Syrah N (a.k.a. Shiraz)

@ Gilles Cattiau / INRA

Some people claim that Syrah originated from Schiras in Persia or Syracuse (Sicily). But its Rhône origin seems more credible today.

Syrah is the result of a natural crossing between Mondeuse and Dureza (two grape varieties originating from the Dauphiné (Isère, France). It occupies a privileged place in the Rhône valley and has more recently became widespread in Languedoc and Midi-Pyrénées.

It’s a grape variety without synonyms. In the past, the old winegrowers of the Frontonnais region spoke of a Petite Syrah with paler leaves and a downy white underside softer than the Syrah from the Ardèche and Drôme departments (Syrah de Cornas and Syrah de Gervans). It was probably a degeneration of the same plant initially imported into the Southwest.

This is a grape variety that makes you dream, or whose name is just an inspiration. An information reported by the linguist Pierre Rézeau (1997) suggests that the Syrah grape variety spread from an area between Valence (Drôme) and Vienne (Isère), in the Rhone Valley. Valence is in the Pays d’Oc, Vienne in the Franco-Provençal region.

Among the many forms of the name Syrah, some are common with those of the Serene or Serine, synonymous with the Servagnin, a grape variety from Isère.

Syrah vines produce long white buds with carmine edging and young, downy, yellowish leaves with a cottony underside. Mature leaves have a very downy white blade, are quinquelobed and tormented, with deep and very narrow lateral sinuses. The petiolar sinus is in the form of a lyre (harp). Branches grow vertically in square-sections and are not rounded off. Stalks and bunches are long with ovoid shaped grapes.

While in Tain-l’Hermitage (Drôme), Syrah is attached to a stake (goblet). In the Southwest, the branch is trained to a wire (Guyot pruning). Spreading out the weight makes it sensitive to the wind and dry atmosphere (on hot evenings, the leaves wither but regain their beautiful aspect the following morning).

This grape variety produces tannic wines. In the Southwest, it is always produces blended wines, with exception of a few Syrah rosé wines renowned for their particular, “English candy”, taste.

Traces of Petite Syrah (Durif) can be found near Toulouse along with the Syrah de Cornas (Ardèche), which was only introduced around 1960 by three winegrowers in the Fronton vineyard. From there, it spread to the department of Tarn-et-Garonne, which has since cloned it. The grafts implanted in the Tarn department come from Syrah de Gervans (Drôme), a more productive origin with greener foliage.

Syrah wines generally have an intense, dense and dark color with bluish tints. They are distinguished by their aromatic complexity and the finesse of their tannins, which are powerful yet silky. The aromas open with notes of black fruits, violets and spices. Additional aromas are of banana, cocoa, cinnamon, blackcurrant, cherry, bitter chocolate, leather, spices (peppery notes), raspberry, ripe raspberry evolving with time towards notes of pepper, wild raspberry, cooked fruit (prune), blackberry, game, olive, licorice, undergrowth, blond tobacco, truffle, violet…

Production area in 2018: 64 000 (158 147 acres)

@ Gilles Cattiau / INRA