Has Syrah's Time Finally Come?

Top-quality syrah is finally getting its due recognition in the US

Syrah has been a perennial dark horse in the U.S. market for much of the last two decades. It’s a grape that always seems to be on the verge of greatness, even exploding on the scene in the late 1990s under the shiraz moniker and with a thick Aussie accent, but as we all know, Aussie shiraz is so very 1990, and syrah struggles to find a following because consumers don’t know what to expect, or do they?

The truth remains that syrah tends to be produced in a range of styles that might be a bit broader than many other wines. It’s a grape that seems more sensitive to variations in climate and terroir than some of our mainstays, but that should be a good thing, an advantage, not the distinct disadvantage its made out to be.

In truth, I believe that syrah has suffered in part from an identity crisis as well as guilt by association. Much of this was probably created by people like me, in the media, telling you why people didn’t buy or like syrah as opposed to created by consumers who just did not buy syrah. Well the times have changed, and along with those changes, a new appreciation for syrah is on the way. Let’s take a look at the recent developments.

Syrah is now better understood by producers.
The effect of terroir on syrah is now better understood.
The Australians have rediscovered restraint when it comes to syrah.
The French have abandoned restraint when it comes to syrah.

The first two are relatively self-explanatory, over time winemakers and growers make mistakes in planting and production and if they are competent, they learn from those mistakes. Unlike with baking, wine mistakes tend to have fairly long horizons, so you can screw something up and not know it for sure for a year or three. Screwing things up in the vineyard can take even longer, four years for fruit, a few years to figure out you’d be better off planting another variety, rinse, lather, repeat.

Click here to learn more about Syrah.

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— Gregory Del Piaz, Snooth