An Argentinian wine importer's guide to Syrah
Known as Shiraz in many parts of the world (the Australian adaptation of the French word ‘Syrah’), the correct name for this grape is Syrah, and it is known as such throughout Argentina. A full bodied wine with medium acidity and medium/high tannin, Syrah is typified by its deep colour and its black fruit and often possesses spicy, peppery flavours, with vegetal notes and hints of chocolate.
Although much of the Syrah we get here in Britain is from Australia, the home of Syrah is the northern Rhone Valley in France, which still makes some very expensive Syrahs. Far from being limited to these two countries however, this grape is now widely grown all over the world and is growing in popularity in Argentina both as a single varietal and for blending.
Classically, Syrah is known to make some very big bodied wines. Accordingly, for those wondering about matching wines with food, like Malbec, Syrah is generally an excellent choice to accompany red meat.
In terms of taste, Syrah typically contains black fruit flavours such as blackberry and black cherry. It is also famous for its peppery finish, with some Syrahs even seeming slightly vegetal. Furthermore, if it has been oak aged, this process will probably add notes of chocolate and coffee into the bottle.
What to look for
As the Syrah grape flourishes in the warmth and sunshine, if you want a quality wine, choose one which comes from a warm region. In terms of Argentinian Syrah therefore, although there is not an enormous difference in quality between regions, I would recommend looking further north for the better wines. Regions to look out for include San Juan, La Rioja and Catamarca.
Syrah can benefit from ageing, and a good Syrah will last around five to ten years, with only a few going over a decade. However, as the wine is so popular, Argentinian growers are easily able to sell everything they make, meaning that they tend not to hang on to the wine in order to release it late. Consequently, it is difficult to find a Syrah in Argentina which is more than three to five years old, so don’t be surprised if you fail to find one any older than this from a wine merchant.