The Hill of Hermitage and vineyards
steeply overlooking the Rhône provide the home of Syrah and one of the
most famous place names associated with this great grape variety.
Hermitage, Cornas and Côte Rôtie are full-bodied red wines, while Crozes
Hermitage and St Joseph are generally a touch lighter. Syrah is a hardy
grape, growing well in pour soil, such as the granite-based hills and
slopes of the Northern Rhône, and able to adapt to a number of climates.
In their infancy, Syrah-based wines smell
of blackberry and ground pepper, sometimes mixed with aromas of smoke
and toasty oak. In the Northern Rhône, Syrah is the only permitted black
grape, while in the south it is used as a blending material and can be
just one of several grape varieties making up the final Cuvée. Grenache
is more widely grown and used in the south.
Often requiring time to develop, due to
the tannic nature of young Syrah, the wines often soften with age,
taking on smoky, leathery characteristics. In Australia, a range of
styles exist, from light to medium-bodied fruity reds, to the massively
fruity, rich, powerhouse wines of the Barossa Valley. Australian Shiraz,
which has captured the imagination of wine lovers throughout the world,
ranges from the moderate to very expensive, such as Penfold's legendary
The grape is known as Syrah in the French
growing areas of the Rhône and the south of the country but as Shiraz in
its other locations: Australia, Tuscany in Italy, South Africa, and
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