It’s time for Syrah

Judith Papesh
Wine Education grey Dot Grape Varieties grey Dot

Are you seeking bold and exotic flavors in your red wine? Then its time for Syrah

Is Cabernet Sauvignon just not dark and inky enough? Has a toppled glass spared one too many white tablecloths? Then maybe Syrah is for you.

Somehow darker than dark, Syrah is a beauty to behold in the glass — and wait till you taste it!


Aromatic profile

Bold exotic aromas of blackberry, plums, milk chocolate, spice, smoke, and licorice deliver on the palate in a full-bodied wine with medium to high tannin and medium acid and some longevity. Syrah can be full of jammy goodness or exercise restraint showing black fruit, dried herbs, grilled meat, and bacon fat aromas. I’ve had the experience of four unattended glasses of Syrah filling an entire kitchen with dense aromas of blackberry, plum, baking spice, and sweet herbs in about twenty minutes. (Thankfully, someone had the foresight to grill lamb). And yes, Syrah is known for reductive aromas that just stink.


Making its mark in distinctive soils

Syrah is produced as a single varietal wine in the Northern Rhone and blended with several grapes in the Southern Rhone. Preferring warm granitic and schistose soils, Syrah makes highly regarded wines where the surface is pebbly, rocky, and well-drained. It is the “S” in GSM blends with Grenache and Mourvedre and an important contributor to Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

Though not as ubiquitous as Cabernet Sauvignon, like many native French grapes, Syrah has found a home in many places around the globe. Seeking warm soils, it has met success in parts of Spain, Australia (known as Shiraz), Argentina, and the western United States. It is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon in the US and Australia to help extend its length and make a more complete wine. Syrah/Shiraz from Australia’s Barossa Valley is well known for full-bodied, dark chocolatey wines.

Syrah has become a significant wine in Washington in the Yakima Valley AVA and The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater AVA of Oregon. The Yakima Valley is Washington’s oldest and first AVA and produces outstanding Syrah from well-known vineyards, including Boushey and Red Willow.

The unique character of The Rocks AVA is its location on a single soil series (Freewater) that features basalt cobbles transported from the Blue Mountains by the Walla Walla River and deposited as an alluvial fan as it exits the mountains. Vineyards are floored by this dark rock that retains heat, provides a distinct nutrient profile for the vines and has excellent drainage. The result is powerful, distinctive wine.

Chef Image

About Judith Papesh

Retired Winemaker, Winemaking Consultant, and Washington State Licensed Geologist. Bourgogne Master Level Certification, French, Italian, and Spanish Wine Scholar Certifications

In the first class to complete Washington State University (WSU) Extension Enology Certification, Judith opened her winery, crafting wines that garnered local and international acclaim before turning her attention to studying and educating about the world's wines. "Winemaking is very much an art as well as a science; it is a consuming passion that drives you during the day, keeps you up at night, and when the wine is right, simply leaves you breathless."