Syrah or Shiraz?
In Australia (and sometimes in South Africa), the grape syrah is known as shiraz. Why so? In the 17th century, French Huguenots (many of whom were religious refugees) brought syrah from France to South Africa, and from there it was brought to Australia. By the 1830s, Australian explorers were also bringing syrah in directly from France. In France, syrah is known by a number of colloquial names (serine, serinne, sira, etc.). Most scholars think the name shiraz is a corruption of one of these aliases. Frustratingly, many wine articles continue to reproduce the erroneous legends that syrah/shiraz somehow came from the Iranian city of Shiraz, the Greek island of Syra, or the city of Syracuse in Sicily. All false. Today, of course, shiraz is Australia’s most famous red wine, and it can be a spellbinding rich blockbuster of a wine, although rarely as gamey as syrahs from Washington State or from the northern Rhône.