Thick, spicy and juicy, syrah is superb with game and soft cheese, but it’s at its best with a big slab of rare beef
Syrah’s thick, spicy, juicy flavours make it an absolute must with game. Whether it’s pheasant, or perhaps a piece of stewed rabbit dressed with a sticky balsamic reduction, syrah matches the earthy, meaty flavours perfectly with just the right combination of pepperiness and sweetness. The lighter styles of syrah can be good with duck and goose, but if you have a meaty Australian style, all black cherries and liquorice, you need a great big slab of rare beef on the plate in order to do justice to it.
One food arena in which syrah is a winner (though most people tend to neglect it) is with cheese – particularly soft, strongly flavoured cheeses like Munster or Brie de Meaux. Syrah’s sweet fruit flavours and well-balanced acidity help cut through the creamy richness, while its weight of flavour will make sure it isn’t swamped by the cheese.
- A question of style
- For more or less pure syrah, look to the northern Rhône; for blends in which syrah plays a major role alongside grenache, mourvèdre and cinsault, look to the south.
- Côtes du Rhône as an appellation covers the entire Rhône region, so you can find a variety of differing styles under the name, though the majority tend to hail from southern Rhône.
- By any other name
- Synonyms for syrah include syrac and sira.
- The variety actually comes from Fars, a province of Iran, the capital of which is, believe it or not, called Shiraz.
- Taste test
- Taste depends on where, and how old. Northern Rhône is rich and tannic with a velvety edge; southern Rhône is softer, and more approachable in youth. South African has more spicy stewed fruit, while Australian is a compote of dark fruits with a peppery finish.