Syrah or Shiraz is a thick skinned, red grape variety that originated in Northern Rhone Valley, France and is today grown in Italy, Spain, Australia, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States. It is estimated to be the 7th most grown variety in the world with Australia being the biggest producer, second only to France. The name Shiraz came about in Australia and is also commonly used in South Africa and other New World Wine Regions. It is referred to as Syrah in the Old World Regions and the United States. In the 18th and the first half of the 19th centuries, before the 1855 appellation rules were established, top Bordeaux châteaux would use Syrah to improve their wines, especially in weaker vintages, a practice that is totally illegal today. And this is how it started to become popular.