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Syrah

Syrah, known in the new world as Shiraz, is currently contesting Cabernet Sauvignon's claim to fame as the greatest red grape varietal. Everyone loves Syrah. It combines the sexiness of Pinot Noir with the depth of flavour and structure of Cabernet Sauvignon. It is now rightly recognized as one of the world's best red grapes, and is currently the red grape everyone wants to plant. The home of Syrah is the northern Rhône region of France, where it makes the celebrated wines of Hermitage, Côte Rôtie and Cornas.

Syrah does well in warm climates, and is now being planted throughout the wine world. From the northern Rhône it has spread throughout southern France, making characterful wines, often blended with varieties such as Garnacha and Mourvèdre.

Elsewhere in Europe it has been grown on a limited scale in Spain, where it has done well, and also Greece. In Australia, Shiraz is the premier red variety, making dense, full-on reds that retain their regional character. In California, Syrah lags behind Cabernet Sauvignon by some distance, but is catching on, often making superb, concentrated wines. It is on the rise in South Africa, and there are some good examples coming from Chile and Argentina. Syrah tends to make rich, dark wines with spicy, earthy flavours and aromas of violets and bacon fat.