Wine Talk

Snooth User: seerah

Syrah is the most food friendly wine, why don't Americans embrace it?

Posted by seerah, Dec 21, 2010.

Syrah is the most food friendly wine, why don't Americans embrace it?

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Reply by outthere, Dec 21, 2010.

Good question. Possibly because the average American does not look at wine as something to accompany a meal but rather as a cocktail or something to be drank in a social setting. Sweet and smooth with little acidity and no balance. That just doesn't fit the mold of a Syrah.

Funny you mention Syrah tonight. Am working on a 2006 Delille Dyenne as I type.

Reply by outthere, Dec 21, 2010.

Edit function please!!!!!!

Corrected wine should read: Doyenne

Reply by schellbe, Dec 21, 2010.

I always though Riesling was the most food friendly wine, followed by a well aged Bordeaux or Burgundy.

Although, I agree, Syrah goes nicely with wild game, such as deer, elk, or antelope.

Reply by Degrandcru, Dec 21, 2010.

Elk or... Antelope??? Schelbe, may I ask you where you're from? I lived in quite a few countries, but never found antelope on the menu.

I personally don't consider Syrah a very food friendly wine, but also have little experience with it. For my kind of food (admitting its nor elk nor antelope) it is more Nebbiolo or Tempranillo grape.

Reply by Stephen Harvey, Dec 21, 2010.

Being Australian we drink Syrah/Shiraz with with food, but it is best suited to Roasted/Grilled/Barbequed/Stewed/Casseroled Lamb and Beef and also works well with rich meat gravies

It does not match well with birds of all types, fish, pork or vegetarian.

I think you also need to look at the shiraz style as well.  Above I am talking about your typical Australian Shiraz from McLaren Vale and Barossa, but cool climate shiraz made more in the Rhone Style can be more friendly to other food groups.

The Shiraz Viognier Blend works well with Thai food and I think it is the aromatics of the Viognier which compliments the fragrant spices found in many Thai dishes.

And...I am now 54 hours away from the great Turkey/wine match experiment

Reply by spikedc, Dec 22, 2010.

I love shiraz and i tend to drink it with almost anything but i agree it does tend to go better with roasted,grilled/barbequed food anything that is bold,hearty and spicy.

I'm still going to have it with my Christmas dinner though, just got to decide which one !

Reply by JonDerry, Dec 22, 2010.

Syrah is on the rise, it's just a slow arc at the moment.  For whatever reason, Cabernet is king in California but with the growth of the internet and with more and more people seeking value I have no doubt that Syrah will trend upward.  The only problem is that Syrah is not a strength of Napa Valley.  A lot rests on the shoulders of Paso Robles, but with Saxum getting wine of the year from WS that's definitely a shot in the arm.

Reply by SusanAlice, Dec 22, 2010.

The Rhone wines are just amazingly consistent and are fantastic with just about all red meats. I say keep the Americans off the Shiraz and leave more for the rest of the world to enjoy. Their loss, our gain.

Reply by seerah, Dec 22, 2010.

I prefer the austere style of Rhone varietals being made by the likes of Tyler Thomas of Donelan Wines in California. I follow Jeb Dunnuck's The Rhone Report and the Donelan Wines were some of the most highly rated in his current edition so I do hope syrah is on the rise in California. Drinking food friendly wines like these are an epiphany even with turkey!

Reply by schellbe, Dec 22, 2010.


I find it hard to get anything on a menu here in Wyoming, unless I travel to Jackson. We had a mild winter and a wet spring so we have too many antelope running through town now. Since I don't hunt, I trade wine for wild game. I'm stocked with elk and antelope now, and will trade for some more next summer if I run out.

Syrah works fairly well with wild game.

Reply by GregT, Dec 22, 2010.

""Syrah is the most food friendly wine"

Well, Syrah is a grape, not a wine.  Is ALL wine made from that grape "food friendly"?  Because there are very very very different iterations of that grape.  Argentina, Austria, Australia, Chile, France, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, South Africa, and several states in the United States make wine from it.  It's hard to say exactly what some of those wines have in common.  So even if you define "food friendly", and to me that just means whatever I have open at the moment, it's hard to imagine that one can say Syrah in general fits that parameter. 

Right now in the US, at least in CA, Syrah is not on the ascendant - people are almost giving away the grapes and the public is not clamoring for it.  I suspect that part of the problem in marketing the grape is that it is so different when grown in different areas.


Reply by napagirl68, Dec 23, 2010.

Hmm... as for most CA syrah, I do not find it very food friendly.  I have my favs.. but they tend to be big and bold, and would overwhelm anything but a huge steak or burger.  greg T is right... what area are you referring to? ?? As for CA, there are several that I like to sip alone, sans food.  However, I have been recently impressed by a small number of the Aussie Shiraz (especially the Cab-Shiraz blends) that seem VERY food friendly.

But, in general, I would not tend to call CA syrah "food friendly".  Now a good burgundy or burgundian-style pinot...that's another story...

Reply by Richard Foxall, Dec 23, 2010.

Even though GregT and NG beat me to it, I have to agree that, especially with Syrah, which will grow in many places, it's essential to know who made it and where the grapes were grown.  I think soil is important, but heat and sun exposure might be even more important. Cool weather and warm make strikingly different wines.  So that's a barrier for some people.   Syrah just isn't easy to pigeonhole.  But there are some great values--Qupe's entry level wine is tasty at less than $14 and there are others making food frienldy Syrahs at under $20. (For some reason, they also frequently have low markups when I see them at restaurants.)

Napa will remain Cab-centric for the most part because the land is expensive and Cab still gets a premium.  Even where the land might grow something else better, cab is planted.  Syrahs come from Carneros, which is cooler and otherwise commonly planted to Chardonnay and Pinot, but I saw a Mt. Veeder Syrah yesterday that looked interesting.  Down in the middle of the coast, Bien Nacido vineyard grows a lot of syrah for Qupe and others.  Purisima mountain, Tepesquet, Santa Maria bench, all grow syrah--I like the Cambria syrah from down there when it's available far more than I like the pinot that people are forever bringing to my house.  Up in the Sierra foothills, Bill Easton and his wife (apologies to her--I can never remember her name!) grow syrah in all kinds of places with really differing characters.  Some they blend, some they bottle as vineyard designates.  Bell, headquartered in the Napa Valley, sells Sierra-foothill grown Syrah (Canterbury Block 6) that I think really has the most typicity of any syrah I have tasted, but, again, syrah is so versatile that my typicity and yours may differ.  (Go ahead, GregT and anyone else and bash me for that.  I deserve it.) Over in Dry Creek Valley, Steve MacLaren is making syrah in a very St. Joseph style that he suggests pairing with white fish and serving a little bit chilled.  Also screams of typicity, but it's not exactly the same as the Bell. And the fact is that Steve uses grapes from Unti, but his product is pretty different from theirs because of other choices he makes.  So that's why syrah is slow to catch on--it's confusing, or wonderful, depending on whether you like to be surprised or prefer more predictable wines.

Reply by lingprof, Dec 23, 2010.

I am running over to embrace my syrahs right now.  ("Have you hugged your syrah today?").

I find that syrahs for whatever reason are the ones that most often inspire me to go 'high end', especially the ones from Paso Robles, like Linne Calodo (sp?) and L'aventure.  Also one of my favorite red blends is Four Vines Anarchy which leans heavily on Syrah.

Maybe someday Paso will be the new Napa?

Reply by Richard Foxall, Dec 23, 2010.

LOL, lingprof.  Go hug those underappreciated Syrahs. I kind of recoil at the "new" anything.  But Rhone growers like the Perrins of Beaucastel think Paso Robles is the next Rhone, whatever that means.  I would like to see the different areas become known for different styles of Rhones appropriate to their climates.  Santa Maria is more cool climate, PR can get pretty warm.  In DCV, some areas are very warm, but Steve Maclaren is trying for a more cool-climate style and it may work.  Look at the differences in the Rhone itself, by which we really mean Northern Rhone for your nearly-all-Syrah wines.  Cotes-Rotie, Hermitage, SJ are all quite different, and then there are those places that fall outside the standard appellations as well. I think the same will be said if California growers and producers really listen to their grapes--the locations are very different and spread over a huge area, much more so than the Rhone, and it's pretty spread out, too.  But we're talking PR, Napa/Sonoma and the foothills of the other side of California.  This summer I was up at Monte Rio, by the mouth of the Russian River, and thought how great it would be to grow cool weather Syrah under the redwoods up there.  Maybe someone is doing it or already tried it, but it seemed like the right place somehow. So that could be yet another style.

(Sorry, SH, but I just don't really have much depth on Aussie Shiraz--mostly I get pretty big Barossas and just swill them.  If I ever get down that way, I promise to drink my way through the continent, with lots of advice from you.)

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Reply by GregT, Dec 26, 2010.

No idea what that last post was about - some kind of spam I assume.

But I guess I should note - I really tend to like Syrah in its myriad forms.  I have and enjoy Shiraz from Barossa and Syrah from Hermitage and Cote Rotie and plenty from Washington and CA and elsewhere.  As I said, I think that is exactly why it's hard to market these days, even tho there is more and better Syrah/Shiraz around than ever before, but if one doesn't worry too much about what it's "supposed" to taste like and just goes with what they have in the glass, the grape in it's many clonal variants can produce great wine.

Reply by dmcker, Dec 26, 2010.

Definitely spam from what looks like a distributor down in Chile. At least the champers was relevant to another thread I saw it in....

With the wisdom of crowds, most of the bases have already been covered here. However, I think the Perrins' hype of Paso Robles is largely that, since most wines I'm having from there are overblown and imbalanced. I like a lot of syrahs from slightly cooler climes across CA, even Napa (Neyers has always satisfied). Qupe's entry is always a bit of a disappointment for me, with zilch acidity. That's imbalanced in my book. 

And NG, you're doing well to find so many food friendly Barossa shirazzes. Throw a net in CA and pull in 100 syrahs, or the same net in Oz, and I'm betting more on the CA fisherman (though it might be a tough competition and fun to watch). Better yet 100 in the Northern Rhone for me. Probably an order of difference in the food-matchability category there, but they have the benefit of hundreds of years and hundreds of millions (over the years) comparatively more discriminating drinkers to satisfy under their belts....

Reply by Stephen Harvey, Dec 29, 2010.

I think with Aussie Shiraz you need to do a split of styles

Parkerised Fruit and Alcohol Mouth Busters

These wines are made from overripe grapes and have alcohol contents in the 16%+ range.  Very hot mouthfeel and an explosion of overripe jammy stewed plum fruit.  These wines should not be drank with food [perhaps not at all]. They came about because RP gives them 98+ ratings and very wealthy Americans pay ridiculously high prices for them.  Sadly they paint a very wrong and bad picture for Barossa Shiraz.

Warm Climate Shiraz

Barossa, McLaren Vale, Clare are the major regions and these wines when made true to their fruit ie picked at the optimum time when acid, sugar, etc are in balance and made with good use of oak you get an excellent drinking wine.

Food wise it goes with Beef and Lamb and non bird game food eg kangaroo, buffalo, venison etc

Cool Climate Shiraz

Adelaide Hills, Beechworth, Yarra Valley, Mornington, Canberra produce some very good more Rhone style Shiraz and characterised by slightly sweeter fruit, pepper, and generally lighter oak treatment and mainly French Oak.

Food wise these go well with many meat dishes and compliment cooking styles where there is less power in the richness of the food.

These wines are nice with Fillet Steak, Pork, Pasta [Tomato Based] Curries that are not to hard on Chilli.

Shiraz Blends

These tend to fall into two major categories



The better S/C blends tend to be Cabernet dominant where Shiraz is used similar to Merlot to round out the hole in Cabernet.  As Merlot was originally not planted in any quantity here Shiraz became a very capable replacement.

These wines are good food wines and go well with most meat based dishes and are not to bad with Roast Birds.

The S/V blend is relatively new but I find it goes really well with fragrant spice dishes - Thai, Vietmanese, Cambodian, etc as the Viognier aromatics match well with the fragrant spices

The Bottom End

Massive large volume wines such as Yellowtail, Jacobs Creek, Lindemans, Nottage Hill, Oxford Landing etc are made from irrigated, high yielding warm climate grapes.  The quality is variable and is at best good quaffing with informal food gatherings or at worse - its crap.  But at least it is cheap and does not pretend to be anything but a cheap quaffing wine.


There are many small regions such as Heathcote who vproduce very good shiraz and many regions such as Coonawarra and Margaret River who have some very good Shiraz vineyards which produce unique and delightful drinking Shiraz.

Hope that helps

Reply by GregT, Dec 30, 2010.

"They came about because RP gives them 98+ ratings and very wealthy Americans pay ridiculously high prices for them"

Stephen - that may not be so true any more.  The market for those wines has nosedived.  It's debatable whether it's because of the crazy scores or because of the economy, but there are many of those wines that aren't moving at all.

In Parker's favor - he does love some of the Barossa wines, as do I.  I don't know where you'd put something like Fox Creek in the 1990s for example, but when Sparky was making those wines, RP loved them.  He also loved the Henry's Drive wines.  Those were ripe, but good. Sparky started losing me with Marquis-Phillips and then pretty much lost me entirely with some of the Mollydookers, although I had to backtrack a bit when I tasted one of the MP wines with about 8 years on it - it had actually developed. 

Anyhow, it's a good division you've done and maybe you can put a few labels into the various classes? Particularly good pairings w kangaroo!

Also, since you did the Shiraz Cab blends, how can you leave out blends with Garnacha, which Australia does so well? The GSM wines may be some of their best.  I don't think I've ever had a good Merlot from Australia, alone or in blend, but I've had plenty of outstanding Shiraz blended with Cab, Malbec, Garnacha, and Mourvedre. 

And then of course there's the premise of this thread - that Shiraz/Syrah is the "most" food friendly grape.  That's nonsense of course - if I have a roast or grilled chicken for example, I usually go for Garnacha, and I love the Australian iterations.  But that's another topic I guess.

BTW - new critic for Australia - Lisa.  Nobody really knows her, but RP isn't tasting those wines any more, at least not officially. 



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