Spicy Shiraz

Shiraz has its roots in the Eastern Mediterranean. The name comes from the Persian city of the same name, and Syrah may have come from Syria.

grape vine 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
grape vine 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Shiraz grape variety is a comparatively recent immigrant to Israel, having arrived in the last 10 years. Shiraz is especially well suited to Israel’s hot climate and many people feel it has the potential to challenge Cabernet Sauvignon as the quality variety of Israel.
Whereas Cabernet is distinctly more successful in vineyards with a higher altitude, Shiraz seems to do well everywhere. It is also present elsewhere in the Eastern Mediterranean, including Cyprus, Lebanon and Turkey, and also in North Africa, particularly in Morocco.
However Shiraz is most famous in Australia and in France, where it is known as “Syrah.” French Syrah is the grape variety of the Northern Rhone and it also features in the blends of the southern Rhone, like Chateauneuf du Pape.
Syrah there tends to be more herby, smoky, leathery and austere. The Australian Shiraz is richer and softer, with an impression of sweeter fruit.
Throughout the world, the words Shiraz and Syrah are interchangeable. Both relate to the same grape variety. In Israel, those who have planted the Australian clone use the word Shiraz, and those using the French clone, use the word Syrah. The fruit notes of wines made from Shiraz/Syrah tend to be blueberries and blackberries, and after aging in both barrel and bottle, spicy notes of black pepper, tar, smoke and leather may develop. By contrast a young Shiraz may be bright, fruity and easy drinking with aromas of raspberries and plums.
Many believe that the roots of this variety point to the Middle East. Certainly if names are anything to go by, there is a town in Iran called Shiraz and it may not be too fanciful to guess that the word Syrah was derived from Syria.
Recently, Carmel Kayoumi Shiraz won the finest prize ever awarded for an Israeli Shiraz or Syrah, winning the International Trophy at the Decanter World Wine Awards. Israel beat the best of the French Syrahs, Australian Shiraz and Chateauneuf du Pape blends. This was an outstanding achievement for Israeli wine, and a clear indication that the Israeli Shiraz can be on top of the world.
Some of my favorite Shiraz or Syrahs are listed below.
ENTRY LEVEL (up to NIS 35)
Entry level wines are for beginners, for those looking for more inexpensive options or for those who simply seek a lighter, fruitier, easier drinking style.
Barkan Classic Shiraz 2009 An aroma of cherries and red berries with a soft, rounded feel in the mouth.
Binyamina Teva Shiraz 2009 Appealing fruit, light and easy.
The perfect entry level wine.
BEST BUY (NIS 35 to NIS 60)
These are wines which represent the best value for money.
Private Collection Shiraz 2008 If you looking to understand Shiraz in its purest form, this is it.
Fruit forward, approachable, and with a clean refreshing finish. A perfect food wine.
Recanati Shiraz 2009 A wine with good red and black berry fruit and a certain crispness which gives it a refreshing quality.
Wine should be enjoyed young. Good “drinking” wine.
Galil Mountain Shiraz 2008 Well integrated wine showing balance between fruit, oak and a delicate spiciness.
BEST QPR (NIS 60 to NIS 100)
These wines represent the best quality to price ratio.
Tulip Syrah Reserve 2008 Successful Syrah. Full bodied in the oaky style reminiscent of the New World, but one of the better Syrahs in Israel. Underpriced and the better quality of the two Tulip wines.
Tulip Mostly Shiraz 2008 Not 85% Shiraz, but because Shiraz appears in the name, it is included. A spicy, sweet aromatic nose. Hints of mocha and vanilla.
Flam Syrah 2008 An elegant, tight, earthy Syrah produced from the Flam stable.
More restrained, and less voluptuous in style, than many Israeli wines from this variety.
The special purchase may be for a collector’s private cellar, a valued gift or a special occasion.
Carmel Kayoumi Shiraz 2007 Single vineyard wine from Kayoumi vineyard near Mount Meron. Aroma of ripe berry fruit, chewy flavor, with a tar and smoked meat character in the background.
Yatir Shiraz 2007 A rare and underrated wine from Yatir Forest. It has a red berry, earthy character and is ideal for those looking for an edgier style. Will age well.
Yarden Tel Phares Syrah 2006 Single vineyard wine from the Golan Heights. A compote of red, black fruit with prunes and an attractive gamey character. One of Israel’s best from this variety.
LUXURY (Over NIS 150)
Only for those that can afford them.
Clos de Gat Sycra 2006 A very rich, opulent, full-bodied wine, with a long finish. This is a real mouthful of wine for those that like big wines. Produced at one of Israel’s very few genuine estate wineries.
Adam Montefiore works for Carmel Winery. He regularly writes about wine in both Israel and international publications. adam@carmelwines.co.il