Everyone likes Shiraz
Americans love themselves some Australian Shiraz.
I don't blame them. The spicy, juicy, and oaky character go well with our American food tastes.
Most average consumer types think of Australia's YellowTail brand when you mention Shiraz. I've had random YellowTails from time to time and while I don't particularly *love* them they are friendly and inoffensive which is probably the point. If I was in the local TGIFridays eating some sort of fried chicken melted cheese and/or bacon contraption, I think a big, goofy kool-aid-esque new-world Shiraz would be fine.
Nothing complex. Over manufactured.
Syrah = Shiraz
First, they are the same grape. Syrah is the traditional/old-school name and the grape that made the Rhone Valley in France famous. The northern part of the Rhone Valley is the home of Syrah and some of the most interesting examples come from there - big spicy and peppery wines with a ton of depth and a certain smokey/gamey/meatiness that is lacking in most new world versions.
If you are someone who likes an Australian Shiraz, go digging into your local wine store's scary French section and try the OG Shiraz.
As a side note, I went to a tasting of Rhone wines recently, and they really stay with you. Not in the "I can't brush my teeth enough to get rid of the taste" but in a "I just heard a Kenny Loggins song and now I can't get it out of my head" way.
Literally, the next day I felt like I could still smell and taste the wines.
It was weird.
In the northern Rhone, the appellations Crozes-Hermitage and Saint-Joseph can be lovely introductions to this area. They are primarily Syrah, but blended with a small percentage of white grapes. That's crazy!
Cornas is another fine wine/appellation that is 100% syrah. Tasty. It's also fun to say. Corn. Nass.
(I am skipping Cote Rotie and Hermitage because they tend to cost a nice chunk of change.)
While you are in the french section, the southern Rhone is also a fine place to have a drink. They primarily do blends with Grenache (a lovely grape and underrated (by some) grape in my book), Syrah, and a handful of other grapes that I always have a hard time remembering.
Currently, I am going through a Gigondas thing (a wine that a friend of mine dubbed as "gi-gant-ass" - as in "gigantic ass"). This is a wine that I recently had a bit of a realization with... I have always been drinking this one particular Gigondas and only recently found out that the particular wine is made in a non-traditional way - they are going for a bit more femine, softer style. I have since started drinking more proper versions and feel as if my life has been a lie up to this point.
These are primarily Grenache, but Syrah is usually the second or third grape in the blend.
Gigondas (Zjee-gawn-DAHS) is my current drink. Tend to be moderately priced. People like to describe them as "untamed".
Vacqueyras is south of Gigondas and is very similar.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the classic wine from this area. It's also fun to say (chateau-neuf-da-pop).