Shiraz/Syrah: Same-Same

Several Israeli Shiraz/Syrah based vinos that will make an excellent addition to your holiday meal

People often ask me what the difference is between Shiraz and Syrah grapes. In fact, they are both names for the same red wine grape varietal. The Shiraz/Syrah grape is known as Syrah in France, the US and many other countries. In Australia it is called Shiraz, where it is considered by many as the national grape varietal showing excellent results in different parts of the country. In other parts of the world, including the US and Israel, people also use the name Shiraz if the wine is more Australian and ‘new world’ in style (fruit forward, robust wines) and/or if the vine clone was imported from Australia.

Over the years the Shiraz and Syrah wines in Israel have shown excellent results. The grape is considered to have an aroma and flavor profile of spicy blackberry, dark plums, herb and peppery characteristics. Often there are additional notes of anise, bitter chocolate, mocha and even meaty notes. Of course, this is where the terroir (and the winemaker) makes all of the difference and brings out different and varying wines. Legend has it that the Shiraz is originated from a city in Persia, modern days Iran bearing the same name, but studies have shown that the grape is a native of the Rhone valley in France.

Following are several Israeli Shiraz/Syrah based vinos that will make an excellent addition to your holiday meal:

Barkan, Special Reserve, Shiraz, 2010 – a new label from the Barkan winery which recently invested in a major re-branding and re-designing effort. 94% Shiraz and the balance Cabernet Sauvignon from vineyards in the Judean Hills and Upper Galilee. Medium bodied, opens with generous blue and black fruit, those followed by freshly ground pepper and a touch of smoke. On the long and well balanced finish hints of chocolate and dried meat and the relatively low alcohol content also make this a rather food friendly wine.

Binyamina, Reserve, Shiraz, 2010 – 98% Shiraz and a dash of Viognier, a blending style that is rather popular in France’s Rhone Valley, adding both to the color and aroma profiles of the wine. Dark ruby with bright purple reflections in color, full bodied, on the nose and palate dark berry fruits and fresh herbs followed by notes of roasted coffee beans and dark chocolate, all coming together nicely and leading to a medium-long finish.

Carmel, Single Vineyard, Kayoumi, Shiraz, 2008 –mostly Shiraz with just a dash of Viognier. Fifteen months in barriques, dark ruby with purple reflections, full bodied, the wine suggests pleasant aromas and flavors of blueberries, dark cherries, plums and aromas of “cool” green herbs (mint or eucalyptus come to mind), those followed by notes of chocolate and black pepper. Toasted oak is evident but not overpowering, resulting in an enjoyable, well-balanced wine. The 2006 version of this label received a Regional Trophy at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2010, one of the most prestigious awards by an Israeli wine.

Golan Heights, Yarden, Syrah, Avital Slopes, 2008 - aged for 18 months in barriques (2/3 of which were new), dark ruby towards purple in color, full bodied, on the nose and palate layers of plums cherries, black berry fruits followed by notes of flowers, dark chocolate, licorice and smoked meat all coming together nicely for a long and pleasant finish. Take your time with the wine and allow to aerate in the glass – you’ll be in for a treat.

Galilee Mountain, Ella, 2011 – a Syrah based blend (73%) joined by Barbera (23%) and Petit Verdot (4%) the wine is medium bodied with generous notes of black fruit, sour cherries, chocolate and sweet spices. Good texture on the palate, very approachable and a pleasant medium-long finish. I also enjoyed the Alon 2011 blend from the Galilee Mountain.

Tulip, Reserve, Syrah, 2011 – from the 2010 vintage all of the Tulip wines are kosher, so if you are looking for a bottle to bring to your holiday hosts (assuming that they observe the laws of kashrut), Tulip reds would be an excellent choice. 95% Syrah and the balance Petit Verdot, 16-18 months in French oak result in a dark ruby towards purple vino suggesting generous notes of dark and ripe berry fruits, plums, roasted coffee beans and thyme leading to a long finish.

Recanati, Reserve, Syrah – Viognier, 2010 – 97% Syrah and 3% Viognier , 9 months in French oak, this is a full bodied wine, suggesting pleasant aromas and flavors of red berry fruits alongside dry herbs, floral notes and just a touch of smoke backed by good acidity and a long finish - a very enjoyable wine.

Mony Winery, Reserve, Shiraz, 2010 – there is no question that the Mony winery has gone a long way since winemaker Sam Soroka took the helm a few years ago. From the Chardonnay Reserve through the premium Dlila vino, Mony is offering excellent wines offering good value for money. The Shiraz 2010 with a dash of Petit Verdot is medium-full bodied suggesting pleasant aromas and flavors of dark berry fruits, plums, and warm spices while in the background slight smoky-meaty notes.