WINE 101

Hi, I'm Shiraz

July 25, 2023


Before it was called ‘Shiraz’, it was known as ‘Syrah’. Although Syrah is a signature grape for France’s Rhone Valley, there was some debate on whether the wine originated from the Iranian city, Shiraz. It wasn’t too farfetched of an idea considering they have identical names— especially since the city is in a region with a rich winemaking history. But the plot thickened when people noticed the similarities between the name 'Syrah' and the Sicilian City Syracuse. Could Italy be the original home of Syrah?  

After some DNA testing, it was discovered Syrah was a crossing of two different French varieties: Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche. This likely disappointed the good people from the cities of Shiraz and Syracuse that were made aware of the Syrah origin debate.

Three bottles of red wine with two people tasting.


In the 1830s, Scottish viticulturist James Busby brought Syrah cuttings from France to Australia. However, he had labeled the cuttings ‘Scyras’ and ‘Ciras’. There isn’t a clear-cut explanation for how these two words eventually became Shiraz. But it’s not hard to imagine that between accents, dialect, and the good old-fashioned game of telephone, ‘Shiraz’ could eventually become the name for ‘Syrah’ in Australia.   

A more recent trend for the varietal is that some producers have started labeling the New World style of Syrah as ‘Shiraz’ and the Old World style of Shiraz as ‘Syrah’—including some producers in Australia. Perhaps this will create confusion in 200 years, and a DNA test will be conducted to confirm Shiraz and Australian Syrah are from Rhone Valley in France. Once again, disappointing the (future) good people made aware of the Syrah origin debate.   

Because we titled the article “Hi, I’m Shiraz”, we’ll move forward with the term ‘Shiraz’.   



Comparing New World and Old World styles is like comparing two cousins who grew up in different parts of the world. New World is the bold, outgoing cousin. They grew up in warm, sunny climates where they like to show off their muscles: they are full-bodied, high alcohol, black fruit forward, with spice and earth notes (this is admittedly where the metaphor stops working). New World style will often develop complex flavors and aromas as they age.  

Old World is the more refined cousin. They've grown up in cooler climates and have a more delicate demeanor. They are lighter-bodied, lower alcohol, with more subtle flavors of red fruit, herbs, and spices. They don’t age as long as their New World cousins, but they are equally as delicious.  




Shiraz is the most popular grape grown in Australia. It is estimated that 50% of Australia’s Vineyards are Shiraz. Each region has specific attributes that can create distinct expressions of this popular variety. Although Shiraz is planted throughout the country, we’ll get you started by introducing some of the more popular regions: 

Barossa Valley: the Shiraz capital of the world 

The Barossa Valley is home to some of the oldest Shiraz vines in the world, dating back to 1843. These vines are still growing fantastic fruit today. The wines are highly prized for their complex flavors and long aging potential. The Barossa Shiraz is a global superstar, shining bright as a single varietal and in blends. 

Clare Valley: where Shiraz and Riesling play nicely together 

Clare Valley produces great Riesling due to its high altitude and moderate climate. Surprisingly, the region also has noteworthy Shiraz vineyards. The warm days and cool nights create a full-bodied wine with blackberry, cherry, plum, and licorice notes. It's elegant with a spicy and earthy quality that sets it apart from Barossa Shiraz. 

Eden Valley: where the air is crisp and the wines are bold 

Eden Valley’s higher altitude and cooler climate allow fruit to ripen slower which creates a more acidic, full-bodied Shiraz with blackberry, sage, and pepper notes.  

Heathcote: where Shiraz benefits from ancient history 

The ancient soils of Heathcote cultivate exceptional Shiraz. Rich dark fruit with spice and iron-like minerality. They are deep, dark in color, and offer a powerful intricate flavor. 

Hunter Valley: where consistency is key 

The Hunter Valley is Australia's oldest wine-producing region, and it's where Shiraz first came to Australia. It has a warm yet condensed growing season without heat spikes making the weather fairly consistent for the vines. The final Shiraz results are usually medium-bodied wines that have red fruit and savory notes with a touch of funkiness. 

McLaren Vale: where Shiraz and the sea collide 

South Australia's renowned Shiraz region is in a Mediterranean climate near the sea. The Shiraz from this region is full-bodied with blueberry and chocolate notes. They are not just bold, but elegant and balanced with a lingering finish.