About The Author:
"Roger, The Wine Guy" is Roger Yazell, CWS. He is a member of the International Wine Guild and has had a long time admiration of wine. After careers in broadcasting, advertising and marketing account management, he explored his love of wine in hospitality, wholesale and retail sales. The intent of Roger's Grapevine is to share stories, history and information that will add to the reader's love, enjoyment and appreciation of wine and sake'.
Questions, requests for topics and comments are always welcome via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Note: The Wine Guy is currently undergoing chemotherapy and this blog will be on hiatus for the duration and into a recovery period. The Wine Guy is planning to celebrate his recovery with a trip to the two wine producing regions in Argentina and that should provide for some interesting new blogs. Meanwhile please enjoy the archives and feel free to email in the interim.)
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Que sera, Syrah?
Whether you call it Syrah or Shiraz, this dark, thick-skinned grape is one of the most versatile and prolific wine grapes. The grape is generally referred to as Syrah in Old World countries and Shiraz in the New World but both terms are common among U.S. producers. While it was once thought to of Mideast origin (the usage of the term Shiraz refers to the village of the same name where the grape is still cultivated), it has been determined that origins were in southern France where it remains a principal grape in some great wines.
Syrah generally produces bold dark-red wines that are rich, chewy and sometimes spicy in nature. It is highly reflective of the terroir which makes it capable of producing a wide diversity of flavors and nuances. It blends well with a number of red as well as white varietals and that increases the opportunities to enjoy the bounties of this black beauty. By itself, the grape makes wonderful bold reds with a residual chewiness. It is a go-to wine for pairing with game and with lamb dishes. While the principal producers of Syrah (Shiraz) are France and Australia, the grape is found throughout the wine growing regions of the world with significant usage in California and in Spain. If Cabernet Sauvignon, the most widely utilized varietal, can be called the King of red wine grapes, then Syrah easily deserves recognition as the Grand Duke.
Syrah rivals the great Italian Sangiovese in the number and variety of fine wines that can be produced from the grape. A great deal of its diversity comes from its expression of terroir but even more comes from its capability to be blended with a large number of other varietals. Adding Viognier, the white varietal most often blended with Syrah, introduces some apricot tones and will soften the characteristic cracked pepper spiciness into a smooth clean finish. The use of Viognier in Syrah can be frequently found in French wines and is also becoming more common for some Australia Shiraz producers led by Yalumba. In Spain can be found some great Syrah-Grenacha combinations. The French, of course, do their own style of blending Syrah and Grenache in a number of great Rhone wines. Some of the silkiest Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre (GSM) combinations come from California but also find good expression from French and Australian producers. Combining Shiraz (Syrah) with Cabernet Sauvignon is a great combination for grilled meats and few do it better than the Australians.
One of the more interesting Syrah combinations recently enjoyed by The Wine Guy was Jade Mountain’s highly acclaimed Mt Veeder Syrah. This Californian beauty blends in light touches of Grenache and Teroldago. Teroldago is an obscure Italian varietal that sent me scrambling to my reference library. It is, oddly enough, an ancestral relative (call it a great-uncle) of Syrah but exhibits characteristics that have more in common with Zinfandel and Primativo. As this wine opened up, the smooth fruitiness of the underlying blending grapes became more recognizable and made this a unique and enjoyable Syrah.
There are endless examples of good Syrah expressions you can enjoy but here are a few recommendations from The Wine Guy of some value-priced Syrah-based wines you might want to hunt for at your favorite retailer:
Penfold’s Koonunga Hills Shiraz-Cabernet:
A consistently good value-priced example of the power of combining these two varietals.
Yalumba “Y” Series Shiraz-Viognier:
This wine classically illustrates the effects of blending Viognier on the Shiraz finish.
Almira Los Dos:
A great expression of old vine grapes from Spain combing Grenacha and Syrah.
Rosenblum Hillside Vineyards Syrah:
Renown for his Zinfandels the Californian veterinarian/winemaker scores big with this Syrah.
The name aptly describes the palate feel of this California GSM.
Meffree LaChasse Du Pape:
An affordable, yet well made expression from Southern France.
Layer Cake Cotes du Rhone and Layer Cake Barossa Valley Shiraz:
These negociants from California traveled to two different regions and brought back some great examples to explore, each with their own good characteristics.
The ubiquitous Syrah or Shiraz offers a great diversity of wines to sample. No matter what your taste preference, you’re sure to find something you enjoy. Have fun in your exploration!