Happy Hour With Moorooroo | Shiraz A Brief History

A Brief History

Shiraz may be Australia’s most important grape variety. We’re obsessed with it, and Shiraz features in many of our wines. Here we take a look at the origins of the variety and how it came to be such a globally impactful wine grape.

“Syrah, one of the noblest and most fashionable red wine grapes, if nobility is bestowed by an ability to produce serious red wines capable of ageing majestically for decades”. (Robinson et al., 2015)

Shiraz is first mentioned in literature in 1781 and claims the vineyards on the upper slopes of the Rhône Valley as its most famous and historic home. Many different ideas and legends exist for the origins of Shiraz, the earliest dating back thousands of years. So did the Phonecians bring Shiraz from Persia to Marseille in 600 BC?

DNA analysis of the grape was undertaken at the University of California at Davis and INRA Montpellier in 1998. The results dispelled the notion of a Persian origin, showing instead an unexpected but distinctly French family tree. Shiraz is a natural cross between two grape varieties cultivated together primarily in the Rhône Valley, Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche. “The genetic links discovered by paternity testing strongly anchor the origins of Syrah in the French Rhône-Alps region.” (Robinson et al, 2012)

Fun fact: Syrah and Shiraz are the same grape variety!

Shiraz first appeared in Australia in James Busby’s 1832 collection. Over 40% of red wine grapes grown in Australia today are Shiraz. Australian wine is synonymous with the variety globally as the 1980s and 1990s saw the popularity of Australian Shiraz boom in the export market. Some of the oldest Shiraz vines in the world are grown in Australia notably Langmeil’s vineyard planted in 1843, Turkey Flat’s 1847 plantings and Tahbilk’s vines from 1860.

Traditional French styles highlight flavours that range from more ‘manly’ characteristics “with a notably glossy texture and luscious but bone-dry fruit” to more ‘feminine’ styles that are “Syrah at its purest, most refreshing, lighter”. (Robinson et al, 2012)

In Australia, our hot climate creates styles that are “full-bodied with bold, upfront dark blackberry and plum fruit, most often made with oak – toasted American oak for vanilla characters or French oak for subtler cedar notes.” (Wine Australia, 2020).

Fun fact: In 2006 DNA testing showed that the ancient variety Pinot Noir is a great-grandparent of Shiraz.

While many commercial brands create easy-drinking, full-bodied Shiraz, it is under the careful nurturing of boutique producers that the best is made of the variety. We like this description from Wine Australia about Shiraz created by small producers, “Shiraz with a beguiling balance of aromatics, flavour, tannins and personality.  It’s these wines that we’ll continue to watch with interest in the years to come”. (2020)

We are of course big fans of the bolder, richer, more intense Barossa styles of Shiraz and we’re very lucky to be surrounded by tiny producers that create wines that are worthy of the region and variety. Our Lotties vineyard was planted in 2000 and is carefully nurtured with organic growing practices and hand-harvesting techniques. We harvest late in the season to encourage deeply layered flavour and texture. Wine produced from the Lotties vineyard also contributes to our Harries Grenache Shiraz blend and is used to make both the Silentium Sparkling Shiraz and Black on Black Shiraz.

We’re learning a whole lot in this series and are finding each dive into a grape variety or wine style more and more fascinating. We really hope you’re enjoying it too!

-Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding, José Vouillamoz. Wine Grapes. Penguin Group, 2012.
-Jancis Robinson. The Oxford Companion to Wine. Oxford University Press, 2015.
-Vivino. “How Syrah Became Shiraz: A Short History”.
https://www.vivino.com/wine-news/how-syrah-became-shiraz–a-short-history. 2020.
-The Real Review. “The true origins of shiraz”. https://www.therealreview.com/2017/07/06/the-true-origins-of-shiraz/. 2020.
-Wine Australia. “Shiraz The story of an Australian legend”. https://www.wineaustralia.com/what-s-happening/stories-of-australian-wine/november-2016/shiraz-the-story-of-an-australian-legend. 2020.

In Bottle

Lotties is such a classic Barossa Shiraz and 2016 really delivers. It’s vibrant and bold with four years barrel maturation softening the edges. 2016 has a remarkable nose that’s bursting with deep black fruits, while the palate is rich and full with dusty tannins. Close your eyes as you drink 2016 Lotties and you’ll find yourself transported to a simpler time of years past, sitting in an ancient stone settlement in the Barossa Valley, enjoying simple country fare, surrounded by friends and family. 2016 Lotties is comforting and familiar and never fails to deliver on depth and complexity. 

A sophisticated aroma of blackcurrant, eucalyptus and pepper, the 2016 Lotties tastes of blueberry and clove with a tannin profile that lends a sense of refinement. A spicy finish that is open and persistent makes for a Lotties vintage that cries out for bitey cheeses, bitter chocolate and robust red meats. This is truly an astonishing Barossa red!

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