I understand that shiraz and syrah are different names for the same grape variety but I'm seeing more Australian shiraz being called syrah. Why?
Come, mon ami. Let us sit down wiz a leetle glass of vin rouge and I will remind you that Everything Sounds Sexier in French. Provided your understanding of the language is at best perfunctory, it is possible to imagine that a gentleman describing his recent colorectal examination is actually recalling a massage on the beach at St Tropez, or an intimate encounter with Vanessa Paradis. It's hardly surprising, then, that in recent years some enterprising Australian wine producers have decided to adopt the French term for Australia's most widely grown red wine grape. And in a way, they're going with the flow: syrah is what it's called in most of the world. The trend towards labelling some Australian shiraz as syrah has been kicking around for a while. In many cases it is driven by a desire on the producer's part to indicate that the wine is not a stereotypically Australian big, sunny, fruity shiraz, but a cooler, more restrained style influenced by the syrah produced in France's Rhone region.
Whether you see that as a helpful guide or as cultural cringe is a debate for another day. Just be aware that calling the wine syrah is a marketing decision, and it's not regulated.
How the grape, which originated in France, came to be called shiraz in this country is not entirely clear. Perhaps our affection for it was such that we decided to accord it the ultimate Aussie accolade and go with a name ending in ''z''? That's my story and I'm sticking to it - any Shaz, Baz or Gaz will know what I mean.