A high-quality red wine grape that gained its reputation in France's Rhône region. In the northern Rhône, Syrah is the principal grape of the esteemed wines from Cornas, Côte-Rôtie, Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage and Saint-Joseph. In the southern Rhône, Syrah is used to contribute flavor and structure to the multi-variety wines from Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Côtes-du-Rhône. When young, Syrah wines are deep-colored and tannic, with spicy and peppery qualities. Mature Syrahs show characteristics of sweet blackberries, blackcurrants and plums. In Australia Syrah is called Shiraz and is that country's most widely planted red grape. Akin to a very peppery Merlot, Syrah is full of bold flavor and almost gingerbready spices (mostly smoky cinnamon and clove) and needs similarly intense food to back it up. Think chili, barbecue, game or anything grilled.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.