A firm South African favourite, this varietal was recently celebrated at the Shiraz SA Wine Challenge, where the top 16 wines were announced during a special awards lunch at the Vineyard Hotel. We chatted to our Square Restaurant Manager, Ndaba Dube, for his thoughts on food pairings with this varietal, a few bottle suggestions – and also 10 facts you might not have known.

After joining the Vineyard’s team as a barman, Ndaba was hand-selected to be trained to assist the Restaurant Manager, and was appointed as Maitre’D. He has completed his WSETs, Levels 1 and 2 with excellent results, and was recently promoted to the position of Restaurant Manager.

As best up-and-coming sommelier in the recent Showcook competition, and having been recently selected as one of the top 10 wine tasters in the Western Cape, we asked for his thoughts on Shriaz:

Why is Shiraz so popular in SA? Growing from 50 labels in 1992 to over 700 today, I think we can say that Shiraz is more than ‘popular’ in South Africa! The varietal offers a good balance of freshness and fruit – and is generally quite accessible, in price, availability and taste.

What do you most love about the varietal? I love that within one type of grape, you are still able to find such variety of character. From fruity and almost jammy, to heavy wood, spice and berry – there is so much to taste and discover in one simple varietal. It keeps me on my toes!

How do you enjoy it? The wine lends itself quite well to food pairings, and can be quite heavy when consumed alone. I would suggest enjoying it with any of the dishes below:

Meat dishes with spicy or sweet overtones
Cape Malay curries
Carpaccio and charcuterie
Oxtail and goulash
Spicy Asian dishes
Beef burgers
Indian dishes
Spicy seafood dishes, like paella

Want to know a little more about this varietal? We’ve put together 10 facts you might not have known:
1. The first Shiraz vines in South Africa were planted in Groot Constantia in the 1890’s.
2. This varietal made an appearance in the 1935 Cape Agricultural Wine Competition, when 15 wines were entered – of these, 12 were categorized as sweet wines.
3. In 1957 winemaker, Bernard Podlashuk bottled the first single cultivar Shiraz in the country, under the Bellingham label.
4. Between 1992 and 2009, Shiraz vineyards in South Africa grew from approximately 900 hectares to over 10 000 hectares.
5. Shiraz is the 2nd biggest planted red variety in South Africa after Cabernet Sauvignon and fourth overall after Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Colombar.
6. South Africa has the 4th biggest plantings of Shiraz in the world.
7. Other names for Shiraz include Syrah, Antourenein Noir, Balsamina, Marsanne Noir, Schiras, Sirac, Syra, Syrac, Serine, Sereine.
8. Syrah was the offspring of the grape varieties Dureza (father) and Mondeuse Blanche (mother).
9. Shiraz is popular in the making of Blanc de Noir and Rosé wines.
10. Syrah should not be confused with Petite Sirah, which is an entirely different grape – a hybrid grape variety created in 1880, which crossed Syrah with Peloursin.
The hotel’s wine partners also offer a premium selection of Shiraz between them, including:
Mr Borio’s Shiraz from Simonsig
The Black Lady Syrah from Warwick
The 2010 Shiraz from Klein Constantia
The Kevin Arnold Shiraz from Waterford