Shiraz or Syrah is a dark skinned red grape that produces some of the most amazing full bodied reds with tremendous style and huge aging potential. There are conflicting views as to the origin of this grape. Whilst it is commonly thought to originate from Iran where it was first called Shiraz, another belief is that its home is the Rhone valley, dating back to at least the Romans and originating from a combination of the Durezn grape from the Ardeche, and the Mondeuse Blanche from the Savoie. Syrah was taken to Australia in about 1832 by James Busby, the Father of Australian viticulture, to be planted in the Hunter Valley. From there it has grown to be Australia’s most popular grape, known better to us today as Shiraz. The hallmarks of Syrah are medium to full bodied wines, dependant on the climate and soils where it is grown. Blackberry, mint and black pepper with soft tannins are clear in Rhone wines, many of which have great aging potential. In warmer climates the riper berries give a more fruit driven wine, higher in alcohol, with spicy, liquorice, anise hints and definite chocolate and espresso flavours. The style is more jammy and with age an earthy influence is noticeable, particularly with some classic Australian wines. France is the heart of Syrah, especially in the Northern Rhone in areas like Hermtiage, Crozes Hermitage, Cornas and Cote Rotie. Here the rich peppery style prevails in an elegant, full wine that is steeped in character. Aging is part of the life and character of these wines that many centuries ago it would be blended to lift the reds of Bordeaux in poorer years. Producers such as Chapoutier and Jaboulet show these traditional qualities. Elsewhere in the Rhone Syrah plays a vital role in Cotes du Rhone, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas and others. In Australia, known as Shiraz, it is grown widely producing wines from the everyday Shiraz to the classics such as the iconic Penfold’s Grange and Peter Lehmann's Stonewell Shiraz. Such is it's importance Shiraz is produced in all the major quality areas from Barossa Valley, Hunter Valley, Coonawarra, McLaren Vale, Margaret River and the Yarra Valley. All the major wineries such as Rosemount, Penfolds and Peter Lehmann produce Shiraz from which come a range of high quality wines many of which, like the Rhone, have vast aging potential. In recent years the addition of small amounts of Viogner, about 5%, adds an apricot touch, but is something that could well have originated in the Northern Rhone where it is quite common. South Africa, Chile, Argentina, California and New Zealand also produce the Shiraz grape, following closely the skills and techniques of the New World producers, though in much lower volumes. Syrah belongs to France, Shiraz to Australia and in both areas we obtain this rich red wine that has huge depth, lasting character, and unquestionably makes superb quality wine. Such is the depth of the Syrah that it is recommended that serving temperature is a warm 18C. A lovely wine to enjoy by the fireside on a cold winters night, It also goes superbly well with red meats, venison, roasts, meat dishes with creamy sauces, and good matured cheeses. The mouthful of fruit, richness, chocolate hints, blackberries and pepper really add to the enjoyment of a meal – do not miss out!