South Africa has the fourth biggest plantings of Syrah in the world, making up 10% of total vine plantings in South Africa and the second most planted red grape in South Africa.
The first bottling of Shiraz was a single varietal for Bellingham in 1957.
Between 1992 and 2016, plantings increased from 900 hectares to 10,000 hectares, making it the second most planted red variety in our country. It does particularly well in Stellenbosch and the Swartland.
The best South African Shirazes stand toe to toe with any wines in the world, including those in Côte Rotie, along with Hermitage. There are more single varietal bottles of Shiraz than any other varietal wine in South Africa, but is also blended with other Rhône and Southern French varieties like Grenache and Mourvèdre.
Syrah is the second most planted red grape at 10% of the total vine plantings in South Africa.
The first confirmed Shiraz vineyards were planted in Groot Constantia towards the end of the 1890s.
The key notes to Syrah / Shiraz are pepper, black fruits, savoury
(meaty, bacon fat) and dark chocolate in Barossa styles.
The cooler and higher altitude regions produce leaner wines that are more elegant and peppery. Warmer areas make full-bodied, richer and riper wines with blackberry notes. Use those savoury elements to your advantage, and pair it with smoky, richer, more intense foods.
The key notes to Syrah / Shiraz are black pepper and black fruits like blackberries, blackcurrants, black cherries, and plums. Look for floral notes, like violets or lilies, as well as savoury notes, such as black olive tapenade or bacon fat. Bigger, riper styles could show dark chocolate. When oaked, you may pick up additional notes of vanilla, cloves, tobacco and liquorice.
Across the world
The name Syrah refers to the traditional Rhône style wines with their more restrained fruit. The wine is referred to as Shiraz for the more modern New World.
The name Shiraz is thought to originate from Persia, where there is a village called Shiraz, making this the older name even though it’s associated with the New World. Shiraz usually implies a more powerful, richer, plusher style with riper berries, higher alcohol, and more upfront fruit. The dichotomy isn’t necessarily useful anymore. There was a time when Shiraz was always big and bold. But there are plenty of Shirazes now that are much lighter.
Shiraz is the fourth most planted red grape in the world. The grape can adapt to a range of climates and can thrive in the hot Barossa Valley in Australia (ripe, full flavoured wines), as well as in the cooler Northern Rhône (leaner, floral, more elegant). It’s made in a range of styles, from medium to full-bodied.
Compared to Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah doesn’t have the same tannin or acidity as Cabernet. It is not as full bodied or as dense.
The key notes to Syrah / Shiraz are pepper, black fruits, savoury (meaty, bacon fat) and dark chocolate (in Barossa styles).
Rotundone is a chemical that smells like pepper - it’s found in the oils of black pepper, rosemary, basil, and is synonymous with Syrah / Shiraz.
In the vineyard
The thing about Syrah, for me, is the savoury, meaty characteristics along with the black pepper and olives. Once you throw in the potential bacon fat, it almost feels like a meal in a glass. Use those savoury elements to your advantage, and pair it with smoky, richer, more intense foods.
Grilled aubergine drizzled with a balsamic vinegar reduction, crumbled blue cheese or feta, and solid cracking of black pepper. Ratatouille with its layers of flavourful nightshades laid out in the prettiest pattern (or not, no pressure).
Grilled winter veggies that are the most comforting meal in the colder months. Vegetable pastas in a rich and creamy sauce (don't forget that hit of black pepper).
Aged gouda, cheddar, or an intense blue cheese. Why not throw all three on a cheese platter along with a deck of crackers, a bowl of olives, and a few slices of charcuterie if you're feeling fancy?
Of course, all the savoury meatiness in Shiraz will go well with braaivleis that's been soaking up a smoky marinade. The acidity of the wine will cut through fatty grilled meats, such as pork ribs and sausages, as well as complement their spices. Classic Sunday roast beef with a pepper sauce is begging to be washed down with Shiraz.
Don't forget to add a glass of the wine to a beef or oxtail stew with smoky spice & chili. I most enjoy Shiraz with seared kudu or venison rolled in a black pepper coating. One of my go-to's is an ostrich burger topped with a slab of melting brie and restrained dollop of raspberry jam. The wine echoes the gaminess in the ostrich, cuts through the richness of the brie, and marries with the fruitiness of the jam.
Bobotie is an all-time, local classic that pairs particularly well with Shiraz because of the spices.