History: Origins in the Northern Rhône Valley (France)

Syrah (or Shiraz) is the characteristic grape variety of the Northern Rhône Valley. It is used in the following northern Rhône appellations: Côte Rôtie, Hermitage, Saint-Joseph and Cornas. Outside its region of origin, this variety was long ignored owing to its low yields and poor resistance to some grapevine diseases.

Then, in the early 19th century, it began to spread down the Rhône River. Syrah spread throughout the Rhône Valley, then to Provence, Languedoc-Roussillon and the Southwest. Since the 1950s, Syrah plantings have continued to expand. In 2006, more than 68,600 hectares of Syrah were planted in France, versus less than 2000 ha before 1960. Languedoc-Roussillon has the most extensive surface area planted to Syrah (43,200 ha), i.e. more than half of all plantings in France. This is followed by Provence (more than 14,600 ha), then the Rhône (8,500 ha), the Southwest (1,700 ha) and Corsica (500 ha).  

Growth in surface area planted to Syrah in France (in ha)
Year Surface area planted to Syrah
1958 1 602
1968 2 658
1979 12 282
1988 27 041
1998 37 000
2001 45 000
2007 68 600
Distribution of Syrah plantings in France (in ha)
2006 SYRAH  Plantings in France
Official Statistics (CVI)
Department Ha/a/ca
Alpes de Haute-Provence 194,00
Hautes Alpes 9,82
Alpes Maritimes 5,90
Ardèche 3 061,69
Ariége 11,86
Aude 10 612,57
Aveyron 24,23
Bouches du Rhône 1 367,41
Cantal 0,18
Drome 4 944,69
Corse Sud 52,24
Haute Corse 448,70
Gard 12 445,53
Haute Garonne 240,37
Gers 68,68
Herault 15 256,31
Isére 49,52
Landes 0,11
Loire 215,87
Lot 28,94
Lot et Garonne 22,61
Lozere 2,01
Puy de Dome 3,40
Pyrenèes Atlantiques 1,83
Hautes Pyrenèes 7,20
Pyrenèes Orientales 4 922,49
Rhône 287,66
Tarn 1 062,10
Tarn et Garonne 281,74
Var 4 197,38
Vaucluse 8 844,88
TOTAL 68 672
Official statistics (CVI)

Syrah in France

Syrah is the only varietal authorised for red wines in the Cornas appellation. It can be blended with other varietals such as Marsanne and Roussanne in the Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage and Saint-Joseph appellations, and with Viognier in the red wines from the Côte Rôtie appellation (according to the decree dated 21 December 1966, Syrah must make up at least 80 % by weight of the grapes used to make Côte Rôtie wines).

Syrah is also used in the Southern Rhône Valley (Côtes du Rhône, Côtes du Rhône Villages, Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas, Lirac, etc.) and in almost all appellations in Languedoc (Fitou, Corbières, Minervois, Saint-Chinian, Faugères, Coteaux du Languedoc, Costières de Nîmes, etc.), Roussillon (Côtes du Roussillon, Côtes du Roussillon-Villages, etc.) and Provence (Côtes de Provence, Coteaux d’Aix en Provence, Coteaux des Baux, Coteaux varois, etc.). It is also increasingly used in Vin de Pays growing areas and in vineyards in the Southwest (Gaillac, Côtes du Frontonnais, etc.).

It is also used as a blending variety to improve wines in the southern Côtes du Rhône, Languedoc and Provence.