On the word shiraz

I have noted previously that some local Australian producers have started using the word syrah instead of shiraz, perhaps to signify a cooler climate style of wine.  Traditionalists have been less pleased - the use of the French word arguably in effect disrespecting Australia's long history with the grape.  Both cases are arguable.  Interestingly, however, I came across the following passage in Ebenezer Ward's The Vineyards of Victoria in 1864

"The principal varieties of purple grapes in this vineyard [The Chillon vineyard] are ... the Hermitage.  It may be worth while explaining, for the benefit of those who are not well versed in the nomenclature of vines, that the grape apparently known everywhere in Victoria as the Hermitage is, in reality, the Shiraz or Scryras.  It is quite as great a favourite, and as generally cultivated in South Australia, for instance, as in this colony; but there it is never called anything but "Shiraz"."

Puritanism looks to be a tough game.  At least it's probably better than had Victoria stuck with Hermitage - given EU restrictions, the wine might now be known as Hermaque.  

As for the rest of the book, it is fascinating but a somewhat melancholy read, since it is mostly a walk through vineyards in Geelong that no longer exist.  Following the discovery of phylloxera in 1875 in Geelong, all of the region's vineyards were destroyed.  James Halliday notes thus in Wines & Wineries of Victoria in 1982:

"The Victorian Government was thoroughly alarmed, and with the solution (grafting onto American root stocks resistant to the parasite) still not discovered, ordered the removal of all vines in the Geelong and Bendigo district.  The vineyard sites were fumigated with carbon sulphide gas, a treatment devised in Europe which was effective in killing the phylloxera then present, but which gave no lasting protection against re-infestation."

Which might be neatly summarised as treating the symptoms by thoroughly killing the patient.  That Geelong should be declared phylloxera free in 2012, and that South Australia is apparently considering relaxing some phylloxera regulations, means that there is presumably evidence to suggest that this resilient aphid has been finally defeated in the region.  History suggests that the aphid may be a sound wager.
Wine Thoughts
October 8, 2012

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