SHIRAZ Australian versions are typically big, bold and spicy with jammy fruit and aromas of leather and black fruit. Syrah is at home in the Rhone region of France, where the grape makes spicy, rich, darkly delicious wines that increase in complexity as they age. Syrah also makes delicious wines in Australia, where it is marketed as Shiraz. Syrah also excels in Washington State, where it often displays an attractive acid balance, and in California, where the styles vary significantly.

Syrah is a very versatile wine that pairs well with a wide variety of foods. It’s terrific with grilled meats.

Shiraz, like every other wine, varies in style depending on its price, age and region of origin but you can be pretty sure when it comes to matching Australian shiraz we’re talking about a full-bodied red.

What most people probably think of is a Barossa or McLaren Vale shiraz – big, lush, sweet and ripe. It’s hard not to think of grilled meat here. Hunter Valley shiraz typically has a gamier character that would suit meats like venison and kangaroo while Western Australian shiraz is made in a more elegant style, almost like a red Bordeaux, making it a good pairing for lamb.

Where Australian shiraz differs is from more savoury European-style syrah or syrah blends so I wouldn’t generally pair it with French food – or Italian or Spanish dishes come to that. Think big flavours – and spice.

Here are my 5 best pairings

* grilled or roast beef especially served rare or with a pepper sauce.

* barbecue, especially for younger less expensive shiraz and sparkling shiraz. Ribs, spicy sausages and smoked brisket in particular. Probably the best way to cook veggies if you’re looking for a vegetarian pairing.

* big beefy stews such as ox cheek especially ones cooked in wine or with a touch of smoky spice like a chilli.

* kangaroo. Sounds clichéed but Aussies do eat it and its rich gamey meat suits shiraz a treat. Failing that, venison.

* Strong hard cheeses especially cheddar. With its sweetness it can also handle a mellow blue.

You might wonder why this list doesn’t include lamb and it’s true it does work especially with cooler-climate shiraz but it wouldn’t be in my top 5. I’d generally go for a cabernet or shiraz-cabernet blend instead.

These pairings would also apply to other shiraz that is made in the Australian style such as some of those from South Africa.

Written by: Fiona Beckett  – www.matchingfoodandwine.com