Do you know who is the Father of Shiraz in South Africa? Where this grape originated? Where it ranks in terms of plantings? Or what foods pair well with it? This article provides some of the most interesting facts about this red grape variety.

1. In the late 90’s it was declared that Shiraz actually originated in France. Using DNA testing, grapevine identification experts Carole Meredith, a professor at the University of California at Davis, and Jean-Michel Boursiquot of L’Ecole Nationale Superiore Agronomique de Montpellier, made the conclusive announcement in 2001 at a convention of the American Society of Enology and Viticulture. Shiraz, it was proclaimed, is the offspring of two obscure French varieties, Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche – the former native to the Ardéche and the latter native to the Savoie.

2. In 1957 winemaker Bernard Podlashuk, generally referred to as “The Father of Shiraz in South Africa”, was the first to bottle Shiraz as a single cultivar under the Bellingham label. He was followed in 1963 by Groot Constantia and in 1965 by Klawer Co-op. By 1978 a mere 20 wines were recorded but the early 1990’s saw a boom in plantings and local popularity pretty much followed world trends. From 1992 vineyards expanded by leaps and bounds from approximately 900 hectares to about 10 000 hectares in 2009.

3. Today Shiraz is the 2nd biggest planted red variety in South Africa after Cabernet Sauvignon and fourth overall after Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Colombar. It was also the most planted variety between 2000 and 2010.

4. Compared to the rest of the world SA has the 4th biggest plantings of Shiraz.

5. Shiraz adapts well to various climatic conditions. It is known to perform well in both warmer regions as well as cooler terroirs close to the coast or at altitude. Shiraz vineyards are found in all the wine producing areas of South Africa and there is a marked difference between the flavour profiles of the various locations. The variety is fairly resistant to disease but is however susceptible to wind.

6. There are many synonyms for Shiraz: Schiras, Sirac, Syra, Syrac, Sirah, Hignin Noir, Candive, Entournerein, Antourenein Noir, Seréne, Serenne, Sereine, Serine, Marsanne Noir (France) Shiraz (Australia and South Africa) Balsamina (Argentina) are all names associated with the name Shiraz. Although both Shiraz and Syrah are used in South Africa, this gives no clear indication of the style.

7. Shiraz is known to produce wines with ample fruit and tannins that ensure good maturation potential. The various techniques a winemaker is able to employ in the cellar have a huge impact on the style of wine:

  • Bold, full-bodied wines with ripe plum and berry flavours such as raspberry and black currant
  • Elegant wines with good fruit, spicy aromas and a full aftertaste
  • Lighter-styled wines with a less pronounced fruit character but good balance on the palate

8. Winemakers use a wide variety of techniques when utilising oak in the production and maturation of Shiraz. Traditionally European oak of origin, predominantly French, have been used by winemakers with American oak gaining more and more ground and Hungarian oak offering a less expensive, good quality alternative.

9. There are more varietal Shirazes than any other varietal wine in South Africa. Some include a fashionable drop of Viognier or Mourvedre and blends incorporating other varieties from Southern France and the Rhône are increasing in popularity and number. Styles are often the result of popular demand and are obtained through winemaking techniques and not because of origin.

10. Shiraz is described as having a unique exuberant character and therefore one would naturally pair it with equally boisterous types of food. Food with strong, powerful flavours. Hearty stews, casseroles and South Africa’s very own “potjies”. Grilled, braaied or barbequed food as well as charcuterie. One of Shiraz’s well-known characteristics is its smokiness. Foods prepared in this way are paired with Shiraz with huge success. All forms of game.

Get your hands on a bottle of La Vierge Anthelia Shiraz here