of almond. While our Verdicchio can start out tasting a bit tart, the more you sip, the smoother it becomes. In fact, we suggest approaching it as an aperitif (Italian for an alcoholic drink sipped before a meal to stimulate the appetite) to experience its full effect.


Côtes du Rhône White


This was one of our first French wines to join the Passport collection and one sip will explain why. Some background on the Rhône Valley in France: While this region is known for its dark, juicy reds, a very small amount of special white wines are made in the Rhône Valley. Our Côtes du Rhône is packed with French-perfected, floral flavor and Old-World charm. Its natural tang paired with the weighty Marsanne grape and aromatic Roussanne grape results in a crisp, savory sip that’ll transport you to a sunbathing chair by the Rhône itself.


Bordeaux Rouge


When you picture medieval folk sitting around a feast with goblets of wine, chances are they were drinking Bordeaux. This wine has been made in France since forever and is arguably the most classic French wine out there. Bordeaux is known for its full body, smoky notes, and rich, oaky taste. If you love cabs, chances are you will adore Bordeaux. For our Passport wines, we had to include this classic French red for you to sip and enjoy to your heart’s content. Best savored over a rich meal like lamb ragu, ratatouille, or BBQ.


Ventoux Rosé


You probably know that the Tour de France is held on Ventoux Mountain in France, but did you know that the same area is known for its high-altitude rosé? This is the kind of quintessential French rosé that you don’t need to spin your wheels over—it’s simply delicious, crisp, and perfect for warm weather. Despite its delicate, pale pink color, each sip is lush with flavor, from tropical passionfruit and zesty citrus to refreshing melon. This has the potential to be your new summer go-to, so we’d suggest stocking up.



Wild Child

Say “¡Hola!” to Spain’s main grape: Tempranillo. This red grape put Rioja wine on the map and is un vino tinto classico. It’s best compared to a classic cab, but with a bit more unique magic that’s hard to put your finger on, which is why it’s a part of our Wild Child line. This medium- to full-bodied wine with its relatively higher tannins usually offers complex notes of cherry, fig, cedar, tobacco, and dill. This is the type of red wine you want to buy and pour for a Latin-infused meal; think carne asada, tacos al carbon, or just perfectly cooked steak fajita meat.


La Pluma

We knew the only red in the La Pluma collection had to be exceptionally good and exceptionally light. That’s why including a Grenache was a no-brainer. If smooth, fruit-forward, light-bodied reds appeal to your tastebuds, this could be your new favorite. The grape itself is tricky; depending on the climate of where its grown, Grenache wines could be light, dense, or somewhere in the middle. La Pluma’s version has all the airiness and flavor notes we wanted in our Grenache, which is how we know you’ll love it. Get the most of this red by pairing it with roasted meats, spice-heavy vegetables, and Mexican-inspired dishes with lots of cumin.




This grape goes by different names in most European countries, but what remains the same is its fruity floral nature. Delicate in every way and extremely quaffable, this wine is as dainty as they come.



We really try not to play favorites at In Good Taste, but there is just something about an Italian Barbera that hits different in the best way. Barberas are the perfect wine for pizza night; they're low in alcohol, and medium-bodied but taste super light, and their berry and plum flavors pair incredibly well with savory tomato sauce and cheese! Another fun thing about Barberas? They actually taste great when chilled, which is not something we're in the habit of suggesting for our red wines. Our Italian Barbera lies somewhere between the body of a cab and a pinot and is the ideal choice for a "ladies who lunch" kind of afternoon.


Wild Child

We couldn't not have a weird white in the mix, right?! The Vermentino grape is native along the coast of Italy on the island of Sardinia (yeah, like the fish). Because of its origin, this grape offers a salty, crisp flavor that's incredibly easy to drink and enjoy. We say it's "weird" only because it's not widely known by name, but chances are you've probably had it before if you've ever ordered white wine in an Italian restaurant. If you love peaches and lemons and get a kick out of anything that reminds you of the sea, our Vermentino is the perfect Italian white to experience on a sunny day outside.



For the Chardonnay lovers who are looking to dig a bit deeper in the world of bold whites, a Viognier (pronounced vee-own-yay) could be your next big adventure. Viogniers tend to have more range; while they can be creamy with hints of vanilla like their Chardonnay counterpart, they also offer lighter, fruitier flavors like tangerine, mango, and honeysuckle. It’s still a more full-bodied white wine, but unlike Chardonnay, it’s softer on acidity and more perfumed. Spend an afternoon with a glass of Viognier amongst the flowers and it’ll all make sense.


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