What is the difference between Syrah and Shiraz?
The grape is called Syrah in its country of origin, France, as well as the rest of Europe, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, New Zealand and most of the United States.
The name Shiraz became popular for this grape variety in Australia, where it has long been established as the most grown dark-skinned variety. The name is also commonly used in South Africa and Canada.
The grape's many other synonyms are used in various parts of the world, including Antourenein Noir, Balsamina, Candive, Entournerein, Hignin Noir, Marsanne Noir, Schiras, Sirac, Syra, Syrac, Serine, and Sereine.
Syrah has a long documented history in the Rhône region of south-eastern France, but it was not known if it had originated in that region. Legends of Syrah's origins come from one of its homonyms - Shiraz. Because Shiraz, a very old city in Iran, produced the well-known Shirazi wine, legends claim the Syrah grape originated in Shiraz and then was brought to Rhône.
BUT, in 1998, a study conducted by Carole Meredith's research group in the Department of Viticulture and Enology at University of California, used DNA typing and extensive grape reference material from the viticultural research station in Montpellier, France, to conclude that Syrah was the offspring of the grape varieties Dureza (father) and Mondeuse Blanche (mother).
DUREZA, a dark-skinned grape variety from the Ardèche region in France, has all but disappeared from the vineyards, and the preservation of such varieties is a speciality of Montpellier. MONDEUSE BLANCHE is a white grape variety cultivated in the Savoy region, and is still found in very small amounts in that region's vineyards today.
Both varieties are somewhat obscure today, and have never achieved anything near Syrah's fame or popularity, and there is no record of them ever having been cultivated at long distances from their present homes. Thus, both of Syrah's parents come from a limited area in south-eastern France, very close to northern Rhône.