Is it Shiraz or Syrah?

Syrah GrapesWhether the label says Shiraz or Syrah I’m up for the adventure because either name refers to the same exquisite grape variety.  In the world of grape varieties one often finds multiple names for the same grape, and so it is with Shiraz, or should I say Syrah?  But regardless of the name on the bottle, Syrah reigns as one of the planet’s greatest red grape varietals.

Syrah has been grown for centuries in the Rhône Valley of France, where it is responsible entirely or in part for many of the greatest wines of France (Hermitage, Côte Rôtie, and Châteauneuf-du-Pape specifically).  However, the exact origins of the deep purple grape of tremendous flavor known as Syrah remains a question to debate.  Nonetheless, historians do seem to agree on several points.  First, Syrah was brought to Europe from the Middle East, yet when and by whom still remain mysteries.  The other point that enjoys widespread consensus is that the name Shiraz, from the Persian city of that name, is the likely origin of the grape variety’s name.  In any case, Syrah or should we now say Shiraz flourishes today not only in the south of France but in other Mediterranean climates.  It fares particularly well in Australia, California, Chile and South Africa, where it is frequently called by its original name – Shiraz.   But no matter the name, Shiraz remains one of the world’s finest grapes and earns a place in my glass, but only long enough for me to smile and empty the glass.


McCormick’s Bloomin Brie Bowl

Creamy baked Brie and this spice blend are a robust flavor combination that is sure to please and it makes a spectacular appetizer at any occasion.


Serves: 8

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons McCormick® Chili Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon McCormick® Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon McCormick® Mustard, Ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 loaf round sourdough bread , (about 1 pound)
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 1 round (8 ounces) Brie cheese


1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix spices and sugar in small bowl. Set aside. Place bread on baking sheet. Cut circle in top of bread and remove bread center to make room for the Brie.

2. Spread butter on bread. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of the spice mixture. With knife, make 2-inch cuts at 1-inch intervals around edge of bread. Remove rind from Brie and place in bread. Sprinkle Brie with remaining spice mixture. Replace top of bread.

3. Bake 20 to 30 minutes. To serve, remove bread top and break into bite size pieces. Dip bread pieces in hot Brie.

Bloomin Brie Bowl

Recipe and photo from

Spain: Where Wine, Food and Weather Won’t Disappoint

Cibeles square at Christmas, Madrid, Spain
Cibeles square at Christmas, Madrid, Spain

A trip to any wine country should bring joy to all the senses and not just the thirsty palate.  A wine trip to Spain will do all that and more, especially if the thirsty oenophile begins in Barcelona, heads west to Montsant and Priorato, and then continues the quest westward along the Duero River to partake of the world’s finest Tempranillo wines in Ribera del Duero.  And surely there will be time for short detours to Rioja and Rueda to taste more great wine.  One can do all of this in Spain in a week or ten days, without having to rack up a thousand miles along the way.  Think excellent bubbly in the form of delicate Cava from Catalonia and the environs of Barcelona, big mouth filling reds from Montsant and Priorato, velvety sophisticated reds from Ribera del Duero and Rioja, and crisp, satisfying, thirst quenching white wines from Rueda.  And Spain’s best kept secret may be its food.

There’s a lot more to Spanish cuisine than paella.  Some of the most splendid meals I have had in Europe came on a recent trip to Spain.  Admittedly, France and Italy enjoy well-deserved reputations for their food and wine, but they can’t quite match Spain for the predictability of the weather and the consistency with which Spain turns out tasty well made wines at prices most of us can afford.  Today, Spain is in the midst of “A Golden Age.”  In short, Spanish wines have never been better than they are today.  Enjoy!