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21 September 2011

Chile: Syrah / Shiraz

An aloof themed tasting table sat, literally, on a raised stage at the recent Wines of Chile annual London bash, dramatically billed as “Sensational Syrah”; but I think the Haydn-esque fanfare for fab Syrah from Chile is a little premature. Out of nearly 50 wines tasted, I found it quite hard going to find enough star Syrah / Shiraz to warrant this trail-blazing title; or even a decent amount of good attractive wines showing varietal character and reasonably priced (a lot of cloud-cuckoo-land RRPs in this line-up, it has to be said). Looking back through my tasting sheet, notes like “a bit extracted,” “too oaky,” “lacks charm” or “heavy handed” keep cropping up.
However, certain well- and lesser-known wineries did shine through, so here’s my twenty-something pick for what it’s worth (including a couple of Syrahs that weren’t ‘on the table’ but lurking elsewhere in the venue). On a stylistic, or marketing note perhaps, most of these wines are labelled Syrah rather than Shiraz: I guess this means Chile’s winemakers are modelling themselves on Europe or California rather than Australia?
(By the way, five years later I changed my mind: see this piece HERE.)

Viña San Pedro ‘1865’ Limited Edition Syrah 2008, Elquí region (14% alc.) - quite rich and smoky fruit, dark lush profile showing better oak integration and nice texture, quite punchy yet balanced with spicy vs rustic edges. Dear though at £20. UK importer: Les Grands Chais de France.

Viña San Pedro ‘Kankana del Elquí’ Syrah 2007 (14% alc.) - fairly complex herbal berry tones with meaty edges, liquorice and leather mix with concentrated berry fruit, dry powerful mouth-feel, quite extracted but good. Silly price though at £35.

De Martino Single Vineyard Syrah ‘Alto Los Toros’ 2008, Elquí (14.5%) - quite tight and closed up, firm textured yet concentrated with sweet blackberry fruit vs lightly savoury notes; still pretty solid, grippy and powerful vs nice lush mouth-feel too. £23 Les Caves de Pyrene.
Lots more De Martino here (Carmenere vertical and feature).

Viña Tabalí Reserva Syrah 2010, Limarí region (14.5%) - youthful and ‘inky’ with a touch of aok, tight firm palate showing hints of chocolate oak, fair length though with sweet fruit vs dry tannins, closes up on the finish. Fair value: £9.49 Boutinot Ltd.
Viña Tabalí ‘Payen’ 2007, Limarí (mostly Syrah, 14% alc.) - herby peppery nose with wild black fruits, subtle oak on a very concentrated palate, dry vs sweet texture and liquorice vs meaty finish. One of the best ones I tasted (pic. above). £15 Boutinot.
More Tabalí and profile here.

Von Siebenthal ‘Carabantes’ 2008, Aconcagua region (85% Syrah/10% Cab Sauv/5% Petit Verdot, 14.5% alc., organic) - better fruit with berries and spice vs nice meaty edges, chunky firm and punchy mouth-feel with a bit of character finally. £19.75 New Generation wines, D. Byrne & Co, Wimbledon Wine Cellars.

Errázuriz ‘Aconcagua Costa’ Single Vineyard Syrah 2010 (13.5%) - red pepper tones vs quite lush black cherry/berry fruit, big spicy mouthful then firm tight finish, needs a bit of time to open up. £20 Hatch Mansfield.
Errázuriz ‘La Cumbre’ Syrah 2007, Aconcagua (97% Syrah, 3% Petit Verdot, 14.5% alc) - similar profile to above but more intense, more new oak and more oomph; quite fine grained texture, still closed up really, promising although expensive. £52 Wimbledon Wine Cellars, slurp.co.uk

Marqués de Casa Concha Syrah 2008, Buin-Maipo region (96% Syrah, 4% Carmenere, 14.5% alc) - quite oaky at first but this has attractive black fruits with smoky edges, liquorice hints too vs chunky tannins and rounded weighty finish. £10.99 Corkscrew Wines, Nethergate Wines, Tanners Wines, Villeneuve wines, Corks Out, Farr Vintners, Harrods, everywine.co.uk, Bablake Wines.

Santa Carolina ‘Specialties’ Syrah 2009, Maipo (14%) - enticing herby spicy berry nose, quite concentrated lush and powerful, touch of choc oak and grip vs dark fruit finish. £15 Justerini & Brooks.

Viña Leyda Single Vineyard ‘Canelo’ Syrah 2009, Leyda region (14%) - smoky blackberry aromas, lively fruit vs grip vs subtle oak texture, powerful yet rounded; at last, a bit of class and Syrah style. Good value for quality too @ £10. Great Western Wine Co.

Matetic Vineyards ‘Corralillo’ Syrah 2009, San Antonio region (organic/biodynamic, 14.5%) - fairly firm and tight vs pretty concentrated with sweet vs peppery profile, black cherry and plum fruit underneath; again well balanced and stylish. £14.30 Armit Wines.
Matetic Vineyards Syrah 2008, San Antonio (organic/biodynamic, 14%) - wild edged with spicy black cherry and berry, punchy and grippy vs lovely fruit, has more new oak but not over the top. £37 Armit Wines.
Matetic Vineyards ‘EQ’ Syrah 2010, San Antonio (organic/biodynamic, 14%) - smoky bacon tones layered with spicy black fruits, nice tannins and weight, a tad over-oaked perhaps but it’s quite concentrated and has good depth of fruit. £15+ Armit Wines.
More Matetic here.

Anakena ONA Syrah 2009, Peumo - Cachapoal (14%) - peppery and herby vs savoury notes, lush and punchy but concentrated, firm vs sweet fruit; a bit classier and more Syrah like. £10.25 Stratford’s Wine Agencies.

Caliterra ‘Tributo’ Shiraz 2009, Colchagua (91 Syrah, 5 Malbec, 4 Petit Verdot, 14% alc.) - hints of attractive smoky lush character, dark choc notes on its firm vs rounded palate, black fruit finish. £10 everywine.co.uk

Ventisquero ‘Grey’ Syrah 2009, Apalta - Colchagua (14.5%) - more aromatic and spicy, hints of grainy coconut oak, tight and firm mouth-feel, a bit controlled but could be good a year or so on. Restaurants only: imported by PLB Group.

Morandé Gran Reserva Syrah 2008, Maule (14.5%) - touches of attractive spicy cherry fruit vs coco oak grain, lively and powerful though with sweet dark cherry finish. Restaurants only: imported by Barwell & Jones.

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