Scheurebe (shoy-ray-beh) is made into all styles of wine, from bone dry to absolute sweetness in Trockenbeerenauslese. The good dry wines have aromas of blackcurrant, peach and pear with notes of grapefruit and are worth looking out for. The good sweet wines are superb with grape and honey aromas. It does carry some of the characteristics of its known parent, Riesling. Scheurebe wines go very well with aromatic, spicy foods from appetizer to dessert.
“I don’t drink Riesling all the time, though I’d hardly mind doing so. Still, there are occasions when something more pagan is called for and that’s when I summon my guiltiest of wine pleasures - Scheurebe."
Scheurebe was created in 1916 by Dr Georg Scheu after whom it was eventually named, but didn’t get widely grown until the 1950's after it was discovered that it could produce some very good sweet wines.
Although German in origin, the grape has been planted elsewhere. In Austria it is often called Sämling or Sämling 88 as this was the seedling number given to it by Dr Scheu. It was named after him on its general release in 1945. It is most commonly grown in Germany and Austria but is also found in Switzerland and a couple of other countries.
Despite being a recent creation, all we know for certain about its parentage is that one parent is Riesling. The other is unknown.
Another surprisingly interesting area for Syrah has turned out to be south-eastern Austria - in the hand of people like Netzl, Weninger and Gunter Triebaumer. But we haven't been able to secure some in recent years, as they sell it all to Vienna and Berlin.
Syrah is far from the easiest grape to cultivate. It has quite a high susceptibility to botrytis and mites and to an unknown disease which targets Syrah specifically ("I would too!" - Joelle). It also has a very short harvesting time when at full ripeness as it has small berries which tend to shrivel soon after that point. The slower ripening long season of the Swiss Valais is a boon when dealing with Syrah, giving a lot more ease at harvest time.
Syrah should not be confused with Petite Sirah, a synonym for Durif, a cross of Syrah with Peloursin dating from 1880. (We have one from Israel if you are curious)
Syrah produces wines with a wide range of flavour notes, depending on the climate and soils where it is grown, as well as other viticultural practices. Aroma characters can range from violets to berries (usually dark as opposed to red), chocolate, espresso and black pepper. No one aroma can be called "typical". With time in the bottle these "primary" notes are moderated and then supplemented with earthy or savoury "tertiary" notes such as leather and truffle.
There are a number of legends associated with the origins of Syrah, pretty much all of which have been disproven by the arrival of DNA testing. Despite this, they add a touch of romance to the grape. It was suggested that the grape came from the town of Shiraz in Persia (Iran), hence the use of that name in some countries. These legends differ according to whoever is telling the story but suggest the grape arrived in the Rhône in a few different ways - through traders bringing it to Marseilles (no evidence exists of any Syrah having been planted in that area), through a crusader bringing it back from the war (unlikely that he would have travelled as far as Persia from the Holy Land), brought to France by a Persian hermit, or brought to Gaul by Probus, the Roman Emperor.
In truth, it was probably born in the Rhone pre-Alps. Syrah is the natural child of Mondeuse Blanche, from Savoie and Dureza, an old and rare grape originating from Ardèche. It is a great-grandchild of Pinot and a grandchild of Mondeuse Noire as well as being a half-sibling of Viognier.