Syrah (also known as Shiraz) is grown primarily to produce powerful red wines. Syrah is used both for varietal wines and in blended wines, where it can be both the major and minor component. In Australia it was also commonly called Hermitage up to the late 1980s, but as this caused problems on some export markets this name was dropped. DNA profiling in 1999 found Syrah to be the offspring of two obscure grape varieties from southeastern France, Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche.
As of 2004, Syrah was estimated to be the world's 7th most grown variety at 142,600 hectares (352,000 acres), after having enjoyed a strong growth in plantings for several years.
Syrah grapes typically produce wines that are brimming with pepper, spices, tar and black treacle when young. After 5-10 years they become smooth and velvety with pronounced fruit characteristics of damsons, raspberries, blackcurrants and loganberries.
More than half the world's total Syrah acreage is planted in France. Syrah vines are relatively productive, yet not too vigorous. Like Merlot, it is sensitive to coulure, and although Syrah buds fairly late, it is a mid-season ripener. Syrah requires heat to get fully ripe, but can lose varietal character when even slightly overripe. The berry is thick-skinned and dark, almost black.
Syrah forms intense wines, with deep violet, nearly black color, chewy texture and richness, and often alcoholic strength, with aromas that tend to be more spicy than fruity.
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