The LCBO Vintage release for Sept 2, 2017 offers an excellent opportunity to delve into the Syrah grape. The release features Syrah wines that are characteristic of their origins from both the Old World and New World. What a great chance to explore the signature traits of this varietal and compare the different effects of terrroir and wine-making styles.
Some highlights of what to look for.
- Syrah and Shiraz are the same grape. Usually the different naming convention also implies a difference in the wine making style, with Syrah being French and North American and Shiraz typically indicative of Australia.
- France naming convention may not say Syrah but Cote du Rhone, Hermitage, Crozes- Hermitage an Saint Joseph will tend to be Syrah.
- Syrah grapes are very dark and thick skinned, which translate to full bodied wines, fairly high in tannins. Flavour profiles tend toward dark fruit- blackberry, blueberry and there is often a peppery nose and palate. With age secondary earthy notes can develop and may also include leather and truffles.
- Old World Style tend to be higher in acid, earthy, peppery and smokey showing dark fruit
- New World Style is more fruit driven featuring blackberry, blueberry and cassis. They can jammy and high in alcohol.
- Food pairings – Because Syrah is such a bold wine it will stand up to bold food flavours very nicely. Charcuterie, steak, strong cheeses, spicy sauces, herbs.
The wines highlighted below were chosen to represent high scoring examples of the different regions of the world.
Paul Jaboulet Ainé Les Jalets Crozes-Hermitage 2014 #489443, Silver Medal International Wine Challenge, $26.95
The Northern Rhone Region is the ‘ancestral’ home of Syrah in France known for elegant, peppery examples. This one is described as ‘Lively black fruit, pepper and spring flowers wrapped in supple tannins….rustic complexity and elegant finish.’
Chateau de L’Ou Infiniment Syrah 2015 #440610 Score 92-94 $26.95
This an example of Southern French style where syrah is often blended with Grenache or Mourvedre. The wines display an herbal character with riper fruit and softer tannins. This one is described by Jeb Dunnuck of robertparker.com as ‘Woodsmoke, peppered meats, black raspberry and currants with a touch of smoke from a year spent in new oak.’
Fess Parker Syrah 2013 #942136 Score 90 $34.95 This comes from cooler pockets of Santa Barbara, California. Matt Kerrman of Wine Enthusiast describes ‘Elderberry, tar, smoked meat, balsamic-blackberry reduction and touches of smoke.’
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2013 #949651 Score 90 $19.95
Washington State has warm days and cool nights resulting in Syrah ‘brimming ripe berry fruite ad peppery spices notes. ‘ Sean P. Sullivan of Wine Enthusiast describes ‘Pluse and sovoury with olive, herbs, meat, coffee and light barrel spices.’
Creekside Iconoclast Syrah 2014 #471797 4/5 stars $24.95 Niagara Peninsula is cooler than Northern Rhone. Examples can combine elegance, intensity and structure. Michael Pinkus describes ‘Classic cool-climate Syrah with raspberry, black cherry, floral notes and wisps of smoke.’
Sidewood Mappinga Shiraz 2013 #446609 Score 97 $49.95
You don’t have to spend $50 on an Australian Shiraz but if you are feeling flush this one is a high scorer. This one from the cool-climate Aelaide Hills tends more toward the Northern Rhone style. James Halliday of winecompanion.com describes ‘Black cherry, plum and black berry with spicy pepper and sage, plus smoky oak from 22 months spent in barrel.’
The warmer Barrossa and McLaren Valleys produce more of the bold fruity Shiraz style.
Dandelion Vineyards Lionheart of the Barossa Shiraz 2015 #167189 Score Blue Gold Medal from Sydney International Wine Competition 2017
Judges notes describe ‘Lovely blackberry nose … and palate, concentration of fruit,..hints of chocolate and mulberry..l balanced tannins and a lovely long silky palate.’
Shingleback Davey Estate Reserve Shiraz 2013 #431296 Score 93 $23.95
James Halliday of winecompanion.com describes ‘greater depth to its bouquet an medium to full -bodied palate alike, the theme of black fruits, dark chocolate and balanced tannins providing seriously good wine at the price.’
For other value wine recommendations from the Sept 2, 2017 LCBO release check here.