Pairing Syrah from Around the World

5 expressions of Syrah and dishes to pair with them


Whether it is classic reds from the Northern-Rhône, rich and powerful Aussie Shiraz or the dark and sultry Californian expression of the Rhone Rangers, Syrah is the underdog that slowly continues to gain ground. The interesting Syrah identity crisis is the only thing holding it back from worldwide renown. For example, the average person doesn’t know that Syrah is the grape behind Crozes Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie and the alias “Shiraz” has become more synonymous with Australia than an actual grape varietal.

This leaves the average consumer scratching his or her head when they see a bottle labeled Syrah. What’s even more difficult is the variety of styles from around the globe. Would you pair the same dish with a Côte-Rôtie as you would with an Aussie Shiraz? Absolutely not.

It’s with this in mind that I began to explore the different expressions of Syrah, pairing each style with a dish to match. 

The Northern-Rhône

The Northern Rhône gives of an expression of Syrah that tastes of the earth and all the wonderful fruits and flora that it provides us. These are serious, brooding wines for big, hearty meals, yet their deep and dark aromas are offset by elegance and finesse on the palate. A good Crozes-Hermitage is a moving experience.

When deciding on a pairing, I realized that I needed something texturally pleasing and rich, something that needed the focus of the Crozes-Hermitage to shine, yet would compliment its earthy aromas. That’s when I thought of Chicken Marsala with Pancetta & Cream. 

2007 Paul Jaboulet Aîné Crozes-Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert - The nose showed cherries in fresh turned soil, with notes of undergrowth, candle wax, minerals and floral stems. On the palate it was lean, showing tight blackberry fruit, herbs and hints of stone. The finish was long with red fruits clinging on the mid-palate. This wine closed in on itself and took six hours, open in bottle, to really show its virtues.


These are big, rich, aggressive wines and in my opinion, you either love them or hate them. The fact is, you just can’t ignore the quality in the glass and there’s a lot of value to be found in Australia. This bottle is a perfect example. Its $16 tariff is well worth it and it is a serious crowd pleaser.

Pairing foods with full-throttle wines can be very difficult, but Bourbon BBQ Baby Back Ribs can hold their own against the big, rich nose of an Australian Shiraz. Though a big wine can easily overpower the sweet, succulent rib meat, in the case of the Layer Cake Shiraz, the soft and juicy palate performance is perfect for slow roasted pork.

2010 Pure Love Wines Shiraz Layer Cake - The nose showed blackberry jam on toast, vanilla, sweet spices and a hint of pine. On the palate, it was soft with vibrant acidity, ripe wild berries, cola and pepper assaulting the senses, which turned to sour blackberry on the finish.


When I think of Syrah, my first thoughts are of the Northern Rhône, then Australia and finally the United States. However, I was pleasantly surprised by this fine example of Syrah from Israel. If you’re looking for something different that will expand your horizons and is sure to please, this wine is for you.

The Clos de Gat Syrah paired beautifully with Spanish-Style Lamb Stew with Roasted Red Peppers. The Mediterranean flavors of this lamb stew, with its red peppers, Kalamata olives and capers went along perfectly with the Clos de Gat. Its juicy and spicy personality stood tall next to the stew’s earthy, bold flavors. Use a cup of your Syrah pairing for the wine addition in this recipe and you’ll have a match made in heaven.

2008 Clos de Gat Har’El Syrah Judean HillsThe nose showed vibrant raspberry with dark chocolate, clove and a hint of undergrowth. A slight acetone note added depth on the nose. On the palate, I found mixed berries, pepper, cocoa powder and sweet spice on a balanced and juicy frame. The finish was long yet fresh with spicy red fruits.


Argentina seems capable of succeeding with almost any grape varietal as long as the winemaker lets the natural expression of the varietal shine through. In the case of the Luigi Bosca Syrah Reserva, it walks a tight rope between new oak and Syrah fruit. In the end, the result is quite enjoyable.

When tasting this wine, I immediately thought of steak. However you prepare it and whatever cut you prefer is up to you, but why not try something that you might be eating in Argentina. I paired this with Argentine Grilled Tri-Tip.  

2007 Luigi Bosca Reserva SyrahThe nose was massive and rich with blackberry jam, vanilla, mocha and spicy cookie. On the palate, it was velvety smooth, showing black fruit, pepper and inner floral notes. The finish was clean with lingering spiced cherry and herbs.


The cooler growing areas of California have been turning out some amazing Syrah over the years. You can go crazy, and broke, trying to taste them all. However, not only is this wine an excellent expression of Syrah, it’s also one of the best values I’ve tasted this year. It is simply stunning on the nose with fruit, florals and earth, and is fresh and juicy on the palate.

When tasting this wine, I immediately thought of roast duck, a great pairing for a warm family meal. If you want to spice things up a bit, this recipe of Duck with Dried Cherries and Rosemary is a perfect pairing. Try to find dried “unsweetened” cherries and soak them in a bath of warmed Syrah before using them in the recipe.

2009 Cycles Gladiator California SyrahThe nose was very expressive with sour berries, which turned riper with time in the glass. Floral notes with earth, pepper and clove followed. On the palate, I found high-pitched raspberry with sweet spice and juicy throughout. The finish was pleasant and graceful. This was one of the best QPR wines I’ve tasted in a long time.

Want to Learn More?

Be sure and check out even more great pairing ideas in 5 Top Pairings for Chardonnay!

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  • Snooth User: DrScholl
    782246 0

    I always find it interesting that you never seem to include Washington state in these Comparisons especially when talking about Rhône style Syraz and Rhone Rangers?

    Respectfully Dennis

    Feb 17, 2012 at 4:19 PM

  • Snooth User: farnal
    788225 17

    I agree, especially when I think of recent offerings from K Vintners.

    Feb 17, 2012 at 6:46 PM

  • Snooth User: Eric Guido
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    92549 198,229

    I can assure you that it's not a conspiracy. I think the better question is, Who is representing WA state Syrahs in the New York market? When I decided to write this piece, I went on a shopping spree through a number of Wine Stores in NYC. In each case, i asked for a recommendation. I tasted about twenty different bottles and landed with this set of five. My only goal was to not repeat a region. However, out of those twenty bottles, not one was a Washington state Syrah.

    Feb 17, 2012 at 11:44 PM

  • Snooth User: Eric Guido
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    92549 198,229

    I can assure you that it's not a conspiracy. I think the better question is, Who is representing WA state Syrahs in the New York market? When I decided to write this piece, I went on a shopping spree through a number of Wine Stores in NYC. In each case, i asked for a recommendation. I tasted about twenty different bottles and landed with this set of five. My only goal was to not repeat a region. However, out of those twenty bottles, not one was a Washington state Syrah.

    Feb 17, 2012 at 11:44 PM

  • Snooth User: Bobby Boy
    219559 29

    It is a pity that there still remains the perception that all Australia does with Shiraz is make hugely flavoursome, alcoholic wine that will not cellar. Anyone who tasted a Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier (Canberra District) or a Mt Langhi Ghiran or a Craiglee (both Victorian) knows this is rubbish. These are top drawer, restrained Nothern Rhone/Cote Rotie styles which will hold their own world-wide in any Syrah/Shiraz taste-off. Spicy, peppery styles (with a hint of apricot with the Clonakilla) which demand at least 10 years in the cellar before you look at them.

    Feb 18, 2012 at 12:39 AM

  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 4,986

    I'll heartily agree with the comments about Australian shiraz as being far more complex and wideranging than the stereotype of a fuzzy, gagworthy fruit bomb. That being said, you only had five bottles to pair with five dishes, and were trying to cover the world!

    I do like the concept of your piece, Eric, and hope you do more. This is personally more interesting to me than a lot of the fluffier pieces that are too common in the Snooth articles repertoire, even though Greg has been making efforts to provide more original content. Would be great if you could do a followup and look at some blends with lower syrah percentages than these, such as some from Minervois or California or Walla Walla or elsewhere in Oz or.... I'm sure you could find a number of examples in NYC. And perhaps the more you write them up, the more customers in NYC will ask their merchants to carry new labels.

    Keep up the good work! Going to do any pinot noir or riesling or... matches?

    Feb 18, 2012 at 2:31 AM

  • Snooth User: Bobby Boy
    219559 29

    I was more responding to the assertion in the article here that "These are big, rich aggressive wines and in my opinion you either love them or you hate them".
    As I said in my previous post this type of writing perpetuates the myth about Australian Shiraz being one dimensional. Maybe we keep all the good stuff over here and ther's not enough left over to export apart from some quality exporters like Penfolds and Two Hands. The wineries mentioned in the previous post are only small boutique operators - but readily available in Australia.

    Feb 18, 2012 at 3:04 AM

  • Snooth User: Eric Guido
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    92549 198,229

    Thanks dmcker, I'm happy to say that this will be a regular monthly addition to smooth that I'm writing. I certainly have no problem revisiting Syrah, but I would need to run the idea up to the "powers that be".

    I understand Bobby Boy, and you are right. I was honestly trying to make broad generalizations. On the same topic, just think of how many Northern Rhone wines are now seeing aggressive oak treatment that's covering much of their earthy character. And even the example I used from California, is not necessarily what I would expect out of many of the higher end bottles.

    Feb 18, 2012 at 7:16 AM

  • Food matchings seemed odd to me - Chicken Marsala with Craem and pancetta - AND Crozes Hermitage? Surely white meat and dairy better suited to an oaked chardonnay? Crozes H needs cream like fishes need bicycles. surely a partner like game, duck, boiled beef and carrots, beef and mushrooms....Maybe simply roasted tenderloin of pork or a nice oven joint, but I crave Alsace whites with them. Chicken or rabbit in a tomatoey mushroom sauce would work - because the cream would be absent.

    Have not had the six hours to show its character problem with PJ Aine's 2007 Crozes H before, you have been very unlucky there, pouring into a decanter helps things along with the young reds

    The beautiful match with shiraz is always and everywhere LAMB, from a simple roast to a peppery curry. Old rule being the simpler/younger the wine the more complicated the food, and vice versa, eg with your grange hermitage make it Roast lamb and mashed potatoes, after a call to the Bank!

    Feb 20, 2012 at 5:39 AM

  • Snooth User: Eric Guido
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    92549 198,229

    I went by the bottle in front of me, with the idea that someone would be buying that bottle to open and pour with dinner. The performance of the wine is what I used to decide what I'd pair with it. I tried not to fall into any ruts and literally tasted the bottle with food in mind, before even writing a tasting note. Give the pairing a shot, you might be pleasantly surprised.

    Feb 20, 2012 at 6:26 AM

  • How did the combination work in practice?

    Feb 21, 2012 at 6:24 AM

  • I was not clear by your answer if it really did work, or should work. I ask because I thought Crozes Hermitage would be excellent with fillet steak for example, but the charring from the barbecue actually overwhelmed it slightly and left me wishing I'd chosen a bigger rhone wine like Gigondas.
    The practice of matching food and wine throws up many surprises and peoples experiences can be really useful. Eg chilled white port - surprisingly for me- handles most cheeseboards. This direction of thread on snooth is very welcome. I know the Australians have a blue chip award that actually ranks wines by their food friendliness in a number of food matches.

    Feb 21, 2012 at 6:36 AM

  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 4,986

    You find Gigondas big, William? While for grenache it can have power, I find more richness and depth in a Northern Rhone syrah, by far (though there will be differences between a Cote Rotie and an Hermitage, and even within Cornas or Crozes Hermitage or St. Joseph depending on who's producing the wine). Haven't had any in the last few years since my tastes went elsewhere a while back, but even if Parker's influence has taken over there, too, I still can't think of it as big in any truly qualitative way.

    Feb 21, 2012 at 9:11 AM

  • Yes, more powerful than the Crozes Hermitage in alcohol by volume and in terms of ability to cope with the steak. For elegance I would tend to agree with you, and would drink Hermitage and Cote rotie more often if richer in wealth. But I do find the commune is really under-rated, and can drink well in relative youth. A modern example we were thrilled by was the relatively light 13.5 degree Gigondas Domaine du Cayron, 2007.

    Feb 21, 2012 at 9:40 AM

  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 4,986

    It really depends on which Crozes we're talking about. Though if all you're discussing is alcohol percentage and fruit glop we may be at cross purposes here.

    I've found Penedes garnachas bigger feeling than Gigondas, but I'm not just talking about extraction and the like. The Gigondas I used to like to drink, back when I did, had a refinement that kept them from that, even if almost none of them were deeply interesting. Personally I don't really think of alcoholic heat or fruit bombardment when I use 'power', at least in a positive way.

    The one thing Gigondas did provide was good value, I felt back then. My impression is that prices are going up there, too, though I haven't looked closely in quite a while. It would be interesting to do a price comparison between the best Gigondas, and some good St. Josephs and Cornas and Crozes, with Penedes thrown in as a ringer, too.

    And I've never had much trouble drinking any wellmade syrah with a steak, or roast beef for that matter....

    Feb 21, 2012 at 10:29 AM

  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 4,986

    By 'good' northern Rhone wines in those areas, I meant also lesser known, under-the-radar types, since generally the price level is higher than Gigondas. With good reason for that, historically speaking.

    Also meant to say earlier that I'm with you on the game (depending on which bird or animal we're actually talking about) and lamb matches. I think Eric was reaching for something different than just the traditional, to match with a lighter syrah. Or so I guessed, anyway. Certainly a northern Rhone wouldn't be the first wine that popped to mind when I heard that menu, but I'd need to taste that specific bottle, and anyway I'm at least willing to give it a shot...

    Feb 21, 2012 at 10:36 AM

  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 4,986

    Can you toss out the names of three or four Gigondas you think are top notch? Won't know which I can source over here in Tokyo, and I'm will to give the area another try, I guess.

    Feb 21, 2012 at 10:39 AM

  • dmcker-san.....konichi wa!
    Les Pallieres
    Domaine de font Sane
    Domaine Raspail-ay
    E Guigal
    Domaine du Cayron
    I happily gamble on those with vignerons independents logos or, oppositely, the well known names like Guigal, Perrin, Paul Jaboulet Aine,if confronted with unknown quantities.
    Also I have an excellent C de Pape at home and just cannot remember growers name right now. Ffurther south the good Bandols from pure Mourvedre like Domaine de Terrebrune. Our tastes do evolve as you say. Most steak shiraz combos are fine, it was only the charring that time.

    Feb 21, 2012 at 12:13 PM

  • Snooth User: Eric Guido
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    92549 198,229

    Williamsimpson, like I said, I go with the bottle and in this case the palate was easily able to cut through the cream sauce. I wish I could guarantee that every bottle I bought could be the best representation of the region but I simply don't have that high of a budget. I'm a big fan of Chicken and Pork loin Marsala and it needs that texture and cut on the palate from the wine. If this was a big rich Syrah, it probably wouldn't have worked so well. This bottle actually kept getting better overnight and performed even better the next day but I try not to let tasting notes go over the course of a day, since most people don't give wine that much time to come around.

    Feb 21, 2012 at 7:10 PM

  • Now that at last it is clear that the wine and food were tried together, this recommendation is now elevated to very interesting, as it is not an obvious one, and shows Crozes Hermitages versatility as a food partner here with lighter meat - in contrast to the popular stereotype of syrah/shiraz wines.

    I will be looking up Chicken Marsala and Pancetta recipes when we next have C.H in the house

    Well done Eric. Thanks for your patience

    Feb 22, 2012 at 4:51 AM

  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 4,986

    Wonder, Eric, if it's possible to do more than five matches in one article, especially if you're trying to cover a whole world's worth of a certain varietal (I'm assuming your articles are tied to the GTIs)?

    Feb 22, 2012 at 7:11 AM

  • Snooth User: Eric Guido
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    92549 198,229

    Absolutely, but it all has to do with time frames and budgets. I had thought of looking into other regions as well but time was getting short and all bottles from this article were sourced.

    Feb 22, 2012 at 8:14 PM

  • woundeful

    Aug 20, 2013 at 4:30 AM

  • Snooth User: EmmaJansen
    1339600 34

    it's amazing..

    Sep 07, 2013 at 12:59 AM

  • excellent

    Sep 08, 2013 at 4:13 PM

  • Snooth User: cglaw2013
    1341096 33


    Sep 11, 2013 at 4:12 AM

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