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11 March 2017

Syrah-Shiraz 'wines of the moment'

Just to add a little substance and data to the usual geeky tasting notes accompanying a few recommended wines made from Syrah-Shiraz, let's start by confirming that the two myths about where the name Shiraz or Syrah came from are indeed just that. This grape variety apparently didn't come from the ancient city of Shiraz in Persia, now Iran, or from Syracuse in Sicily. Vine DNA profiling in the late 1990s pinpointed its origin to the Northern Rhone Valley, being a slightly strange natural crossing of a now virtually disappeared red variety called Dureza and the white variety Mondeuse Blanche, quite widely planted in France's Savoy region. Dureza isn't the same as Durif which is also known as Petite Sirah, which isn't Syrah but related to it being a crossing with another variety called Peloursin... 'Confused, you will be...'
Back to the present day, there are probably now at least 150,000 hectares (375,000 acres) of Syrah-Shiraz planted in the wine world: nearly 50% of it in France, mostly in the Languedoc & Roussillon (spiritual home Rhone Valley North isn't high up on the list actually), followed by Australia (about 40,000 ha) then Argentina, South Africa and the USA, but not necessarily in that order; with plantings increasing in Chile, Italy and Spain too. Historically, the Aussies have always called the variety Shiraz (or 'Sherarz' in the vernacular), although some of them have pretensions to Syrah, like winemakers elsewhere aiming to make a more French or 'European' style Shiraz. Or is that Syrah...
I lifted some of this information from wikipedia.org/wiki/Syrah who lifted it from The Oxford Companion to Wine and other sources listed at the bottom of that webpage.

France

Gabriel Meffre Saint-Joseph Les Chaponnes 2012, Northern Rhone Valley - Delicate and mature (2012 was a lighter vintage) with savoury edges. €15/£12 Supervalu.
Domaine de la Baume Syrah La Jeunesse 2015, Pays d'Oc, Languedoc - Good-value example of the un-oaked styles coming from southern France: black cherry/berry, peppery, weighty and firm-ish but drinking nicely now. €10/£8 Supervalu.
Domaine Bellavista Roméo 2016, Côtes Catalanes, Roussillon - a new wine, lively dark and spicy Syrah made without added sulphites.
Chateau de l'Ou L'Ove 2015, Roussillon - Very tasty Syrah with nice 'chalky' tannins vs spicy black cherry. Quite dear though, if it is €20 - the online shop on their site is a bit of a mess (shows reds but says whites...).
Clot de l'Oum Le Clot 2014, Côtes du Roussillon Villages Caramany ('majority Syrah' block selection at altitude) - Also a fairly serious price but a serious wine too, this has lovely aromatic minty black cherry with fresh and herbal vs ripe and rich profile, structured vs lots of fruit. €18.90 cellar door.

Italy

Tenuta Rapitala Syrah 2015, Sicily - Another attractive Med style with understated spicy blackberry fruit vs firm dry-coated texture. £9.99 The Wine Company, Ormeau Road Belfast.

Chile

Los Molles Syrah Reserva 2014 Tabalí Winery, Limarí Valley - Very dark inky colour, concentrated black and blue fruits, quite dense firm and fresh but nice roundness too, savoury black olive flavours on the finish. Very good. £11 Marks & Spencer.

USA

Boom Boom! Syrah 2014 Charles Smith Wines, Columbia Valley, Washington State (+ 3% Viognier) - A little more on the wilder side and well-handled with it, lovely smoky fruit, depth character and texture (cask-aged but no new oak). Aiming at Northern Rhone styling especially with that splash of Viognier (c.f. Côte Rotie). £15.99 The Vineyard, Ormeau Road Belfast.

South Africa

Bellingham 'The Bernard Series' Basket Press Syrah 2014, Stellenbosch - Bellingham winery seems to be good at this sort of wine (also has 2% Viognier, all barrel-fermented together in open-top casks): touches of oak and solid and dense to start, but reveals lush dark spicy fruit with savoury edges; pretty classy red. £12 Sainsbury's.

Australia

Frankland River Shiraz 2014 Ferngrove Vineyards, Western Australia (aged in French oak) - Closed up to start, again dense and textured, quite subtle actually but definitely with Shiraz-esque peppery fruit; needs a little air to open up and some BBQ-ed food maybe. £11 Marks & Spencer.
Jacob's Creek Sparkling Shiraz Dry Cuvée, South Eastern Australia - Fun frothy red, a bit strange at first if you've not tried it before but very nice in the end; off-dry finish I'd say. £10 Sainsbury's.
The Gum Vineyard Shiraz 2015 The Lane, Adelaide Hills, South Australia (aged in French oak) - Another more restrained style, spicy berry fruit with good depth and structured finish. Quite expensive although sometimes on offer: Marks & Spencer £15.

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