Syrah / Shiraz
Results of a syrah tasting July 24, 1999 at the Wine Exchange in Orange, CA. Seventeen wines were poured for a tasting fee of $25.
The wines, in the order tasted:
'96 Domaine Deshenrys - Languedoc. $8.99. Nose of blackberry,
floral, leafy and stemmy. Moderately fleshy fruit. A decent quaffer.
'97 Cave de Tain L' Hermitage St. Joseph - Rhone Valley. $12.99.
Blackberry, earth, dried leaves in the nose. Chewy and substantial mouthfeel,
slightly bitter fruit, with some heat and a bit of scortch on the palate.
'95 Alain Voge Cornas Vieilles Vignes - Rhone Valley. $29.99.
Nose of blackberry, shoe polish, floral notes, sweet sawdust, baked brie,
and toasty grains. Fleshy mouthfeel of slightly sour fruit. Blackberry
and licorace flavors.
'97 Saint Cosme Cote Rotie Montsalier - Rhone Valley. $44.99.
Major floral nose, with blackberry, plum and leather. Additional tour
de veg of carrot, green bean, beet, as well as a stemmy quality. Huge
mouthfull of jammy blackberry fruit, with some stemminess and tartness
noted through long finish.
'96 Paul Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle - Rhone Valley. $59.99.
Nose of blackberry, pomegranate, brandied cherries, toast, with hints
of burnished wood and some vegetal notes. Huge chewy mouthfeel of off-sweet
fruit. Long seamless finish.
'97 Fairview Shiraz Cyril Back - Paarl, South Africa. $13.99.
Smoky blackberry, shoe polish. Toasty, stemmy and leafy. Fleshy and chewy
mouthfull of dark fruits.
'98 Kevin Arnold Shiraz Robert Charles - Stellenbosch, South
Africa. $22.99. Whoa! Masses of herbaceous, herbal and smoky fruit.
Leafy and stemmy nose, with hints of shoe polish and toast. Very floral
and fruity taste, smooth mouthfeel and finish.
'97 Brophy Clark Syrah - Santa Ynez Valley. $13.99. Blackberry
and floral nose; quite fleshy and stemmy. Sweet burnished cherry taste
to the fruit, slightly thin consistency on the palate, though lots of
fruit apparent. Smooth finish, if a bit brief.
'97 Runquist Syrah Hilltop Vnyd - Paso Robles. $15.99.
Very sweet and ripe blackberry nose. Burnished quality to the fruit. Initially
somewhat tangy or fizzy on the palate (secondary fermentation?). Big mouthfeel
with lots of fruit, yet also a bit coarse toward the finish.
'97 Terre Rouge Syrah - Sierra Foothills. $15.99. Complex and
dense nose of blackberry, plum, black cherry, and shoe polish. Absolutely
huge mouthfull of fruit - sweet, big, and delicious. The obvious backbone
of acids fully prop up the otherwise potentially flabby off-sweet fruit,
making quite a package.
'97 Ojai Syrah - California. $15.99. Nose of blackberry, blueberry,
and violets. Fleshy and big in mouthfeel, there is still a somewhat backward
feel to the fruit. The fruit probably lacks the ability to improve greatly,
but this "paint the barn" style of fruit sure is fun to drink.
'96 Lafond Syrah Lafond Vnyd - Santa Ynez Valley. $22.99.
Very polished nose of blackberry fruit, is somewhat hampered by the notes
of rubbing alcohol. Fleshy mouthfeel, but fruit seems disjointed and missing
'98 ADW Sheeraz - Limestone Coast, South Australia. $21.99. Massively
fruity nose. Blackberry, black pepper flavors, fleshy and chewy mouthfeel.
Here's a big lip sticker, too.
'97 Summerfield Shiraz - Pyrenees, Victoria. $33.99. Nose of sweet
ripe blackberry, and shoe polish. Full and huge presence on the palate.
But, also a bit too tart. Too bad the sweetness of the nose didn't carry
through to the taste.
'97 Waninga Shiraz - Claire Valley, South Australia. $26.99. Big,
herbaceous and herbal blackberry nose, with brambles, pepper, earth, and
leather aromas. Interesting sweet, toasty; almost cookie dough like quality;
sort of a blackberry tart or pie. Full mouthfeel, and seamless finish.
'97 Charles Melton Shiraz - Barossa Valley, South Australia. $31.99.
Nearly a flip-flop from the Waniga. Stunning nose! Ripe candied smell,
seeming to be a cross between a smoked brownie and a chocolate eclair.
I don't know what bakery they're renting their storage casks from, but
I'd certainly like to pay it a visit. Leafy and young mouthfeel of big
fruit. Lots of potential here. A bit of heat on long finish.
'96 Rosemont Syrah Balmoral - McLaren Vale, South Australia.
$32.99. Herbaceous blackberry nose with chocolate brownie, cocoa powder,
and bread dough. Huge mouthfeel. Smooth, slightly bitter blackberry fruit,
with a slight stemmy quality on the after-palate.
Overall impressions: it's always interesting to smell and taste the differences in a wine made from the same varietal, but produced in different countries. The wines here ran the gamut from spicy licorace-influenced blackberry fruit, to those with a pronounced cocoa/chocolate brownie doughy quality. It's at this point that one gives up on the idea of type-casting a varietal, and just starts to enjoy each of the wine's differences.
My top three favorites included two of the usual suspects, as well as one that is becoming a regular top-performer. The Balmoral and the Hermitage have always been world-class wines. But, the Terre Rouge has been on a "terre" lately, and is consistently among the top wines. Of course, it's riper style may not appeal to everyone, but it certainly does to me.
As a group, the Aussies did the best, with the South Africian Shirazs
and the California wines all seeming better than most of the French versions.
Best bargains were the Terre Rouge, the Ojai, the Brophy
Clark, and the Fairview. The Charles Melton get the
prize for the most "I can't get enough of it" nose.
Here is my relative ranking, by tier and in order of preference, of the wines tasted.
'96 Rosemont Syrah Balmoral - McLaren Vale, South Australia. $32.99
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