The red grape variety comes from France. There are more than 80 synonyms that testify to its great age and worldwide distribution. The most important from a historical point of view, or still used today are Hermitage, Shiraz(Australia), Candive, Marsanne Noir, Petite Sirrah, Petite Syrah, Scyras, Sérène, Serine, Sira, Sirac, Sirah, Syra, Syrac(France) Balsamina, Neiretta Cunese, Neiretta del Monregalese, Neiretta del Rosso, Neiretta di Pinerolo, Neiretta di Saluzzo (Italy); Shiraz(South Africa); Zizak(Montenegro). Although it appears to have synonyms or morphological similarities, it should not be confused with the varieties Dureza, Durif (Petite Sirah), Mondeuse Noire, Persan (Sérine), Serina e Zeze or Shesh i Zi. The confusing and extremely complicated history of confusion concerning the three varieties Durif, Peloursin and Syrah in California in connection with the name Petite Si(y)rah is described in detail under the heading Durif.
There are many hypotheses about the origin. According to the most common one, the variety is said to come from the ancient city of Shiraz (Shiraz) in today's Iran (Persia). Incidentally, the famous Persian poet Hafis (1324-1388) also comes from this city. From there it was allegedly brought to France by the French crusader Gaspard de Sterimberg around 1225. According to another, it is said to be a descendant of the ancient grape variety Allobrogica mentioned by Pliny the Elder (23-79) and Columella (1st half of the 1st century). The former also described a "black Aminea" from Syria, which was also assumed to be an ancestor. Other possible origins are the Greek island Syra, which belongs to the Cyclades, the city Syracus on Sicily and also Albania. There is no historical, botanical or genetic evidence for all these hypotheses.
The probable origin was clarified by DNA analyses carried out in 2000 by Dr. Carole Meredith and J. E. Bowers(University of California) in collaboration with Jean-Michel Boursiquot(Montpellier). The variety Syrah is a presumably natural cross between the two old varieties Mondeuse Blanche (white) x Dureza (red). The origin of both parents lies in the former sphere of influence of the Celtic tribe of the Allobroger between the Rhône and Lake Geneva(Savoy), which does not confirm the assumption regarding allobrogica, but explains it. In 2006, the Swiss biologist Dr. José Vouillamoz (*1971) established through DNA analyses that Pinot is most likely a great-grandfather of Syrah. The (French) Syrah is genetically identical to the (Australian) Shiraz, but they have their own history. Syrah/Shiraz was a cross-breeding partner of the new breeds Carina, Durif, Iara, Maximo, Rubin Bolgarskii and Sao Roque.
The medium ripening vine is susceptible to botrytis and mites, as well as very susceptible to chlorosis. It loves warmth but does not like calcareous soils. It produces deep dark, tannin-rich red wines with intense, diverse aromas of black pepper, plums, chocolate and leather, which have high ageing potential. Compared to Cabernet Sauvignon, the tannins are softer and smoother. The variety is undoubtedly one of the greats of the world, the Cépages nobles. Syrah is cultivated throughout France, but mainly in Languedoc-Roussillon with almost two thirds of the quantity, as well as on the Rhône. It is one of the varieties in the Rhône recipe typical of the region. Well-known wines are Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Côte Rôtie and Hermitage. Especially on the northern Rhône there are also many pure Syrah wines. Since the end of the 1950s, the stock has literally exploded from 1,600 hectares to 68,587 hectares in 2010.
In Spain, too, there was a huge increase from around 3,000 hectares in 2000 to 20,000 hectares in 2010. Here the variety is mainly grown in the regions of Aragon, Extremadura, Catalonia, La Mancha and Murcia in the Levant. The legendary Carlos Falcó of the Marqués de Griñón winery was particularly credited with the introduction of this variety. There was also a large increase in Italy, from 1,025 hectares in 2000 to 6,739 hectares in 2010, with the main areas of production being in Piedmont, Sicily and Tuscany. Other countries in Europe or North Africa in 2010 were Algeria (1,510 ha), Germany (27 ha), Greece (641 ha), Israel (250 ha), Croatia (187 ha), Lebanon, Malta (100 ha), Portugal (3,501 ha), Romania, Switzerland (181 ha), Austria (137 ha), Tunisia (337 ha), Turkey (1,367 ha), Hungary (177 ha) and Cyprus (244 ha).
The winegrowing pioneer James Busby (1802-1871) introduced the Syrah to Australia in 1833. Here it became famous under the name Shiraz, probably created here, through the Penfolds Grange, whose 1951 vintage is one of the most expensive wines in the world. With 42,675 hectares in 2010, it is the most common variety. Here it is mainly found in the Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, Coonawarra, Hunter Valley, Langhorne Creek, McLaren Vale, Murray Darling, Padthaway, Riverina and Riverland. It arrived in California in 1936 through the US oenologist Dr. Harold P. Olmo (1909-2006) and occupies 7,803 hectares of vineyards there. Other US states with smaller quantities are Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Texas and Washington (1,256 hectares).
Other overseas countries are Argentina (12,810 ha), Bolivia, Chile (6,027 ha), China (223 ha), Canada (274 ha), Mexico (145 ha), Myanmar (27 ha), New Zealand (293 ha), Peru (2 ha), South Africa (10,136 ha), Thailand (66 ha) and Uruguay (87 ha), each with an increasing trend. The variety occupied a total of 185,568 hectares of vineyards in 2010. Compared to 1990 with 35,086 hectares at that time, this represents a huge increase or more than five times the amount in a period of 20 years. Together with Tempranillo, it was therefore the most rapidly expanding variety. It thus occupied 6th place in the worldwide grape variety ranking.
Source: Wine Grapes / J. Robinson, J. Harding, J. Vouillamoz / Penguin Books Ltd. 2012
Pictures: Ursula Brühl, Doris Schneider, Julius Kühn Institute (JKI)