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All podcast music: “Café connection” by morgantj / CC BY 3.0, ©2009 – Licensed under Creative Commons 
Attribution (3.0) 

Jan 13, 2018

First off, we discuss Sonoma Underground, the event I'm co-producing on 24 February 2018 to showcase 15 amazing, "underground" producers in Sonoma that are hard to find, don't get the press they deserve, and make outstanding wines. Limited tickets available to you! Get yours:

Then we talk Syrah!

Syrah is one of tastiest grapes in the world but because it changes based on where it's grown, it can be a bit of a risk to buy. In this episode, we cover the fundamentals of Syrah, why it ranges in flavor and what to expect from the regions that make it.

Here are the show notes:

About the grape:

  • Many different styles, many different faces
  • Dark skinned, vigorous so have to tame it to get flavor
  • Same as Shiraz NOT the same as Petit Sirah (cross of Syrah with Peloursin)
  • Flavor depends on climate – you can’t generalize 
  • Lots of theories about its origins - but the wine is from the Rhône. It's a cross of Dureza in Ardeche and Mondeuse Blanche from Savoie 
  • Old World – plants based on total site (terroir, esp soil),
    New World = climate, soil less important


Top Places that grow Syrah:

  1. France
  2. Australia
  3. Languedoc
  4. Spain
  5. Italy
  6. Argentina
  7. South Africa
  8. CA
  9. Chile



  • Low tolerance for too much heat and too little heat
  • Buds late, ripens early – short growing season


  • Co-fermentation – esp with Viognier (Côte Rôtie and Australia) – no more than 5%, with Marsanne and Roussanne in Hermitage (up to 15%)
  • Stems and oak play a role



  • Northern Rhône: 
    • General flavors – peppery when less ripe, fruity and perfumed when more ripe
    • Côte Rôtie:  floral, roasted, bacon, lavender notes
    • Hermitage: minerally, tannic, bacon, herbs
    • Cornas – fruity, heavier, less nuanced
    • Crozes –Hermitage and St-Joseph: flatter areas -- lighter, more peppery, floral, earthy, great values
  • Southern Rhône
    • Hot and dry, Syrah gets overripe – need cooler, north-facing sites to slow ripening, Grenache gets best sites, Syrah is part of the blend
  • Known as an improver variety in Languedoc and Provence with Grenache and Mourvèdre


  • Much hotter than Rhône – heavier styles
  • Barossa: Benchmark Shiraz– chocolaty, dark fruit
    • Best versions are dry-farmed
  • Victoria, Canberra, Western Australia - More Rhône-like versions 
  • McLaren Vale: Different styles often like milk chocolate
  • Clare Valley: dark cherry
  • Sometimes blended with Cabernet Sauvignon 
  • Penfolds Grange is the most famed version 
  • Check out the podcasts with Simone Madden-Gray for more info!

 United States:

  • California: Dry Creek Valley, Paso, Central Coast areas, some Napa as GSMs or alone.  
  • Washington State: Some are big and full of plum, cooler sites in Yakima very nice with bacon. Outstanding in Walla Walla



  • Colchagua – warm, fruity
  • San Antonio Valley – Limari and Elqui – lean with some fruit but not over the top 

South Africa

  • Swartland is the best – fruity, spicy, but restrained


New Zealand

  • Needs hotter sites: Gimlet Gravels in Hawkes Bay, some in Marlborough



  • Sicily, versions from Planeta, Used in Super Tuscans




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