Question from Chris: The varietal Syrah is pronounced Syr-RAH by Americans and SYR-a by Austrailians; similarly, we say Shir-AHZ and they say Shir-AZ. Is one correct and one incorrect, or is it simply a case of toe-MAH-toe and toe-MAY-toe?
Answer: I think you hit the nail on the head – it’s a case of to-may-to, to-mah-to. Syrah’s origins have been the subject of much debate. Some have associated it with Syracuse in Sicily and others to Shiraz of Ancient Persia, thinking the Crusaders could have brought it back in their saddle bags. The current thinking is that it’s indigenous to the northern Rhone. Stay tuned!
However, the Aussies are quite definate about saying shir-az and will correct you if you say “shir-ahz”, something to keep in mind when you visit Australia.
I hope this is helpful to you. Cheers!