Although Syrah is grown all over the world, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all of those places make the best Syrah wine! Patrick Comiskey and Doug Frost led The World of Syrah The Kick-off with a lively discourse on Syrah from different parts of the world; in comparison and contrast to Walla Walla Syrah. This is the second of a two part summary of that event. The first post focused on geology and geography of Syrah grape growing regions. Here you learn about regional flavor characteristics of Syrah and discuss why Syrah can be such a tough sell.

What DOES Syrah taste like?

If there was ONE take away from the morning’s presentation, it was Syrah is all about terroir. Although every basic wine 101 can give you the range of Syrah flavors, what to expect when you open a bottle of Syrah will depend on specifically where that fruit came from and of course the winemaker.

General Syrah Flavors

Black/blue fruits: Blackberry, Black currant, Blueberry and Boysenberry

Spices: White or Black Pepper, Clove, Allspice,

Herbs: Rosemary, Mint, Herbs

Other: Olive, Licorice, Chocolate, Vanilla, Violet, Cured meat, Bacon, Tobacco, and Smoke

Rhone Syrah Flavors

When Doug and Patrick asked the audience what flavors were characteristic of a Cotie de Rotie Syrah, Christopher Chan volunteered. These Syrahs typically have black raspberry, black currant, violet and chocolate along with olive, bacon, white pepper and smoke.

Saint Joseph Syrah offer spicy flavors of black olive and black pepper in complement of black fruit.

Syrahs from Hermitage usually need around 5–10 years to develop before you open them. When you do, you’ll be greeted with heady aromas and layered flavors blackberry, black currant, licorice, coffee, candied cherry and smoke.

Cornas delivers tongue-staining flavors of blackberry jam, black pepper, violet, charcoal, chalk dust and smoke followed up with grippy intense tannins. Most will recommend to wait about a decade for the tannins to soften and the wines to reveal more kirsch and licorice flavors.

Australia and New Zealand Syrah Flavors

In general, these Syrah wines tend to be “jammy” with big fruit flavors like plum, blackberry and cherry and black spice.

Washington Syrah Flavors

The flavors of a Washington Syrah can vary greatly, depending on not only what region the grapes were grown in, but the type of soil. Syrah flavors may include blackberries, black currants, roasted coffee, tobacco, smoke, cocoa and leather.

The Problem With Syrah…

Patrick Comisky joked:

What is the difference between STDs and Syrah? You can get rid of STDs

Sommeliers, retailers and winemakers have long been lamenting the difficulty in selling Syrah to the general public. The biggest problem? Customers don’t know what to expect. As explained above, the flavor varies accordingly to the region. Jammy, elegant and funky can all be used to describe Syrah.

Syrah vs Shiraz

Many people believe that Syrah wine made in the Southern Hemisphere are automatically Shiraz. By definition, Shiraz is Syrah wine aged in American oak and Syrah needs French oak. Australian Syrah wines are typically aged in American Oak, those that are, are Shiraz. Washington wines made with Syrah grapes and aged in American Oak should also be called Shiraz but almost never are.


Syrah has a serious marketing problem. Oregon Pinot Noir grabbed terroir as their marketing ploy and Syrah needs to do the same to survive! Yellowtail took over the market and colored the customers’ perception of Syrah, Grenache and Australian wines. Syrah needs to fight back to prove it is not a hot gluey jam.

To Funk or not to Funk

Doug Frost asked us, “Who likes funk in their Syrah?” I eagerly raised my hand and he said,

“Ooo, you like it when your Syrah talks dirty to you!”

I do love some earthy funk on my Syrah. It adds mystique and complexity to the fruit, herb and spice essences. Cayuse Syrahs are some of the funkiest Syrahs you will encounter and some consider them the best Syrahs in North America.

Not everyone loves the funk, including some writers here at Wine Beer Washington, who prefer an elegant Syrah.

Patrick and Doug presented so much excellent information, that I can’t hope to do it justice in my blog post. Unfortunately this is just an event review, not a complete guide on Syrah but the presenters are authors as well.

Celebrate Walla Walla: The World of Syrah 2017 

Celebrate Walla Walla celebrates Syrah success

Vintage Pour Proves Walla Walla Wines Age Well

World of Syrah Kick-off at Celebrate Walla Walla

World of Syrah Kick-off Flavors and Marketing

… more coming soon