Originally from France’s Rhone Valley, Shiraz was one of the first grape varieties planted in Australia. James Busby, a Scotsman often known as the Father of Australian Viticulture brought cuttings from Europe, planting them in the Hunter Valley and at the Sydney Botanical Gardens back in 1831. In 1839 the variety was first planted in South Australia and by the 1860s, was widely planted throughout the country and initially used mostly to make fortified wines such as Tawny and Vintage Ports.
Shiraz is an interesting variety in that it is very good at adapting to various climates and so can have significant variation in style and character depending on the region in which it’s grown. Dark fruit flavours of plum, blackberry and blueberry are generally mainstays, however climate will affect both the overall flavour profile and style of wine. In Australia, there are generally considered to be three main styles of Shiraz.
Syrah is the French word for Shiraz. The words are actually synonyms for the variety and are, in theory, interchangeable. In Europe, New Zealand and mostly in America the name Syrah is used, whereas Shiraz is the more traditional name in Australia. However, there is a tendency for Shiraz growers here to denote a lighter style of wine by labelling it Syrah. If the wine is labelled this way, you can generally expect it to be produced from a cooler climate, with finer, spicier fruit flavours.