Hooray for Syrah
Shiraz (or Syrah) has an ancient reputation, with legends suggesting it originated from Persia while others have said it was brought home by the Romans returning from Egypt. This debate was settled by grape geneticist Carole Meredith in 2001 when she discovered that after extensive DNA testing the varietal had, in fact, originated from France.
What we do know is that Syrah has long been a varietal grown throughout the Rhône Valley. It is an important component in some of the most famous wines of this area like Côtes-du-Rhône and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Australian winemakers have for many years been one of the world’s most prolific sources for this grape, but we are beginning to make inroads internationally, even though overseas palates are not unanimously convinced that we are on the right track. Australian Syrah vineyards are the world’s second biggest, after France, a clear indication of the potential for enormous growth in our Shiraz wines.
The Shiraz varietal thrives in warm countries, so it is surprising that it took so long for South African winemakers to cotton on to the fact that really superior Shiraz wines can be made right here. The area that is planted under Shiraz grapes is slowly growing and it is now apparently the second most popular red varietal after Cabernet Sauvignon, having recently passed Pinotage in total area under cultivation.
Shiraz makes powerful red wines, with no reticence on the palate, and full dark red berry flavours predominating. Some tasters talk of chocolate, espresso coffee, and even black pepper. But enough of this. It’s time for a glass.
Looking for more red wine recommendations? Take a look at Greg’s list of his favourite Merlot wines.
Here are some of our favourite South African Shiraz wines
Tangled Tree Spicy Shiraz 2019
Even this well-priced crowd charmer has 10 months’ wood to give it gravitas. Don’t turn your nose up at the PET bottle; it’s all in an effort to lower the estate’s carbon footprint significantly. It’s very food-friendly, especially duck. At R47 a bottle, it’s a steal.
This is a succulent good value quaffer with an impressive lineage. It has all the best goodies at a reasonable price, while also being packaged in an equally as gorgeous bottle with interesting closure. Find it on shelf for R66 a bottle.
Org de Rac Shiraz 2017
A well-priced example of something special, Org de Rac has loaded each bottle with intense red fruit and paired it with some spice. All in all, there’s a nice dry, long finish. Pick up a bottle for R105.
Diemersfontein Shiraz 2018
You’ll find typical spice nuances get together with sour cherries and some vanilla. It’s a full-bodied charmer with a nice long finish. Pick up a bottle for R127.
Cathedral Cellar Shiraz 2016
Don’t let its gorgeous label distract you from what’s inside, this Shiraz is packed with red berry flavours while also being smooth and round in the mouth. If you’re looking to have a little fun, download the LABELinmotion app (available at no cost on the Apple and Google Play stores) and scan the bottle’s label to watch it come to life. Enjoy a bottle for R127 a bottle.
Middelvlei Shiraz 2017
A simply delicious bottle from people who really know what they are doing. This Shiraz is smooth and irresistible with typical white pepper, violet and cherry notes. It may have only won silver at the 2019 Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show, but it’s certainly deserving a gold medal in my books. Enjoy a glass of this winning wine for just R150 a bottle.
Kleine Zalze Vineyard Selection 2016 Shiraz
Sourced from their own vineyards and others, this excellent example of the winemaker’s skill shows the intensity of red berries on the nose and palate. Delicious at R155 a bottle.
Grande Provence Shiraz 2017
From new French Oak, this Grande Provence Shiraz is medium-bodied with intense fruitcake and plum flavours, and a hint of vanilla. It makes for a superb dinner guest when game meats are on the menu. Pick up a bottle for R165.
Glenwood Shiraz Vigneron Selection 2017
The vines were planted in 2000 and in typical vinous fashion are now showing superb wine that’s well-structured and at its best. At R180 a bottle, it’s well priced and easy drinking.
Oldenburg Syrah 2015
Each sip brings ripe cherries and vanilla notes on the nose and mouth, as well as some caramel and vanilla from the oak. I even detected a hint of biltong lingering there. Tuck into a bottle for R185.
Survivor Wild Yeast Syrah 2017
This Syrah has soft, round tannins with plenty of spice and rich black fruit resulting in a long finish. It spent 12 months in third fill French oak barrels and the wild yeast has resulted in a softer end product stylistically. Enjoy a bottle for R200.
Steenberg Syrah 2016
If Merlot had a brother this would be it. Steenberg has created a medium-bodied wine that’s delicate, almost shy, but with gorgeous boysenberry and cherry flavours that show off the clever integration between wood and fruit. Sip on a glass for R200 a bottle.
Groot Constantia Shiraz
As befits the granddaddy of the wine business in South Africa, this vintage from master winemaker Boela Gerber shows its lineage with intense dark red fruit, superb flavours and a knockout finish. At R217 a bottle, it’s a little luxury you can’t afford to miss.
Alto Shiraz 2016
A classic South African Shiraz, Alto has produced a vintage that is deliciously fragrant with spicy nuances on the nose which follow through to the palate. It’s medium- to heavy-bodied depending on your taste for reds and is heaven with roast beef. Tuck into a bottle for R250.
Tokara Reserve Collection Syrah 2015
When they say Reserve Collection they aren’t kidding. This is one of the best you are likely to find on the planet let alone in SA. The discerning folks at Tokara have produced a full and rich, ruby coloured wine that’s fragrant and appealing. It’s got a fabulously long finish while being very dry and chalky. A bottle comes with a R320 price tag.
Anthonij Rupert 2014
It comes at a hefty price, but for good reason. This Syrah is powerful and assertive in its own space. It’s packed with all the usual elements, dark fruit and spice. The wood takes it to a superb level and makes this something really special. Dip into this Franschhoek wine at R550 a bottle.
Glenwood Syrah Grand Duc 2016
From 23-year-old vines, this knockout from Glenwood shows perfect integration of wood and fruit that’s powerful and unforgettable. There’s plenty of black fruit on the nose and in the mouth. The 24 months in new oak shows in the R600 price tag, but is worth every penny.
Not a red fan? Take a look at Greg’s favourite Sauvignon Blancs in South Africa.