By Lisa Rowlands

With one-hundred-and-ninety hectares under vine Syrah is the world’s sixth most planted grape and the fourth most prevalent red wine variety. It is believed to be indigenous to South East France where it maintains a strong presence today, although other theories of origin - from Syracuse in Sicily to Shiraz in Iran - have been floated, and subsequently quashed, throughout the variety’s history.

Nowadays more than one third of all Syrah is grown in France (approximately seventy-thousand hectares), with further significant plantings across Spain, Italy and the Valais region of Switzerland. It is also a well represented variety in (amongst others) the New World wine nations of Argentina, Australia, Chile and the United States. Perhaps the most famous and most expensive expressions of the Syrah grape are those from the one-hundred-and-forty hectare Hermitage appellation in the Northern Rhône Valley. These wines, characterised by powerful aromas, immaculate structure and age worthiness, are as well regarded today as they were centuries ago.

Syrah is a fairly versatile variety that grows in a range of different climates. It is known to enjoy a steep slope, shallow soils and an elevated position, and generally produces low yields of highly concentrated grapes. In addition to its being vinified as a mono-varietal wine, the Syrah grape is often added to blends to improve their richness, colour and tannic structure. Rosé wines from this variety have also had some success in the United States.