Sirah, Syra, Schiras, Sirac, Syrac, and Petite Syras are used in France. It is called Shiraz in Australia and South Africa. In California, Syrah is not to be confused with “Petite Sirah” plantings, which are mostly of Durif (a hybrid of Peloursin and Syrah) but have included Peloursin and true Syrah.
The true origin of Syrah has been shown through DNA testing to be a cross between two French varieties, Durezaand Mondeuse Blanche. Dureza is an obscure black variety and Mondeuse Blanche is a minor white variety, both of Rhône origin. Previous myths of origin included the Middle East (Shiraz, Persia); Roman importation into Gaul; Syracuse (Sicily); and SyrahIsland, Greece. Syrah has been known in the Rhône Valley ofFrance for many centuries where it has recently had a resurgence of popularity. Only 3,300 acres remained in 1958, butby the mid-1990s, plantings in southern France
had increased to more than 86,000 acres. It is classified as recommended in the Rhône Valley, Provence, Languedoc, and southwest France; it is used in the production of AOC wines such as thoseof Hermitage,Cotes-du- Rhône, and Coteaux du Languedoc. The second largest plantings are in Australia where it is the leading red wine variety. Significant plantings also exist in South Africa and South America. Interest in the variety did not become widespread in California until the 1980s. It is now grown in a wide range of districts from the Central Valley and Sierra foothills to all but the coolest coastal districts.
Clusters: medium; long cylindrical, loose to well-filled; very long peduncles causing the clusters to hang free from the canes.
Berries: small to medium; oval; blue-black; tend to shrivel when ripe.
Leaves: medium; mostly 3- to 5-lobed with reduced inferior lateral sinuses; U- to lyre- shaped petiolar sinus; short, sharp teeth; leaf surface occasionally bullate and puck- ered near petiole junction; tufted hair on lower leaf surface.
Shoot tips: felty with rose margin; young leaves yellowish with bronze highlights.
A versatile variety, Syrah is well adapted to a wide range of viticultural temperature regions, winery uses, and winestyles. Used to produce varietal table wines of distinct character in the cooler districts, it also has demonstrated high potential for red table wine production in the warmer districts, including the San Joaquin Valley. It has good blending qualities for deep color and not overly tannic, fruity aromas, producing popular blends such as Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz, an Australian conception, as well as traditional Rhône blends. Dessert wine potential is high, with Australian Port-type wines as goodprecedents.
L. Peter Christensen