Syrah: Pairing Wine with Food 101

Syrah, which is alternatively spelled “Shiraz” in English-speaking regions — is a red grape that generally yields a spicy, rich red wine.

Syrah

“Syrah” and “Shiraz” are exactly the same grape.  Yet because “Syrah” is the French spelling and “Shiraz” the Anglophone spelling, which way its spelled often says something about the region and thus the style – Syrah is usually produced in one of the French Rhône styles,  and Shiraz is usually produced more in the Australian or American style.

Syrahs display strong, smooth tannins, and are generally deep burgundy to purple in color.

Shiraz, the most popular winegrape produced in Australia, gets its name from the city of Shiraz in Persia known for its beauty.  The grape was believed to be brought to the northern Rhône valley in France during the middle ages (though some claim that is a myth).

In France, it’s known as “Syrah”, and to bear the special appellation “Cornas”, the wine must be 100% Syrah.  Elsewhere, it is often blended with Viognier, Marsanne, or Roussanne white grapes, or Cabernet Sauvignon (red), each of which typically smooths-out the finish.

Syrah’s Flavor Profile

Syrahs often carry flavors of black cherry, black pepper, blackberry, plum, bell pepper, clove, licorice, espresso and dark chocolate.  So, when wondering what pairs best with Syrah’s, consider these flavors, and whether they’d complement the meal.

Great Pairings with Syrah

As a general rule Syrah (Shiraz) pairs very well with grilled meats, vegetables, wild game and beef stew.

Pairings to Avoid

  • Seafood like sole, shrimp or lobster
  • Delicate dishes
  • Extremely sour dishes

Syrah makes a fantastic Beef Demiglaze Reduction

One of our favorite uses of Syrah is as a demiglaze reduction, and we’ve found no better description of the technique than this expertly-written recipe by sgrishka:

Pan-Seared Filet Mignon (Beef Tenderloin) with Shiraz Sauce Pan-Seared Filet Mignon (Beef Tenderloin) with Shiraz Sauce recipe

General differences between Syrah regions

In Australia, it’s “Shiraz”, and they produce a great of it – generally a little more delicate, with American and French Syrahs a little heavier and bolder.  Italy, northern France, California, Washington State and New Zealand are also producers of some great Syrahs.

One of our favorite new wineries in Washington State is Avennia, which makes a highly-regarded new Syrah blend (disclosure:  Avennia’s founder is a good friend of BigOven’s founder.)

There are four main blending compositions of Syrah:

  • “Varietal” Syrah or Shiraz. This is the style of Hermitage in northern Rhône or Australian Shiraz.
  • Syrah blended with a small amount of Viognier.  This is the Côte-Rôtie (northern Rhône) style.
  • Syrah, blended equally with Cabernet Sauvignon, becoming quite popular in the US.  In modern times, this blend originated in Australia, so it is often known as Shiraz-Cabernet.
  • Syrah, blended with Grenache and Mourvèdre. This is the traditional style of Châteauneuf-du-Pape of southern Rhône — this blend is often referred to as GSM in Australia.

Cellaring

Syrahs generally should be enjoyed while they’re young – 3 years or less is typically best for most labels.

This is part of our ongoing series introducing food and wine pairings.  At BigOven, we know that some foods just go together.  That’s why we’ve introduced Menus, which let you drag and drop recipes to create ideal combinations, share them with the world and create grocery lists instantly.  We’ve created a Syrah wine “recipe” listing on BigOven – create your favorite menu and share it with friends.

Are these introductory food & wine articles useful to you?  Be sure to “Like” this post.  Happy cooking!

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