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Shiraz Spotlight

Master Vintner Spotlight: Shiraz

This is the fifth in our series of blog posts taking a look at the type of grapes we use in Master Vintner wine kits. Grape varieties each one have their own unique character and response to the sunlight and soil of the region they're grown in. I'll be talking about all of the grapes we use in our Master Vintner kits in turn, to help you understand the flavors, aromas, and history of each.

Note that Syrah is a synonym for Shiraz. It's not the same thing as Petit Sirah, but it was one of the parent grapes.

There are a lot of stories surrounding the origin of Shiraz, from Greeks bringing it to southern France from the Iranian city of Shiraz, to the Romans bringing it from Egypt via Syracuse and even the Phoceans bringing it in through a colony on the site of modern-day Marseilles. Romantic notions and fanciful history were pushed aside in the age of DNA testing, and Shiraz is proven to be a cross between two obscure French varieties, Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche.

Dureza is a dark-skinned variety from the Ardèche region, and Mondeuse Blanche is actually a white grape, native to the Savoie. Neither variety is very important today, but their crossing produced the great vine of the northern Rhône, which went on to be planted throughout southern France, and then on to the new world of Western Australia, California and the Pacific Northwest. The small, thick skinned berries are deep blue-black in colour, high in extract, flavour, aroma and tannin, and have a decent backbone of acidity.

Shiraz makes very different wine, depending on where it's grown. Overall it can be categorized as intensely flavored and full-bodied, with dark berry aromas accompanied by violets, chocolate and coffee. There is an aromatic chemical in the skin of the grapes, Rotundone that makes some grapes smell of black pepper, occasionally quite sharply.

Shiraz is vigorous and highly productive in sandy loam soil with in hot climates, and in these conditions it can produce soft wines with very high alcohol and intensely jammy notes and rich finishes

When grown in thin, rocky, well-drained, soils exposed to abundant sunshine but not quite as much heat, it can show a leaner character with firmer tannins and nearly crisp acidity. These conditions stress the vine and reduce yield per acre, driving up cost.

In the southern Rhône, in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and the Côtes-du-Rhône, it's blended to add structure to Grenache and Cinsault grapes (along with a tiny amount of Viognier for fruitiness). Australia pioneered Cabernet-Shiraz blends, but for the most part the rest of the world typically produces Shiraz as a pure varietal.

Master Vintner™ Winemakers Reserve Shiraz and Master Vintner™ Small Batch Shiraz make velvety red wine with dense, rich, black berry fruit and violets aromas and flavors of black fruit, bittersweet chocolate, plums, black cherries and blueberries that linger on to a long finish silky-smooth finish of spice.

Pair Shiraz with rich, flavorful dishes like osso buco, roast lamb, or a Rib Eye, or even good pulled pork or Texas brisket. For culinary adventurers, red wine braised octopus is amazing, and Shiraz isn't just a meat-friendly wine: try it with Puy lentils braised with mushrooms and root vegetables for a savory, satisfying meal.

Serve slightly cool (65F) to keep the tannins firm and the fruit lush — and even if you're not into doing a food pairing, try it with a piece of high-cacao chocolate for an amazing taste sensation.

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