Article

Tasting & Matching: New World Syrah

Cool-climate Syrah is in, and here to stay. Waving ‘No More Jam’ placards, our panel of sommeliers tasted a selection of what the New World has to offer, while Clinton Cawood took notes


You don’t get much more hip than cool-climate Syrah at the moment. It’s become a byword for cool (that even includes the word ‘cool’) and prices are rising steadily. It’s a distinctly positive trend, with plenty of encouraging feedback.

The number of New World countries and regions claiming to create wines in this Old-World-inspired style is ever-increasing. But how cool do you need to be? And are they really living up to the hype?

The only solution was to call in a cross-section of wines that are claiming to be part of the movement, and are available in the UK. Even with the 40-plus wines tasted here, this was but a snapshot of this growing trend. It would have been easy to have included three times as many wines.

Our team of sommeliers tasted through a diverse selection of Shirazes and Syrahs, with multiple questions to be answered for each wine. ‘Is this cool climate?’ ‘Would this work in a restaurant?’ ‘Is it representative of the country it’s from?’ and, of course, ‘Is it any good?’

As they’d soon realise, the answer to each question, for each wine, was different. Some producers are clearly making Syrahs from rather chilly areas, while others are utilising a far more liberal definition of the word ‘cool’. Whatever their ideology, we can expect far more wines claiming to have cool-climate credentials in the years to come.


PANEL
Clinton Cawood, Imbibe  Emilie Courtois, Terroirs Martin Lam, Ransome’s Dock Christophe Richelet, ex-Oxo Tower Restaurant Gergely Barsi Szabó, consultant Adamo Varbaro, Bedford & Strand


How it works

We asked UK agents to submit the names of Syrahs/Shirazes in their portfolios that they considered to be cool-climate, and from these we selected about 40 wines for this tasting. The aim was to have a diverse selection from various regions. All wines were tasted blind, with tasters only aware of country of origin and price. Each wine was scored out of 20, taking value for money into account, as well as how well they typified ‘cool-climate’ wines. Scores were collated to obtain a percentage score, with only wines over 60% being listed here. All prices listed here are ex-VAT trade.


RESULTS

ARGENTINA

72 Finca La Anita Syrah 2008, Agrelo, Mendoza

‘Complex berry fruit – mainly raspberry – and a touch of spice,’ GS. ‘Spicy, liquorice aromas, alongside fresh berries, with good acidity on the palate,’ EC. ‘Rich and full, with red currant and spice notes on both the nose and palate,’ CC.
£18.42, HispaMerchants, 020 8740 4556

 68 Tapiz Syrah 2009, Valle de Uco, Mendoza

‘Fresh, fruity, with a hint of smokiness on the nose. Simple fresh fruit on the palate, with some grip on the finish,’ ML. ‘Soft, velvety texture, with ripe tannins, and a long, peppery finish,’ CR.
£7.20, HispaMerchants, 020 8740 4556

66 Bodegas la Guarda El Guardado Syrah 2009, San Juan

‘Spicy and jammy on the nose, with some confectionery notes. Oak quite prevalent on the palate,’ CR. ‘Soft fresh fruit with lots of oak, gentle tannins,’ GS.
£10.02, HispaMerchants,020 8740 4556

Also tasted: Bodegas El Porvenir de los Andes Laborum Syrah 2005, Cafayate


AUSTRALIA

89 Dalwhinnie Estate Moonambel Shiraz 2008, Pyrenees, Victoria

‘Classy, with elegant fruit aromas. Delicious on the palate, with beautiful plum and currant fruit, light spice, and clever use of oak,’ CR. ‘Well-knit, with structure, good fruit, elegance and length,’ ML. ‘Quite light on the palate, with a slightly smoky edge, gentle tannins, and fresh red-cherry acidity throughout,’ CC.
£26.50, Boutinot, 0161 908 1300

75 Best’s Bin No 0 Shiraz 2009, Great Western, Victoria

‘A very complex nose, with savoury spice interacting with some red fruit, and even some apricot aromas. Lots of acidity and ripe fruit. A great wine. Not particularly easy on the wallet, though,’ CC. ‘Good concentration, with eucalyptus and red berries – a good, robust wine,’ GS.
£32.00, Bibendum, 0845 263 6924

74 Shaw + Smith Adelaide Hills Shiraz 2009, Adelaide Hills

‘Ripe fruit with a touch of dark spice on the nose. On the palate, good fruit and some more spice, with good concentration,’ GS. ‘Ripe and sunny, an aromatic wine with lots of spices. The spiciness really comes out on the palate, with big tannins. It needs a few more years, or a bloody piece of venison,’ EC.
£16.38, Liberty Wines,020 7720 5350

73 Logan Shiraz 2009, Orange, New South Wales

‘Lots of ripe fruit, with a lot of spice, good concentration and a bit of bubblegum character,’ GS. ‘A bit closed at first, but quite ripe on the nose once it opens up – probably needs a good carafe. Fine and elegant,’ EC.
£12.43, Patriarche Wine Agencies, 020 7381 4016

73 Wakefield St Andrews Shiraz 2006, Clare Valley

‘Big fruit on the palate. Robust – not exactly cool climate, but a good wine,’ GS. ‘Candied fruit, fresh aromas, and oak spice. Forward on the palate – for those who like full-bodied wines,’ CR.
£18.99, Louis Latour, 020 7409 7276

71 Mount Horrocks Clare Valley Shiraz 2009, Clare Valley

‘A balanced wine, with sweetness of fruit carried by good acidity and overall savouriness,’ ML. ‘Red fruit and liquorice nose. Juicy acidity on the palate, spice, and more liquorice to finish,’ CC.
£15.40, Liberty Wines, 020 7720 5350

71 The Lane Vineyard Shiraz Viognier 2010, Adelaide Hills

‘Ripe fruit and lots of menthol and eucalyptus notes,’ EC. ‘Lots of tannins, with liquorice and warm spice on the palate. A classic Aussie Shiraz with a fresh twist,’ CR.
£12.46, Corney & Barrow, 020 7265 2436

68 Penley Estate Hyland Shiraz 2010, Coonawarra

‘Brooding nose of dark fruit with eucalyptus and earthiness. Rich, ripe mouthfeel, some grip and fresh acidity, with good overall balance,’ CR.
£9.93, Moreno Wines, 020 8960 7161

68 Petaluma Shiraz 2008, Adelaide Hills

‘Intense nose, with plenty of fruit. Quite a mouthful – almost a meal! Prunes, gingerbread and oak,’ CR. ‘Ripe plum bursts out on the nose. Balanced, with good structure and equal fruit and savoury components,’ ML.
£18.39, Bibendum, 0845 263 6924

65 Lethbridge Menage Que Syrah Syrah 2006, Victoria

‘Ripe plum fruit on the nose. Light in structure on the palate, dark cherry and grape gum flavours,’ CC. ‘Lean body, right amount of spice, good length,’ GS.
£10.16, Berkmann Wine Cellars, 020 7670 0972

65 Logan Apple Tree Flat Shiraz 2009, NSW

‘Ripe red fruit on the nose, like strawberries and raspberries, with liquorice notes. The fruity side really develops in the mouth, with fresh,
fine tannins, and a bitter finish,’ EC.
£6.98, Patriarche Wine Agencies, 020 7381 4016

62 Greenstone Vineyard Heathcote Shiraz 2009, Victoria

‘Developed on the nose, with savoury, meaty notes complementing the fruit,’ CR. ‘A balanced wine, overall. Old-style Shiraz – not over the top, but not quite cool-climate either,’ ML.
£12.75, Liberty Wines, 020 7720 5350

Also tasted: SixFootSix Shiraz 2006, Austins Wines, Geelong; Innocent Bystander Syrah 2009, Yarra Valley


CHILE

73 Tabalí Payen 2007, Bío-Bío

‘Fresh, peppery nose. Smooth palate, with ripe tannins, plums, red currants, cranberries and liquorice,’ CR. ‘After some vegetal undertones, the palate’s well-balanced, with dark red fruits,’ ML.
£19.10, Boutinot, 0161 908 1300

CONCLUSIONS
  • When it came to identifying cool-climate Syrah, the majority of our panel used the Northern Rhône as a benchmark, or influence. Our tasters were looking for lower alcohol than is in more typical New World incarnations of the grape, as well as freshness, and red berry fruit.
  • While all the bottles here were submitted by agents as examples of cool-climate wines, and many originated from known cool-climate regions, tasters didn’t always agree, particularly when faced with some of the more robust, higher-alcohol examples. The increasing popularity of the category is no doubt causing some relaxation of the definition of the word ‘cool’.
  • Average prices of the wines in this tasting are evidence that cool-climate Syrahs do indeed command a premium.
  • On the subject of money, either our panellists had expensive taste, or wines improved considerably as they increased, considerably, in price. Within each country’s flight, scores generally increased as wines became more expensive.
  • As a rule, these were food-friendly wines, all but begging to be served with red meat. This, along with their readiness to drink, made these particularly restaurant-friendly.
  • The consensus was that this popular category is in development. And rightly so: showing plenty of promise, but not without its issues at the moment.

65 Errazuriz Shiraz Max Reserva, Aconcagua

‘Red fruit jam and grape gum aromas, as well as warm spice. Very full on the palate, with liquorice character in addition to more red fruit,’ CC. ‘Sweet fruit mixed with smoky oak,’ ML.
£9.16, Wine Studio, 0845 085 8855

65 TH Limarí Syrah by Undurraga, Limarí

‘From the aroma alone, this could be French. Steely and light,’ EC. ‘Blueberry notes on the nose, which continues to the palate, with the addition of some blackcurrant. Juicy acidity,’ CC.
£10.20, Moreno Wines, 020 8960 7161

60 Tamaya Winemaker’s Gran Reserva Syrah 2010, Limarí

‘Fresh-cut grass, violets and plum aromas – promising,’ CR. ‘No question about suitability for food pairing, and quite decently priced,’ CC.
£9.14, McKinley Vintners, 020 7928 7300

60 Maycas del Limarí Reserva Especial 2008, Limarí

‘Cigar box and cooked fruit notes on the nose, a bracing palate, with high acidity,’ CC. ‘Dark and rich, with good acidity. Not really cool-climate in style, though,’ ML.
£8.30, CYT, 01865 873713

Also tasted: Casa Marin, Miramar Vineyard Syrah 2009, San Antonio Valley; Loma Larga Syrah 2007,Casablanca; Tamaya Syrah Reserva 2009, Limarí; Chono Reserva Syrah 2009, Elqui Valley; Tabalí Reserva Syrah 2010, Limarí Valley


NEW ZEALAND

74 Bullnose Syrah 2010, Te Mata, Hawkes Bay

‘Rich, ripe and spicy. The oak is well integrated. This isn’t particularly cool climate, with alcohol levels that are quite high, but not out of balance. A very good wine, overall,’ EC.
£17.03, John E Fells & Sons, 01442 870900

73 Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2010, Hawkes Bay

‘Floral, with plenty of red fruit, and discreet spice on the nose. The palate’s very enjoyable: well-structured and balanced,’ CR. ‘Spicy, floral and a sour-cherry note,’ EC.
£15.16, Louis Latour, 020 7409 7276

73 Craggy Range Le Sol 2009, Hawkes Bay

‘An expressive nose, with concentrated red and black fruit, and a touch of earthiness. Fresh, with ripe tannins. Classic peppery notes too,’ EC. ‘Strong, thick and juicy, with soft tannins, and a great finish,’ AV.
£32.04, Louis Latour, 020 7409 7276

71 Crossroads Winery, Hawkes Bay Syrah 2010, Hawkes Bay

‘A classic soft Kiwi red wine, with vanilla notes and soft tannins. A great finish, too,’ AV. ‘Reminiscent of pepper steak – savoury and spicy – on the palate, with liquorice and some floral notes,’ CC.’
£8.18, Mentzendorff & Co, 020 7840 3600

68 Esk Valley Syrah 2009, Hawkes Bay

‘Black pepper and other spices on the nose. Quite convincing, with its mid-weight red fruits. Simple, but quite expensive,’ ML. ‘Dark, juicy cherry character, and a long, tannic finish,’ AV.
£12.90, Jascots, 020 8965 2000

67 Dry River Syrah 2006, Lovat Vineyard, Amaranth, Martinborough

‘Super-spicy on the nose, this is dark and brooding, like Zinfandel. Could do with time to smooth the tannins out,’ CR. ‘Fresh, with fleshy fruit and tertiary aromas like macerated cherries,’ EC.
£26.39, Justerini & Brooks, 020 7493 6174

64 Te Mata Estate Woodthorpe Syrah 2010, Hawkes Bay

‘Aromatic. This is a light style of wine – fresh, with some white pepper notes,’ EC. ‘Relatively light, fresh and appealing, black pepper on the nose,’ ML.
£9.65, John E Fells & Sons, 01442 870900

Also tasted: Coopers Creek Chalk Ridge Syrah 2009, Hawkes Bay


SOUTH AFRICA

71 Land’s End Syrah 2008, Elim

‘A well-made wine, but maybe it’s still a bit young – the oak isn’t quite integrated yet. Moderately cool-climate in nature,’ ML. ‘Fresh and clean, with a meaty character. It also shows high alcohol and acidity levels,’ CR.
£19.86, Alliance Wine, 01505 506060

63 Cederberg Shiraz 2008, Cederberg

‘Earthy and smoky, with a touch of sweetness – not too heavy, and a good finish’ AV. ‘Savoury, peppery notes, good fruit and acidity,’ ML.
£12.00, Bancroft Wines, 020 7232 5440

61 Circumstance Syrah 2009, Waterkloof, Stellenbosch

‘Ripe fruit, spicy notes, some refreshing herbal notes. Full-bodied, with fine tannins, and good value for money,’ EC. ‘More cool-climate than some of the wines that have gone before,’ ML.
£12, Boutinot, 0161 908 1300


USA

72 Qupé Bien Nacido Syrah 2008, Santa Maria Valley

‘Fresh, vibrant red fruit, bordering on Old World in style – just the ticket,’ CC. ‘Fresh red fruit and cherry-pit aromas, with slightly candied red fruit on the palate, with silky tannins,’ CR.
£15.30, Fields, Morris & Verdin, 020 7819 0360

65 Marmesa Vineyards Cerro Romauldo Syrah 2006, Central Coast

‘Liquorice rope and berry sweets, with that same berry sweetness carrying to the palate,’ CC. ‘Good concentration of spice and red fruit. On the palate, some good structure and mouthfeel,’ GS.
£8.77, Bibendum, 0845 263 6924

60 Badger Mountain Organic Syrah 2008, Washington State

‘A love-it-or-hate-it style. Some extreme perfume and light tropical fruit notes. If nothing else, it has its own unique character,’ CC. ‘Tomato leaves… interesting aromatics. It’s a really unusual wine,’ EC.
£5.95, World Wine Agencies, 0117 986 8435

Many thanks to the team at Bedford & Strand for hosting the tasting, and for
all of their help on the day.


BANG-FOR-BUCK

Some countries have a reputation for prices that start high and only get higher, while others seem to only contribute to a lake of cheap wine. But are these prices reflected in the glass? To determine this, we divided each country’s average score by the average price of the wines submitted here. 

PANEL COMMENTS

Clinton Cawood, Imbibe

‘While the overall standard here was high, there were many wines that weren’t anything like what you’d expect from a cool-climate Syrah. The wines that did achieve this style really stood out. The wines here definitely come at a price – justified in some instances, but not in others.’

Emilie Courtois, Terroirs

‘I was looking for Northern-Rhône type wines – floral, peppery and fresh. There were a lot here that would be well suited to restaurants. Also, a lot were drinkable now. The Australian flight was well done, and I enjoyed the typicity in the examples from New Zealand.’

Martin Lam, Ransome’s Dock

‘With cool-climate Syrah, I look for a correspondence with something European, distinguished from the New World’s more overt style. I think people are trying to latch onto the cool-climate credentials; today has shown they don’t all make the grade. As a trend, it’s a work in progress.’

Christophe Richelet, ex-Oxo Tower restaurant

‘When I think of cool-climate Syrah, I think of finesse and elegance. A winery might be in a cool-climate area, but that doesn’t mean they’re making elegant wines. There were wines here today though that showed a lighter hand, and some that had the complexity to be food wines, too.’

Gergely Barsi Szabo, consultant

‘There were a few wines here today that were good, but the question was whether they were cool-climate examples. I was looking for exciting spice structure, low alcohol, and good red fruit. New Zealand was the country that delivered the best, and managed to keep some character.’

Adamo Varbaro, Bedford & Strand

‘It was a pleasure to see the diversity, even within countries. These were mostly food wines – you could count on one hand the ones you could drink without food.’

Editorial feature from Imbibe Magazine – May/June 2012

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