Heritage Shiraz

Called Syrah and Hermitage in France, the name Shiraz became popular for this grape variety in Australia, where it was established around 1831. As the prominent grape of Australia and the Rhone, we planted our Home Ranch Shiraz Vineyard in Dry Creek Valley with half of the vines originating from McLaren Vale, the home of Australian Shiraz and half from Hermitage, the home of Syrah in France. The wine is named for our Australian "Heritage".

Williamson Heritage Shiraz ®

Just inhale to enjoy the broad range of flavor notes in this deep purple wine. Aromatics of violets with a nice licorice edge. An elegant, balanced palate showing blackberry, black currant, dark chocolate and espresso. A mouth pleasing texture and moderate acidity goes on to finish with hints of pepper and clove, then a lingering toffee flavor at the end.

About Heritage Shiraz ®

We wanted to have the best of Syrah/Shiraz/Hermitage and so we used a nursery to provide young vines from McLaren Vale, the home of Australian Shiraz; and Hermitage, the home of Rhône Syrah. These vines, the great, great, great grandchildren of the same grandfather, we planted in the soils of our home ranch in Dry Creek Valley.

Rhône grapes give the best flavor in exceedingly well drained soils with a high component of rock and gravel. We have exactly that condition where for centuries past Dry Creek would flood and swirl across a section of our home ranch. The site of our best Shiraz is a flat strip of land adjacent to an uplifted gravel rich hill that combines good drainage with liberal root depth.

Viognier is also used to add fragrance and to soften and lighten Syrah in Côte Rotie and as a practice to add elegance to some Australian Shiraz. We have adopted the technique of cofermenting Shiraz and a little Viognier to provide total integration and a beautiful, soft mouthfeel to what is normally a rustic wine.

We called the wine Heritage because it it the heritage of all wine and certainly represents our own Australian heritage. Interestingly, visiting Australians always seem to buy our Heritage Shiraz so we must be doing something right.

Pairing Food with Heritage Shiraz ®

Heritage is a powerfully flavored, full-bodied wine with an overall smoothness that tends to mask its power. Heritage shows ripe cherry on the nose with a touch of floral notes in the center pallet and a slightly tart finish. It will work best paired with foods having the following characteristics.

  • Texture – Medium to hard
  • Flavor - Multiple, complex flavors
  • Spice – Medium to high spice content
  • Loves – Mustard (avoid Pepper)

This smooth, rich wine will work well with most foods allowing you to add your own special blend of herbs and spices. Image a roasted pork loin well seasoned with garlic and onions. Try this with bratwurst, spicy lamb dishes and cold meats with chutney but for a special treat pair it with bar-BQ pork spare ribs with a smokey bar-BQ sauce.  More . . .   

Bill's Comment on Heritage Shiraz ®

Legends claim that the Syrah grape originated somewhere around 5,000 BC in a Persian city (now Iran) called Shiraz. The Phocaeans brought Syrah/Shiraz to their colony around Marseilles, then called Massilia, which was founded around 600 BC.

In 1224 a French Knight, Sir Gaspard de Stérimberg returned home wounded from the Albigensian Crusade in southern France, in the region known as Languedoc. Gaspard was given permission by the Queen Blanche de Castille to establish a hermitage in which to recover. Gaspard built a small chapel at the summit of the hill, grew his grapes and made wine there. This valiant knight continued to live as a hermit and his Shiraz grapes became known as "Hermitage" for the "place of the hermit".

Chevalier Gaspard is believed to have brought the Shiraz grape variety to Rhône with him from southern France and later to have built the chapel at Hermitage where he grew the grapes, made wine and became the hermit of the chapel. This would make Syrah a local French synonym and Shiraz the proper name of the variety.

This legend connecting Syrah with the Iranian city of Shiraz may actually be of French origin. The Scottish Botanist, James Busby wrote in his Journal that the 1826 book “Enologie Française” stated “the plant [Scyras/Syrah] was originally brought from Shiraz in Persia, by one of the hermits of the mountain”.

In 1831 James Busby planted cuttings from Hermitage at Parramatta in Australia which he called Hermitage Shiraz, but since Hermitage is also a French Protected designation of origin, this naming practice was ceased in the late 1980s, and the Australian variety is simply called Shiraz.

In 1998, a study conducted by Carole Meredith's research group in the Department of Viticulture and Enology at University of California, Davis used DNA typing and extensive grape reference material from the viticultural research station in Montpellier, France to conclude that Syrah was the offspring of the grape varieties Dureza (father) and Mondeuse Blanche (mother). This suggests that at some point in time both Syrah's parents come from a limited area in southeastern France, but not how they got there or where they came from.

Perhaps Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche were the grapes the Phocaeans brought from Persia some 1,800 years before Gaspard. Wine has existed for at least seven millennia and has much more legend and myth associated with it than scientific fact.

Somehow I like the story of a noble, wounded Knight recuperating and living his life devoted to growing grapes and making wine better than some obscure DNA sampling that takes us nowhere.