The Shiraz/Syrah Conundrum Revisited
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Not long ago, I had to drop a bombshell to a woman that I used to date; she had inadvertently made a serious error when she tried to one up me on my wine experience, falsely assuming that Syrah was a different grape then Shiraz. Well, this time around, it was a bartender that was the bearer of incorrect news.
I had just left the Fur Ball, a fundraiser for the Morris Animal Refuge in Philadelphia, when I spotted someone that I know. I had her hop in the car, and then we pulled into a Smith and Wolensky's restaurant for a quick drink; we did have to get out of the car first.
Upon grabbing a seat at the bar, she proceeded to order a glass of Shiraz. It was at this point where the incident occurred, and it was the bartender suggesting a Syrah and that Shiraz was the American name for the grape. It wasn't that he was wrong, but it was the way in which he tried to come off as so erudite and superior, proclaiming it in a manner that allowed everyone at the bar to hear him. Well, at this point, I have to [nicely] tell him that Shiraz is not the American name for the grape, but the Australian name that carries over into New Zealand. At that point, he tried to disagree and challenge me on it, to which I had to restate my facts to him, and then tailor the end of it with "but what do I know, I just drink wine, and do a little writing about it." I will say that I had to do this twice because he didn't, and wouldn't, accept it the first time.
The reality is that on a mass level, wine is relatively new to America, and with current producers trying to key in to the pre-established industry and its naming conventions, sometimes they assume that a wine with a different name is actually a different thing, like Fume Blanc (Fume Blanc was the name chosen by Mondavi to trick people into drinking Sauvignon Blanc, which had a negative image for awhile here).
I know that this conundrum isn't over, but hopefully, it will happen less and less.