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Shiraz – or Syrah – South African style


9 September 2021  -  Wines of South Africa, Angela Lloyd

When considering shiraz’s progress in South Africa, it’s necessary to bear in mind the overall decline in vineyard area. In the period 2015 to 2020, it decreased from 98 500 ha to 92 000 ha. Despite this, shiraz has held to around 10.5 to 10% of the total area. he real change is the grape’s spread across the winelands.

If its heartland is still Stellenbosch, closely followed by the Swartland, this Rhône variety’s wings have spread far and wide: it’s found in Fouriesberg, Eastern Free State, Sutherland in the Northern Cape and Ceres Plateau, all high-lying, cool-climate areas. At the foot of Africa, Elim and Malgas, also have cool climates and shiraz.

If shiraz demands and responds to specific vinification, it also has individual requirements depending on where it’s grown, in Stellenbosch as well as the new areas.

Kevin Arnold, partner with the Ord family in Waterford, has been producing shiraz in several Stellenbosch wineries for nearly 40 years. His emphasis at Rust en Vrede, ‘was on fruit quality and flavour; we picked before the berries started to shrivel, resulting in lower alcohols and more elegance.’ This was in contrast to many who waited until the berries were shrivelled and much riper. New oak also played a bigger role then.  Today, Kevin believes there’s more focus on site specific wines, purity, texture and length; the days of high alcohol, extracted are disappearing. In the vineyards, there are more clones, cleaned-up older clones and more attention paid to older vineyards.

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