The best bold red wines on the high street

I wonder how many people buy a bottle of shiraz without realising it is also a bottle of syrah. Plenty of grapes go under various synonyms of course, but this variety is the most high profile to be widely known by two different names. 

Let’s call it syrah for now, as the grape originates from a crossing of obscure vines in the Rhone-Alpes region, according to ampelography bible Wine Grapes (Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding & José Vouillamoz, published by Allen Lane). In France it’s grown predominantly in the Rhone and the huge Languedoc-Roussillon area of the deep south – and it regularly blends with grenache and other red grapes, as well as creating single variety wines that rise to be majestic in northern Rhone appellations such as Hermitage and Cote Rotie.

This is a grape that likes plenty of heat, so when it was brought to Australia, probably from France in the 1830s, it took off in the warm areas of New South Wales, then spread to other hot spots such as South Australia’s Barossa Valley, now a renowned region for what was first called scyras down under, but then settled to the easier-to-pronounce shiraz. 

Top syrah/shiraz can command very high prices, but I tasted 20 single variety wines under £10 looking for the best bargains. I wanted the grape’s signature robust and rounded black fruit (sometimes red berries too), and its distinctive twists of black pepper and spice. And I was after a satisfyingly rich texture and finish but fresh, lively wine, not too sweetly ripe. The strike rate was pretty high. Here are the top buys; match them with Easter’s roast lamb, or roast pork or full-flavoured hard cheeses. 

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