Shiraz is a grape many wine drinkers associate with Australia, thanks to the popularity of a few cheap and cheerful brands from Down Under that are known for their noticeable sweetness. But shiraz is capable of making drier wines too, and is also grown elsewhere, including here in the United States.
As with so many of the world’s finest wine grapes, shiraz originates from France, tracing its lineage to the northern reaches of the Rhône River valley. There it goes by the name syrah, and is known for its deeply colored wines that feature a fiery scent reminiscent of crushed black pepper and a finish as tart as rhubarb. However, syrah more often shows its softer side in the warmer vineyard regions of the new world, like Australia or California, where it typically goes by the name shiraz.
The grape changes personality with greater ripeness as well, developing a deep purple color and plush texture that is quite friendly and easygoing, with less acidity and less astringent tannin than the French originals. The result is a wine like this modestly priced example, which smells and tastes more vividly of blackberry jam or even grape jelly than it does of cracked pepper or fresh unsweetened berries. That makes it ideal for simple everyday foods, like pizza or backyard burgers.
Coppola “Rosso & Bianco” Shiraz California, $10.99 (regularly $13.99; sale price through Aug. 25), PLCB Item #9943