Syrah hails from France, and it earned its fame from the treasured wines of the Rh\u00f4ne Valley. Often meaty, tannic and full-bodied, this grape with bluish-black skin has proven adaptable to vineyards throughout the world.\r\n\r\nSyrah shows a range of flavors and\u202ftextures, which depend on its origin, style and age. On one end, black olive, white pepper, violet and even charcoal smoke reveal Syrah\u2019s elegant and savory side, while licorice, blueberry and blackberry pie display its lush and fruity features.\r\n\r\nWith so many options, consumers will get the most out of comparative tastings. Explore the contrast between Syrah from Old World France and New World California, or the stylistic differences between Shiraz and Syrah from Australia.\r\n\r\nOrganize your tasting into three key categories: Old World France versus New World California; Australian Syrah versus Shiraz; and young versus mature Syrah. As you taste, search for aromas and flavors, but also think about texture. Are the tannins fine, smooth or gritty?\r\n\r\nOf course, you\u2019ll need to pick up a few bottles, so we\u2019ve included tips on what to seek. If you can\u2019t find exact matches, ask your favorite retailer to recommend alternatives.\r\n\r\n\r\nOld World France vs. New World California\r\nIf France is Syrah\u2019s homeland, the Rh\u00f4ne Valley is its headquarters. Red wines from the famous appellations of the Northern Rh\u00f4ne\u2014Cornas, St. Joseph, Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage and C\u00f4te-R\u00f4tie highlight Syrah in classic form.\r\n\r\nMany experts consider Syrah from the steep slopes of C\u00f4te-R\u00f4tie as the pinnacle of elegance and structure, with the capacity for long aging periods. These wines represent a unique local tradition: the allowance of up to 20% of the white grape variety Viognier. Though most vintners incorporate far less, Viognier lends floral and spice notes along with a rounder texture. Glowing accolades and collector demand have contributed to the rising cost of these wines.\r\n\r\nBottles from Hermitage fetch high prices as well, especially those from the village of Tain-l\u2019Hermitage. Those wines can age for decades and evoke tones of blackberry, violet, smoke and roasted meat.\r\n\r\nIn the Southern Rh\u00f4ne, Syrah has shown affinity in blends with fruitier Grenache and burlier Mourv\u00e8dre. This classic C\u00f4tes-du-Rh\u00f4ne blend, known as \u201cGSM,\u201d has been emulated by winemakers around the world. Many add their own spin to create SMGs or MSGs, where the first letter indicates the grape with the largest percentage in the blend.\r\n\r\nVarietal Syrah from the Rh\u00f4ne skews fresh and savory, with herbaceous, meaty, smoky and floral characteristics in youth that turn leathery and more peppery with time.\r\n\r\nThough some New World regions approximate Syrah of the Northern Rh\u00f4ne, ripe and glossy fruit, coupled with higher alcohol, inevitably spill the secret of New World sunshine.\r\n\r\nCalifornia leads in U.S. Syrah production. Depending on where it\u2019s grown in the state, wines can be restrained or flashy. However, California\u2019s telltale sun and long, warm summers gives away the wine\u2019s origin, even in one of the state\u2019s best and coolest regions, the Sonoma Coast. If you taste a Syrah propelled more by fruit and spice than earthiness, you\u2019ve likely sipped a wine from California.\r\n\r\nOld World France vs. New World California Syrah \r\nWine 1: Seek out a red from C\u00f4te-R\u00f4tie, Cornas or any of the other Northern Rh\u00f4ne appellations for a classic example of Old World Syrah.\r\nWine 2: Look to the California\u2019s Central Coast regions for a New World option.\r\n\r\n\r\nSyrah in California / Getty\r\nAustralian Syrah vs. Shiraz\r\nSyrah and Shiraz are the same grape. In Australia, when wines are labeled as one or the other, the difference stems from regional climate and related style.\r\n\r\nAustralia\u2019s cooler-climate growing regions known for Syrah include Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula and Tasmania, as well as Adelaide Hills and Margaret River, where the occasional bottle can be found. In these parts, winemakers fashion Syrah after the brisk, lean and savory styles of France. The climate affords them that choice.\r\n\r\nWinemakers often include stems or whole bunches in fermentation, a technique which seeks an earthy, woody, herbal character. It also pursues a certain tannic finesse, which the climate won\u2019t always allow. Alcohol levels tend to be lower than counterparts from warmer regions, while the wines have drier, grippier tannins and good structure.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nAlternatively, Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale and the further flung Limestone Coast, all in South Australia, have earned reputations for bold styles of Shiraz. Stylistically, these wines are lush, fruit-forward, full-bodied and higher in alcohol.\r\n\r\nShiraz can also give the impression of sweetness, thanks to ripe and luscious black fruit flavor; the slippery-sweet effect of glycerol, a byproduct of alcohol production; or from residual sugar. The latter is more common to value-priced, entry-level Shiraz, while premium examples are fermented dry. Shiraz tannins are smoother and rounder, due to riper grapes.\r\nAustralian Syrah vs. Shiraz\r\nWine 1: Seek out a wine labeled \u201cSyrah\u201d from the Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula or Adelaide Hills.\r\nWine 2: Shiraz from Barossa is the epitome of the bold Australian style.\r\n\r\nYoung vs. Mature Shiraz/Syrah\r\nAll wines age. Some just do a better job at it than others. The key is whether a wine improves or evolves favorably each year it remains in the bottle.\r\n\r\nThe best Syrah can age for 30 years, though the average range for a good to great Syrah is from five years to 15 years. Syrah grapes, like Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon, contain three structural pillars that create great reds: acid, fruit and tannin.\r\n\r\nSyrah from cooler climates tend to have more acidity. The grape\u2019s tendency to preserve natural acidity aids its longevity. Acidity lends the wine structure, freshness and acts as a preservative.\r\n\r\nRed wines able to go the distance also have good fruit concentration. Syrah, regardless of origin, ripens into a flavor-packed wine, with meaty, smoky bacon notes layered with licorice, olives, black fruit and pepper spice.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nIn balance with acidity and flavor concentration, tannin levels also improve its aging potential. In fact, tannins in youth can be rough, astringent or disjointed, which practically demand time in the bottle to soften. Polymerization, a process through which tannins combine to form longer chains, results in a smoother, more harmonious mouthfeel.\r\n\r\nWhen you taste young wines against mature bottles, compare three qualities: color, aroma and palate character.\r\n\r\nFirst, examine color. Bright, saturated, ruby- or purple-hued Syrah indicates youth. Older wines, due to oxidation, lose their glitter and fade into brownish and brick tones. They begin to show on a wine\u2019s edge or rim and seep into the center over time.\r\n\r\nSecond, compare aromas. Young wines smell fresh, whether with bright blackberries, bacon fat, grilled meat, cracked black pepper or violets. Older wines lose these primary aromas to secondary or tertiary notes. When aromatics mellow into notes of leather, cigar box or even dried earth, the wine has started to age.\r\n\r\nOn the palate, younger wines typically have brisk acidity and coarse tannins, relative to more mature bottlings. Older wines develop complexity as their acidity and tannins smooth out and integrate.\r\n\r\nYoung vs. Mature Shiraz/Syrah\r\nWine 1 & Wine 2: Try to seek out library selections of Syrah from the same producer, ideally with at least a five-year vintage difference. Or, try to get your hands on two bottles from the same region with a vintage difference of at least five years.