McGuigan Shiraz bottle summer bbq

A Guide to Australian Shiraz

Shiraz is by far and away Australia’s most famous and successful wine grape. However, each and every Shiraz wine Australia produces tastes and feels different; Shiraz is as nuanced and varied as the Australian Shiraz regions it is grown in. With its full-bodied and lively berry, black plum and pepper notes, Shiraz is a joy for both the nose and palate. Sometimes referred to as “Syrah”, the name given to the same grape when grown in France, Shiraz grapes have flourished in Australia and have become our premier grape variety.

Woman pouring MuGuigan Mastercraft shiraz into a glass outdoors

History of Australian Shiraz

Shiraz is Australia’s most historic variety of wine. Shiraz grapes were the first variety to be grown in Australia, and are a grape suitable to the various climates across our vast country; thriving in a range of Australian Shiraz regions despite differing soils, climates and topographies. Australian Shiraz regions are spread far and wide, with the varietal being grown in practically every wine region in the country, apart from the cooler regions, where it struggles to ripen.

Shiraz vines were brought to Australia in 1832 as a part of the Busby collection from the Rhône Valley in France. The very first Shiraz vines were planted in the Hunter Valley and still exist there today as part of the oldest and biggest collection of old-vine Shiraz in the world. Over the years, Shiraz has moved into new Australian Shiraz regions featuring cooler climates, creating different flavour expressions. Each new region puts a different spin on its classic punchy flavour.

Modern and Australian cuisine, and an evolving palate in general, has also moulded the way Shiraz is grown in more recent times. With food trending towards subtler and more nuanced flavours, table wines have needed to become more subtle and less “over the top”. Consequently, innovative wine producers in Australia have implemented various tactics to tweak the flavours of Australian Shiraz. These techniques include; harvesting the grapes slightly earlier to avoid qualities of over-ripeness relying less on oak to inform the wine’s character including the entire bunch (stem included) in the winemaking process to improve the aroma and texture and extending maceration times which allow for more supple tannins.


Wines like McGuigan Reserve Shiraz are classic examples of a modern Shiraz; grown in the Hunter Valley, this vintage is rich in robust flavours, balanced with firm yet soft tannins.


McGuigan Reserve Black Shiraz with pasta in a kitchen

Australian Shiraz Tasting Notes

The innovation of Australian wine producers has meant very clear regional distinctions between the different Shiraz wines Australia produces. It is this broad range of styles and expressions and the consistent quality of Australian Shiraz, which makes it world-renowned.

Australian Shiraz is well known for its big, bold punch of flavour, however with the differing Australian Shiraz Regions come wines with different expressions of the classic dark fruits, pepper, mint and liquorice or smoky tobacco we’ve come to expect from Shiraz.

  • Barossa Valley: Typically a Barossa Valley Shiraz is full of plum and cherry flavours with savoury tannins. Quality Shiraz from this region, such as McGuigan's Black Label Shiraz is made to be cellared and are deeply coloured, with notes of mulberry alongside the traditional gritty tannins.
  • Langhorne Creek: Just an hour and a half from the Barossa Valley, Langhorne Creek’s slightly varied climate produces a more chocolatey Shiraz with a longer, more velvety finish. This is apparent in McGuigan's Reserve Shiraz, whose low yielding vines are harvested at full ripeness, ensuring fantastic acid retention.
  • Hunter Valley Shiraz: The Hunter Valley produces another style of Shiraz again with a warmer growing season, although without the higher temperature spikes of other Australian Shiraz regions. The Shiraz wine Australia creates in the Hunter Valley wine region is more medium-bodied and savoury like the McGuigan Reserve Shiraz, a classic example of a modern Shiraz; grown in the Hunter Valley.
  • McLaren Vale Shiraz: Differing in expression again, this Australian Shiraz region offers up everything bold; a full-bodied, full-flavoured drop, high in colour, alcohol and deep, dark fruit flavours including violet characters and gentle tannins.
  • Canberra: Perhaps the best length of the flavour of any Shiraz, Canberra’s cooler nights and hot days produce a spicy Shiraz with high natural acidity levels.


Australian Shiraz Food Pairing 

Shiraz and a beautiful quality steak go hand in hand, thanks to the strength of the wine’s flavour going up well against the meatiness of a quality cut of steak. The lush, sweet and ripe flavours of an Australian Shiraz perfectly complement meaty dishes like slow-cooked stews on a winter night, sizzling barbeques on a summer evening or even with a strong cheddar at a games night with friends.


What to look for when buying Australian Shiraz

When buying an Australian Shiraz, it’s always a good idea to start by buying from an Australian Shiraz region you have bought from before and know you can trust to produce quality wine. You can hardly go wrong buying a Shiraz from the Barossa Valley, for example, the Shiraz capital of Australia. It is also important to look at the colour; a good Shiraz should be deep purple to ruby red; however, the wine can lighten with age. When choosing an Australian Shiraz, the best thing is to go with your gut, choose a variety that suits your palate, give it a good amount of time to breathe and enjoy the wine which has captured the nation’s imagination.