Erik Neilson on February 6, 2017 0 Comments For most people on their quest to learn more about wine, there comes a point of realization when a single grape begins to stand out as a favorite. Cabernet Sauvignon is a common example, especially considering how easy it is to find a great bottle without having to spend a fortune. For others, the grape is Syrah. Known in Australia as Shiraz, Syrah is grown throughout the world, with origins in Southeastern France. One of the most easily influenced grapes, Syrah is special in that it is heavily affected by the climate it’s grown in, resulting in a multitude of different examples of the grape scattered throughout the world. Typically, Syrah will yield wines that are medium in body and feature firm tannins, carrying flavors reminiscent of blackberries, licorice, leather and anise. It’s heavily ageable, perfect for pairing with food and ideal when consumed on its own — who wouldn’t fall in love with Syrah? The problem with drinking the same grape over and over again is that branching out finding new favorites becomes a challenge. Fortunately, there are a number of alternative grapes that feature similar characteristics to Syrah, yet also come along with nuances that are unique to themselves. Many people who are initially intrigued by Syrah move on to find that they enjoy similar grapes even more once trying them, and there are certainly plenty of options to choose from. Love Syrah, but want to try something new? Here are a few grapes that are more than worth checking out. 1. Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Sauvignon is the easiest alternative to provide to someone who is particularly interested in Syrah. Its big and bold characteristics have resulted in it being labeled the king of red grape varieties by many, and its popularity continues to grow throughout the world with each passing year. Cabernet tends to be lush with flavors of cassis and blackcurrant, and the wine can range from being relatively light in body to extremely heavy. Soil and terroir play a large role in the development of complex and nuanced Cabernet, and the grape can really speak for where it’s grown. Napa Valley and Sonoma in California are particularly well-known production areas for Cabernet Sauvignon, and wines from these areas can be exceptionally beautiful. Don’t hesitate to check out cabs from Australia or even Chile, either, as both regions are producing some of the best red wines on the planet. Looking for a French take on the grape? You’ll find it in Medoc and Graves, where Cabernet Sauvignon is often blended with Merlot. 2. Pinotage If you’re not familiar with Pinotage, you’re missing out on one of the most interesting grapes in the wine world. Native to South Africa, Pinotage showcases characteristics not too far off from Syrah, mainly in its sweet and smoky finish. Saucy and rich with flavors of tobacco and plums, Pinotage can be quite licorice-forward at times and even bring out notes of bitter chocolate. Unfortunately, the grape can rear its ugly side when not properly dealt with during production, which has led to a flood of not-so-great bottles of Pinotage to hit the market in recent years. Stick with some of the classics, however, and you’ll be in store for a very interesting, complex wine. 3. Grenache Grenache grapes are capable of producing big, bold wines that leave subtlety at the door and knock you right over the head. They tend to be very robust and loaded with fruit characteristics that can be difficult to pin down given how forward they are, similar in many ways to Syrah. The best examples of Grenache are coming out of Australia and in the south of France. In Australia, Grenache is typically used as a blending grape, whereas countries like Spain (where the grape is called “Garnacha”) prefer to highlight the grape on its own. If fruit-forward is something you’re looking for, Grenache is the perfect grape to try. Read Our Syrah and Shiraz Tasting Guide Here 4. Petit Sirah Not to be confused with Syrah (though pronounced essentially the same way), Petit Sirah does share a number of different characteristics with the grape in question. Petit Sirah tends to feature big notes of blackberry jam, while sometimes leaning into savory territory and showcasing a type of salinity that brings to mind black olives. It has become a favorite among California winemakers, where the grape is able to thrive. It should be noted that the small berries of Petit Sirah grapes make for a high antioxidant count. 5. Malbec Like Syrah, Malbec is a house favorite for many casual wine drinkers throughout the world. Unsurprisingly, the two grapes are not very far apart from one another in terms of flavor profiles, with strong hints of black cherry that are framed by firm tannins and a lush, full body. Some of the best Malbecs today are coming from Argentina, even though the grape originated in France’s Cahors region. One of the best things about Malbec is that the wine is one of the more commonly produced on the market, which means there are a number of excellent values available if you take the time to look. 6. Zinfandel The pride of California, Zinfandel is known to produce extremely fruity wines that take berry notes much further than a typical Syrah. That being said, the two grapes actually share very similar characteristics when it comes to body, mouthfeel and tannin structure. A well-made Zinfandel will surely please any fan of Syrah, especially those who tend to like their wine on the fruitier side. 7. Monastrell There are few grapes that can rival the firm tannin structure of Monastrell. Gaining more and more popularity in Spain with each passing year, Monastrell offers an incredible value and features notes of black pepper, olives and boysenberries. Oddly enough, Monastrell is also commonly utilized as a blending grape for rosé wine. Syrah is a wonderful grape, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of lush, fruity reds. If you’ve never tried any of the grapes listed above, now’s the time to branch out and taste something new.