What’s in a Name? 2007 Helix Syrah


One of the reasons some people steer clear of Syrah is that they’re not clear how to pronounce it.  As trivial as pronunciation might seem, it can be intimidating to order or talk about wine when you know just enough to know you might be wrong.  For some of us, the potential embarrassment is enough to make us pass over a potentially wonderful wine and stick to the Merlot or Chardonnay.  So, what has caused all this confusion around Syrah?  Is it Shiraz, or Syrah, or both?

Shiraz v. Syrah

Actually, Shiraz and Syrah are correct pronunciations, but refer to two distinctly different styles of the same varietal.  The quick and easy answer is that Shiraz refers to Australian style wines, while Syrah indicates old world French wines.  But don’t rush to label “Shiraz” as New World wine, it has been grown in Australia since 1830’s.  The confusing part of this name game is when countries other than France/Europe or Australia/South Africa start claiming whatever label they want, usually loosely based on the style and resulting flavors.

Flavor Profiles of Shiraz vs. Syrah

Generally wines made Syrah/Shiraz wines are full bodied and powerful and need time to age in the bottle, or in other words, definitely not subtle, soft wines.  There are typically dark berry flavors, chocolate, espresso, black pepper or violet notes.  As Syrah’s age, the primary notes mellow and secondary earthy notes (think leather, or truffle) emerge.  “Syrah” wines tend to be more typical of Northern Rhône reds, eliciting descriptors such as elegant, tannic, restrained fruits, wisps of smoke.  On the other hand, “Shiraz” wines tend to be more New World and display more overy fruits, riper berries, higher alcohol and subtler tannins.  Shiraz wines are typically more drinkable when young than Syrah and seem sweeter in comparison. Unfortunately though, these rules of thumb are very often broken, so do your research if you’re looking for a certain style.

Order the 2007 Helix Syrah, or go visit the Reininger tasting room to try some more delicious Reininger Syrahs!

  1. Jacqueline

    I understand the concept of not wanting to be embarrassed by pronouncing the name wrong. I drink Pinot Giorgio Ecco Domani and I was not sure how you say it at first either until I heard someone pronounce it. I used to just point at it on the menu and say this one please. Why do some of these have to have such hard names to pronounce anyway?

  2. Ronald

    That is absolutely the reason I, and I’m sure most people, stay with the safe and popular wines such as Pinot Grigio or White Zinfendale, or a Merlot. There is nothing more embarrassing than to find yourself among people you don’t really know, and whom you suspect know far more about wine than you, and then you slip up and try to impress somebody by talking about wine only to make then chuckle at your pathetic attempt.

  3. Charles

    In case you don’t know, the annual South Beach Food & Wine festival has been going on all of this weekend throughout various hot spots in South Florida. Last night was one of the most popular events, the burger bash, where the top chefs prepare, you guessed it, hamburgers of all kinds. But they also serve wines of all kinds. And in the news reports, they interviewed patrons who were raving about all the different wines from Chile, and other parts.

  4. Darren

    I just have one question on the Helix label, what does the snail represent? As far as how to pronounce it and being embarrassed because you don’t know how to pronounce it, I completely understand but I try to remember that even the person serving it to you had to learn how to say it at one point so ask someone the first time you have it and then your set.

  5. Robert

    I am enjoying reading the blogs from this site. I am starting to learn more about quality wines and much of this newly discovered wine knowledge I can use as conversation material when I find myself at a party with intellectuals. I am a wine drinker, but I am not a snob nor do I have the extra income to spend over a hundred dollars. I am more inclined to buy a wine like the Reininger 2008 Mr Owl’s Red.

  6. Bill

    So where’s the auto file so I can hear how it’s pronounced? Telling me it’s like another word I don’t know how to pronounce doesn’t help.

  7. Cora Davidson
    Cora Davidson05-28-2015

    Give this a watch (the Syrah pronounciation is at 2:46).

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