A very recent revelation by a leading Australian wine writer pointed out that the plantings of syrah (shiraz) in Australia’s wine making Barossa Valley were less than those of Sicily. Well that sounds a bit dramatic, and it is. The Barossa holds the role of the soul for Aussie shiraz;  it was where Penfolds Grange grew up. And a good majority of the Barossa’s plantings are shiraz anyway. I would expect Sicily’s production to have more clout than a single, small Australian region- after all, when surveying the total area of European vines planted, the Gironde has around 124,000 ha, Sicily is second at around 108,000 ha. All of Australia just reaches 148,000 ha, and we wish it would shrink some more!

My recent data source of Sicily’s vine plantings is Bill Nesto and Frances Di Savino’s The World of Sicilian Wine (University of California Press 2013), placing shiraz at 5,500 ha (second red grape in importance after the hero Sicilian grape-nero d’avola at 18,300 ha).

Planeta’s bench-grown Maroccoli Syrah

Planeta’s bench-grown Maroccoli Syrah

Most of Sicily’s vine plantings are white, a hangover from the Marsala days, nero d’avola occupies 16% and syrah, 5%.

Writer Max Allen (max@maxallen.com.au), was commenting on a recent Australian publication (December 2013) from Adelaide University Which Winegrape Varieties Are Grown Where, by economist Kym Anderson. (Download the e-book).

In days past, stats like this were rare, never accurate, and if available, usually years out of date. The main data published in the past came from a crusty European-centric organisation called OIV (Organisation Internationale du Vin-the French name says it all).

Kim Anderson has been proactive in putting some flesh on the great grape variety compendium of Robinson, Harding and Vouillamoz which addressed the ampelography of the currently used wine grape varieties of the world.

Syrah/shiraz has made great strides in importance according to Sanderson: in 1990 35th, 66,000 ha, 0.7% of world surface area; in 2000, 8th, 101,000 ha, 2%; 2010; 6th, 186,000 ha, 4% of the world. It’s a great grape and the great majority is planted in the warmer areas of southern France!

In the UK, Lucy Shaw writing in the Drinks Business took interest in the same report, recording that cabernet sauvignon and merlot now dominate the globe as the two most widely planted varieties respectively.

Banner image: Planeta plantings of merlot and syrah, Lago Arancio, Sambuca di Sicilia, western Sicily

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