There are times when I find the “name game” in wine labeling just a bit frustrating. That’s because there are a number of varietals that are known by numerous titles. At times it just feels like folks are trying to make things hard to suss out. I can appreciate that much of it may stem from long-held, local traditions, but it still feels a bit like secret code sometimes. On the other hand, there are instances when a naming convention provides important information about what a person may reasonably expect from the wine they’re choosing. Shiraz v. Syrah is just that.
Consulting the Wikipedia Page on the subject of the Syrah grape and Syrah wine we find “As a general rule, most Australian and South African wines are labelled Shiraz, and most European wines (from such regions where varietal labelling is practiced) are labelled Syrah. In other countries, practices vary and winemakers (or wine marketers) sometimes choose either Syrah or Shiraz to signify a stylistic difference in the wine they have made. “Syrah”-labelled wines are sometimes thought to be more similar to classic Northern Rhône reds; presumably more elegant, tannic, smoke-flavoured and restrained with respect to their fruit component. “Shiraz”-labelled wines, on the other hand, would then be more similar to archetypical Australian or other New World examples; presumably made from riper berries, more fruit-driven, higher in alcohol, less obviously tannic, peppery rather than smokey, usually more easily approached when young, and possibly slightly sweetish in impression.”
Having seen but never tried a Little Penguin wine, the question remaining for me was, “Is the Little Penguin selection exemplary of this Shiraz v. Syrah delineation?” Well …
Winemaker: The Little Penguin
Appellation: South Eastern Australia
Notes: The color of this medium-bodied Shiraz was dark ruby. On the nose I found pepper, spice, berries and damp earth. It showed good acidity and a certain “coat-the-tongue” quotient that was reflected in very present legs on the glass. Tannins were moderate, and alcohol was at 13.5%. Flavors for me were straightforward and engaging, including plentiful oak, pepper, plum and tea leaf. I’d call it a simple, casual wine that would be fine with some take-out pizza.
And, yes, I think the use of Shiraz on the label followed the convention nicely.