Part 3: Syrah and Shiraz — More Facts to Improve Your Tasting Experience

(Part 3 of a 5-part series.)

Syrah (called Shiraz in Australia and elsewhere) may have been introduced to the Barossa valley red wineas early as 1847 and it has emerged to produce a version of this grape, distinct and showing the influence of terroir on wine.  Shiraz can claim with some authority to be truly an Australian wine, able to stand with the world’s best if judged by quality standards.  Shiraz, like Syrah, is a wine that shows depth and length as well as any other red wine and a distinctiveness and complexity along with its well-known affinity with oak from all regions.  Tasting the same fruit in different barrels, as I have been privileged to do on several occasions, can be a revelation of its affinity to oak and its subtle expressiveness of its oak home.

In the Old World, wine was a matter of place and tradition, but in the hands of the technical Aussies, it was a matter of numbers and winemaking expertise.  They make wines with technical flawlessness and are now turning more and more to experiment with the art in winemaking.  Realizing their potential and the opportunity for a marketing ploy, Max Schubert named their best example Grande Hermitage, from which the name Hermitage has now been dropped in deference to its French home.  The Syrah/Shiraz grape has become an international sensation and star.  It hold’s its identifying flavors wherever it is planted and yet reveals some of the distinctiveness of its local terroir.  The surge of this grape’s popularity is in the Languedoc and around the world, its attractiveness has also been demonstrated.

The juice can be thick and some winemakers complain of how it gums up their equipment.  The skin can hold a high percentage of anthocyanins — the healthy good stuff.  The taste is brawny too.  A little in a blend will deepen the color and shore up a thin wine, so watch for many varietals to have a little Syrah added for this purpose.  Until the mid 19th century, Syrah was added to some of the higher priced Bordeaux wines to strengthen them a little.  Does that surprise you?

Widespread Interest

Syrah/Shiraz has been planted in almost all wine regions of the world, including Italy, South Africa, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, and in the US (in Texas, Colorado, Mendocino County, Napa Valley, San luis Obispo County,  Santa Barbara County, Sierra Foothills, Sonoma County, Temecula, and Washington State) to name a few regions.

Fruity or Stern and Hard?  

Both!  The typical Northern Rhone Syrah needs about five years before it can be approached and appreciated, but modern winemaking can make even the densest versions soft and fruity, ready for immediate consumption.

Here’s Something You may not Know

The more acid in the juice, the redder the color of the wine due to the anthocyanins changing form.

Syrah, Part 2: The Rhone Valley France

(Part 2 of a 5-part series)

Now pour a glass of Syrah from the Rhone and note the differences between this and the Barossa Shiraz (from the previous article) as you sip and read.  Thomas Jefferson loved Syrah in the form of Hermitage, a famous wine hill of only 326 acres.  Hermitage has been favored by Royalty in as unlikely a place as Russia and also by wine lovers around the world.  The grape’s home is indisputably the Northern Rhone in France.   Since Roman times, it has laid claim to this region as it developed its notoriety because of its quality, longevity, and bold, full wines.  By the early nineteenth century, Syrah from the Hermitage slope (a south facing hill of granite overlaid by a thin layer of soil) was selling for as much as the best wines of Bordeaux.  To this day in the minds of many, it is Cabernet Sauvignon’s equal.  What do you think as you taste?

Syrah in the Rhone Valley

Cote Rotie — “The Roasted Slope”

Wine map of France

Wine map of France

In the far north of the Rhone Valley, steep and often dangerous slopes are worked with great risk.  They are exposed at a perfect angle to the northern sunlight and produce a growing site for the Syrah grape that would secure its fame.  Wines from this small area are expensive and if you can get your hands on one, you will be tasting fame and fortune.  They are deeply colored red wines, bursting with full flavors.  A young Cote Rotie is a gem in the making.  As they age, they become softer and release intriguing bouquets.  Is this the best of Rhone wines?  Some say, yes.

Hermitage — “The Granite Hill”

Like the Cote Rotie these are wines that take time to soften and prepare themselves for consumption without shocking the palate.  Full, rich, and powerful, they are liberal in their offering of a broad bouquet.  Some folk prefer them over the Cote Rotie wines and they have certainly earned themselves a lasting name in the annals of great wines.

The lower slopes around the town of Hermitage, where the wines are called Crozes Hermitage, are similar but less in every respect — but not much less.  These are well worth searching out.  They also are ready for drinking earlier.

Saint Joseph

One step further down the scale of fullness, these more delicate and lighter versions are preferred by those who like a wine with more finesse and ones that mature earlier.  While they are lighter, don’t discount the power of these wines.  They can live to a ripe old age and stand out with their distinct taste and aromas.  Try Saint Joseph, Offenus, 2012 (approximately $33).

Cornas

You can find these for less money because they are less known.  However, they live to an old age and provide a silky Syrah with ample tannin in their youth.  They are usually more garnet in color than ruby, as is typical of the wines from Cote Rotie, Hermitage, and Saint Joseph.

Cotes du Rhone

These wines from a wider region carry a general appellation.  Easy to find and made in large quantities, they come from the Southern Rhone valley.  Lighter and yet quite appealing, they are good for that average meal.

Want to go just one step higher?  Look for a Cotes Du Rhone Villages or Cotes du Rhone with a hyphenated additional name, such as Gigondas.  An excellent Cotes du Rhone wine that is  available for around $16 is Domaine La Garrigue Cuvee Romaine, 2012.

Syrah is blended with other grapes in other parts of the Rhone Valley, such as Chateauneuf-du-Pape, but we will deal with them in a separate article.

Syrah, Part 1: Marvel at Two Great Expressions of this Wine… 

(Part 1 of a 5-part series)

Today and in the next four articles, we will take a look at Syrah/Shiraz, comparing samples from both the New World and the Old World as we travel from Australia, to France and the United States.  You may prefer to read first, then buy samples and taste all wines, comparing with the articles as your guide.  However, you choose, enjoy the experience of the wine!  Cheers!

Wine map of Australia

Wine map of Australia

 

Set two wines in front of you of that are roughly the same price.  One should be a Shiraz from the Barossa Valley in Australia and the other a Syrah, preferably from the upper Rhone Valley in France.  If the wines are approximately equal in price, the comparison will work.  First, pour a glass of Barossa Shiraz and sip as you read the following description.  (For those with who want a good value on a tighter budget, settle for a Cotes du Rhone

Wine map of France

Wine map of France

and a less expensive Barossa Shiraz.)

Shiraz — Barossa Valley, Australia

Barossa Valley is Shiraz.  This South Australian valley has made a unique contribution to the grape’s fame worldwide.  The combination of its 150-year-old bush vines, dry farmed (19 inches average rainfall per annum) and also un-grafted (no phylloxera in the Barossa Valley), cannot be found anywhere else on the globe and gives us a look at the grape’s stunning possibilities when cultivated “down under.”  This new home, which couldn’t be further away from its traditional old home in the Rhone Valley of France, has created a permanent place for itself among the famed regions in the world of wine.

Barossa Shiraz shows itself as a standout for the grape and the same is true of Hermitage in the upper Rhone.  In Barossa, the wine estates line both sides of the Para River for approximately 20 miles and spill over the east ranges into the Eden Valley, which is also regarded as part of Barossa.  At altitudes of 750’ to around 1,800’ in the east ranges, variations of style can be expected.  This is a hot region — however, hotter on the valley floor of course — and, therefore, it is no surprise that Barossa Shiraz is bold, full, and richer in the valley than up on the hills.  This grape loves the heat in both Barossa and the upper Rhone Valley.  Fermentation typically takes place in American Oak barrels, resulting in a fruity, chocolatey wine with attractive spice.  Australian winemakers love the forwardness of the American Oak for their Shiraz.

Because consumers like you are busy comparing Barossa Shiraz with the Rhone Valley’s Syrah, some Barossa winemakers are turning to French Oak, which can give you a truer comparison of the grape’s offerings in the two famous terroirs. This trend is increasing in the Valley.  If vinified to age well, it presents a challenging mouthful when young.   Try Schild Estate 2012 Shiraz, Barossa Valley which has been aged in both French and American Oak.

Malbec Around the World

Malbec compared from Cahors, Argnetina and Colorado

Malbec compared from Cahors, Argentina and Colorado

In the last few years, Argentina stormed to the front with luscious Malbecs and shocked the wine loving world with their amazing renditions of this varietal.  It was Cahors in France that had first shown what Malbec was all about: a black wine with guts and power, most of it being a little rough in texture but bold with dark fruit flavors — so dark, in fact, that tar was a common descriptor.  Bordeaux had given it a different stature — a grape that was part of the the famous Bordeaux reds, but it contributed only a small part (even if an important part) to the noble wine.

Argentinian Malbec came to the world scene as a big wine, too, full of concentrated extract, but what was so surprising was that it presented itself with a silkiness (the rich silk robes of seemingly unknown royalty).  Argentina is still exploring further the lusciousness and softness of this dark-colored grape and equally dark-fruited wine.  It is also showcasing some lighter flavors that have given the grape a new image.  Cahors was noted for aromas of blackberry and tar and anything reminiscent of the shades of night.  Argentine Malbec was being hailed for its fruit, sometimes even red fruit being occasionally identified as wafting from the glass.  Was this truly Malbec?  Yes!  And what is more, the cuttings came from Cahors, so no doubts about the Argentinian grape being true Malbec can be entertained.

However, we have only just begun to understand this grape.  A small tasting of Malbecs from Cohors, Argentina, Washington, and (of all places) Colorado showed a yet more surprising diversity of flavors from floral (via various fruits) to anise, tar and (with the deft use of French oak as is the case of the 2012 Colorado sample) soft caramel.  Acids that sparkled added to the parade, but all wines showed a high alcohol rating.

The terroir came through in each case as distinct.  In all examples, the grape was clearly identifiable, leaving us in no doubt that we were bottle-to-face with Malbec.  From Colorado, Creekside’s 2010 as well as the 2012 taken from the barrel lead the pack in terms of interest and holding power and refused to lose their character (after 2 hours of exposure in the glass) and fade into the night where only dull dark flavors lurk.  Washington’s example from a Columbia Crest Reserve bottling was dark as night, with dark plum, dark chocolate, spice, and violets on the nose.  It coated the mouth with the texture of soft glycerine.  The tannins were polished and well integrated and the wine left the impression of being heavy, supported by a soft but substantial frame — more like a Cahors than an Argentinian Malbec.

Malbec is claiming its place among the top tier of grapes that we can’t afford to lose.  Get yourself some good Malbec (most can be obtained at very reasonable prices) and taste your way into a night of excitement with bold, brave food to accompany.

You’ll find many great Colorado wines described in my books, “Experiencing Colorado Wine, Volume 1 – The Dry Red Wines ” and “Experiencing Colorado Wine, Volume 2 – The Whites and Rosés.”  Volume 1 also provides descriptions of the pairing of several Colorado wines with a great recipes by great Colorado chefs.

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Barolo — One of the World’s Greatest Wines

Barolo Rocche Dell’ Annunziata, 2010

Barolo Rocche Dell’ Annunziata, 2010

Barolo Rocche Dell’ Annunziata, 2010

Since the 1990’s, the vineyard area of Barolo has increased by at least 40%.  The hilly nature of the area means that in some places Nebbiolo ripens better than others.  Hence the vineyard location is critical to finding a good Barolo.

What is a good Barolo?  Aside from all the quality factors we would look for in other wines, two things stand out — its aromas and its tannins.  Just like you find in this wine, the smell of roses and violets should float on the aroma and greet you as you raise the glass to your nose.  These floral notes are a hallmark.  Also, licorice is a common scent and the smell of truffles, with which the wine goes so well, are mingled with reminders of tar, which is not at all objectionable, believe it or not.

You should not miss the tannic grip of Barolo.  In this case, the tannins are strong but fine and their power makes the wine an excellent food wine.  Tannins are smoothed by fats such as you find in milk products, cheese, and  in rich pasta sauces which  is, therefore, my suggestion for this wine.

Perhaps you have noticed an orange tint around the meniscus. This is also expected in Barolo.  This wine is young and needs an hour or so of breathing after it is decanted.  If you want it to change quickly, pass it through a Vinturi wine aerator, which oxygenates the wine and softens it amazingly.  The aromas will become more floral and the tannins will calm down some.  This way you can drink it younger with great pleasure.  The Rocche dell’ Annunciate is well-knit and assertive at first with added notes of cedar, cherry, and strawberry jam.  It offers you a mild creaminess and after it is passed through the Vinturi, the caramel notes of cognac.  Expectedly, the wine takes time to show itself and when it does, it unfolds beautifully.

Rating:  91

Emotional rating:  At first, not great, but after aerating, it can rise to new heights.

Availability:  Try wine.com.

You’ll find many great Colorado wines described in my books, “Experiencing Colorado Wine, Volume 1 – The Dry Red Wines ” and “Experiencing Colorado Wine, Volume 2 – The Whites and Rosés.”  Volume 1 also provides descriptions of the pairing of several Colorado wines with a great recipes by great Colorado chefs.

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Colterris “Coral” 2014 — Made with a Purpose

Colterris “Coral” from the Grand Valley AVA, Colorado

Colterris "Coral" 2014

Colterris “Coral” 2014

A wine has to be made with a purpose or it’s just another wine.  What purpose do we find in this wine from Colterris in the Grand Valley AVA?  First, it sports a very attractive coral color with an appealing, light effervescence (first indication of the purpose the winemaker had in mind).  Floral notes dominate on the nose and many of the fruits border on white wine fruits:  pear, guava, apple, as well as light strawberry notes; some tasters get peach and a light touch of honey that coats the mouth and does not want to let go in the finish.

The effervescence on the palate, the richness of its mouthfeel (which provides a weight that is not expected), the floral notes on the nose, and the smoothness and balance of the alcohol, acids, and flavors make it a very exciting wine to sip and enjoy in a meditative moment or with a pleasant conversation with friends.  I would recommend this rosé as a must for your cellar.  A touch of sweetness (residual sugar at 6.1 g/l) is not too much and would make it a pleasant match with a light curry dish, something spicy.  It may pair well with tilapia, tuna salad, ahi tuna, shrimp with cocktail sauce, parmesan cheese, and I loved it with a simple garden salad.

Rating: 89

Emotional rating:  Stimulates the happy neurotransmitters — a pleasure — with a little complexity that all good rosés should offer.

Available:  Distributed by Classic Wines.  You can contact them to find a retailer near you.

You’ll find many great Colorado wines described in my books, “Experiencing Colorado Wine, Volume 1 – The Dry Red Wines ” and “Experiencing Colorado Wine, Volume 2 – The Whites and Rosés.”  Volume 1 also provides descriptions of the pairing of several Colorado wines with a great recipes by great Colorado chefs.

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This Shiraz Powerfully Stimulates the Emotions!

IMG_1525Henry’s Drive Padthaway Shiraz, 2009

A Winery to Follow

From Australia this wine arrives loaded with chocolate and complimented with leather, raspberry, red currant, licorice, and black pepper in a soft, luxuriant package.  It is full of pleasant pepper on the palate with fine, disciplined tannins on a balanced finish that lasts and lasts — a wine that is rich, round, and full for all those who love fullness that isn’t sickly heavy with fruit .  Acids that excite and stimulate salivation and a very smooth mouthfeel add to the taste-value of this wine.  At around $33 USD, it is worth every penny.  It’s not extravagant for that special occasion, such as when the snow falls in Colorado, the fire is burning, and you snuggle up with nothing better to do!

Read the interesting story on the label of memorable days gone by and follow this winery in days ahead if you are a fan or want to be a fan of excellent Australian Shiraz.

Padthaway wine region is located in the southern tip of South Australia, which is known as the Limestone Coast, near the famous red Coonawarra vineyards.  In the new Australian wine laws, the wine must contain at least 85% of the variety (in this case, Shiraz) and if named, the vintage (2009) and region (Padthaway) hold to the same requirements.  Major wineries, like Lindemans, source some of their wines from this distinguished area that was established in the 1960’s.  You should begin to look for Padthaway wines and note their distinctiveness.  Padthaway Shiraz has been recognized as very good to great.  It is a vast area and the smaller wineries, like Henry’s Drive, are bringing the best out of this newer wine goldmine.

Rating: 93

Emotional rating:  100

Available from wine.com when it is not sold out!  Search for it.

You’ll find many great Colorado wines described in my books, “Experiencing Colorado Wine, Volume 1 – The Dry Red Wines ” and “Experiencing Colorado Wine, Volume 2 – The Whites and Rosés.”  Volume 1 also provides descriptions of the pairing of several Colorado wines with a great recipes by great Colorado chefs.

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GET YOUR COPIES  at SQUARE MARKET!  Get 25% OFF when you buy BOTH!  

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Comparing Wines Provides Valuable Information

Compare to Learn!red wine

Comparing wines is a wonderful way to learn.  Compare wines from different wineries, from the same place, same grape, same vintage, and discover differences that may teach you something about the wine.

Two expressions of Sangiovese will give us the opportunity to compare this famous grape’s versatility.

 

 

Querceto Chianti Classico Reserva 2009, DOCG, 13% ABV

Querceto Chianti ClassicoRustic and punchy, this Sangiovese traditional blend is begging for a cream sauce.  It stands with masculine power and an “outdoorsmanship” that matches well the aromas and atmosphere of the woods and the ranch.

A medium garnet color belies its power.  The wood flavors are reminiscent of a barn’s timbers blended with the earthiness of a forest floor .  The fruit is restrained, but the acids are cleansing.  Leather, licorice, black cherry, and spice settle harmoniously on a smooth palate.  The aftertaste is balanced and long, but punchy and tannic.  This is a wine for the bold palate and the rich dishes that will tame its tannic burst.  At just 13% ABV, the alcohol does not deliver the power; the flavors and tannins do.

Rating:  88

Emotional rating:  It is a food wine and rates high with a pasta doused in cream sauce.

Available:  Try winesearcher.com

 

Tenute Silvionardi, Brunello de Montalcino, 2009, DOCG 14.5% ABVTenute Brunello di Montalcino

This is a Sangiovese with an elegance and refinement that offers itself to us wrapped in silky tannins.  It dances with grace, and yet some drama, on the palate.  Medium ruby, with a slight orange tint typical of Sangiovese seems a better description of its color to suggest this wine’s refinement than the “medium garnet” suggests for the Querceto.  The tannins are softer than the Chianti, perhaps even silky, though strong with cherry and redcurrant, on an earthy and dusty base.  The acids are in balance and the stronger alcohol lends force to its softer structure.

Both wines call for food but this one could be enjoyed on the porch with great pleasure.

Rating: 89

Emotional rating:  For the Sangiovese lover — smooth, soft pleasure.

Available:  Try winesearcher.com

This comparison tells me that I would prefer the Brunello on the porch as a sipping wine, since the power of the Chianti would be drying and need some relief.  The richer and stronger the dish, the more I would tend to the Chianti.  Both wines remind me of the aroma of a high-class English Breakfast tea.  Sangiovese means “The blood of Jove” (a Roman deity).

You’ll find many great Colorado wines described in my books, “Experiencing Colorado Wine, Volume 1 – The Dry Red Wines ” and “Experiencing Colorado Wine, Volume 2 – The Whites and Rosés.”  Volume 1 also provides descriptions of the pairing of several Colorado wines with a great recipes by great Colorado chefs.

FACEBOOK    TWITTER

GET YOUR COPIES  at SQUARE MARKET!  Get 25% OFF when you buy BOTH!  

These books entertain, educate, and entice readers to experience Colorado wine!Experiencing Colorado Red Print ReadyExperiencing-Colorado-White-Cover-Web