Syrah grows well all over the world, but these regions produce benchmark bottles.

Central Coast, California

The Central Coast's warmth and ocean-cooled breezes translate to velvety but balanced reds.

Wine to Buy: 2005 Ojai Vineyard Bien Nacido Syrah ($38) Ojai's Adam Tolmach makes some of the best Syrahs in America. This single-vineyard bottling combines succulent berry fruit with floral and earthy notes.

Columbia Valley, Washington

Washington's moderate climate and long, relatively cool growing season result in ink-dark wines with lots of spice notes.

Wine to Buy: 2007 Betz Family La Côte Rousse Syrah ($55) This powerful red comes from two different vineyards on Washington's Red Mountain.

Hunter Valley, Australia

A fairly torrid region, Hunter Valley produces velvety Shiraz, full of ripe blackberry flavors.

Wine to Buy: 2007 Brokenwood Hunter Valley Shiraz ($36) Brokenwood's Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz is an Australian classic; this bottling has similar richness and depth at a third of the price.

Gimblett Gravels, New Zealand

An ancient riverbed, the Gimblett Gravels has become one of the most exciting new Syrah regions for its vividly floral, complex wines.

Wine to Buy: 2007 Craggy Range Le Sol ($65) This wine's graceful aroma of violets hides the intense concentration of its black raspberry and spice flavors.

Hermitage, France

The hill of Hermitage, rising directly from France's Rhône river, produces formidable reds able to age for decades.

Wine to Buy: M. Chapoutier Hermitage La Sizeranne ($120) Chapoutier's La Sizeranne bottling hits the classic Hermitage notes: power, dark fruit, a savory roasted-meat-and-pepper edge.

Côte Rôtie, France

The reds of this region in France's Rhône Valley are more taut and smoky than Hermitage's and are equally sought after.

Wine to Buy: 2007 René Rostaing Côte Rôtie ($65) René Rostaing's tremendously aromatic basic bottling is an ideal introduction to this famed region.

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