Shiraz (Syrah) arrived in Australia with Scottish gardener James Busby in 1832 and was first planted around Sydney and in the Hunter Valley.
It came from France's Rhône Valley with a reputation for being the source of that country's 'manliest' reds (wrote Professor George Saintsbury in the 1860s) and was quickly flourishing across our sunburnt land - with the exception of chilly Tasmania.
The dark ages of Australian wine saw overall vineyard acreage shrink and wineries focus on fortified wines. Thankfully Shiraz survived this massive 1900-1960 cull because it grew so well and was suited to making port styles.
In the 1950s, the big three red grapes in Australian by order of tonnage were Grenache, Syrah and Mataro (Mourvedre). So we really did start off as Rhône Rangers. Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Merlot were insignificant.
At the end of the dark age, Australian reds were lampooned overseas as baked and brown rather than red, though that rusty colour saw McLaren Vale Shiraz prescribed for listlessness by some UK doctors.
Then the wheel turned, and in the 1950s winemakers like Max Schubert at Penfolds started looking around for concentrated fruit from seriously old vines to start making world-class reds. The time had come for those ancient Shiraz vineyards.
From tighter cropping to more modern fermentation methods and ageing in quality oak, finally Shiraz was being treated with the respect its noble lineage deserved.
The rest is history and today Shiraz has been planted across the world in imitation of our greatest reds.
Voluptuous red fruit flavors and mouthwarming spice
Penfolds Grange, Peter Lehmann Stonewall, Domaine Yann Chave Crozes-Hermitage
Rhône, McLaren Vale, Barossa, Mendoza, Languedoc, Stellenbosch
- In Australia, Shiraz/Cabernet blends have become a modern-day classic.
- Australia's greatest red wine, the iconic Grange, is made almost entirely from Shiraz with just a small portion of Cabernet Sauvignon depending on the vintage.
- In France (and increasingly, the New World) Syrah is often blended with a dash of the white grape Viognier.
- If you like Shiraz, you might also like: Durif - It is related to Shiraz but "seems to have much more smooth plum and black-cherry fruit" (Matthew Jukes, Daily Mail).