Putting Kiwi Syrah 2016 to the test

Jacopo Mazzeo

Jacopo Mazzeo

12 August 2019

Last week Rebecca Gibb MW reported on New Zealand Syrah and how its enticing Rhône-like character is winning over more and more sommeliers. Jacopo Mazzeo called in a selection from the epically good 2016 vintage to find out what all the fuss is about


Tasting panel

Harry Crowther, Grape Times
Jacopo MazzeoImbibe
Mattia Scarpazza, Petersham Nurseries

Alpha Domus The Barnstormer
‘Mineral-driven, with a subtle peppery, green chilli element,’ HC. ‘Exuberant, savoury and smooth. A hint of wood helps with the texture. The fruit is ripe: plums and dried dark berries blend well with a funky, animal note,’ JM. ‘Good amount of ripe dark fruit. Full, balanced and satisfying spicy,’ MS.
£12.75, New Generation Wines 

Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels
‘My favourite of the lot, with the fruit ahead of the peppercorn element, which was present only to lift the palate. Gorgeous smokiness and Ribena notes. Subtle complexity on the palate, lovely structure and good finish. Needs food and possibly a bit of time to open up,’ HC. ‘This shows a different range of aromas, from violet and lilac to black pepper, warm spices and wild berries. Light, crunchy, with ripe tannins and very good acidity. One of my favourites. It can age well, but better to drink it now to enjoy its freshness,’ JM. ‘Well integrated, with lots of black fruit and spices. It’s spicy, plummy and perfumed. Rich with grippy tannins, black pepper and good finish,’ MS.
£22.77, Bibendum

Esk Valley
‘A light interpretation of Syrah, despite the use of oak. On the nose it’s plummy, showing a marked black-fruit profile with a bit of kirsch. Nice grip on palate and ripe tannins,’ HC. ‘Fruit led, with aromas of plums, cherries and a hint of liquorice. On the palate it’s refreshingly tart and full of fruit flavours,’ JM. ‘Good complexity overall. On the palate it’s harmonious, with sweet, ripe tannins,’ MS.
£10.18, Hatch Mansfield

Man o' War Dreadnought
‘This wine has lots of grip, a nice heat and good focus with plenty of dark fruit flavours,’ HC. ‘Oak-driven nose and palate, with flavours of ground coffee, vanilla and smoke. The palate is rich, with a little more fruit, mostly dark plum and blackberries. Smooth, ’ JM. ‘A well-textured wine, thanks to its silky tannins and good vibrancy on the palate. I particularly like that freshness on the nose,’ MS.
£25.96, Enotria&Coe

Te Whare Ra
‘Bold, with lots of complexity. It displays that black pepper character that you would expect but also a more herbaceous note, plus some coffee and clove. Lovely texture, great acidity, very well balanced,’ HC. ‘Very rich, ripe, concentrated. Ground coffee, cocoa beans, black pepper on the nose. Dark fruit on mid-palate and liquorice on the finish,’ JM. ‘The ripest and most substantial of the lot. Beautiful, chocolatey, soft palate. There’s also some good fruit, such as raspberry, plum, blackcurrant, cherry, and a peppery touch,’ MS.
£24.15, Les Caves de Pyrene

Tinpot Hut Hawke's Bay
‘Gastronomic wine. Intense, balanced, with Ribena and cassis flavours, crisp mouthfeel and sour cherry on the finish,’ HC. ‘There’s good varietal character here, but also hints of coffee, liquorice, undergrowth, sandalwood, dark berries and an almost botanical note. Flavours of violet, crushed nuts, forest floor and hints of cloves, cucumber and juniper on the palate,’ JM. ‘An opulent, highly complex bottle. The fruit is there, together with a balsamic note of eucalyptus. On the palate it’s rich, showing firm tannins, good acidity and great structure,’ MS.
£13.20, Liberty Wines

Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels
‘I love its wet stone character. It has intense black pepper notes ahead of black cherry while showing ripe black fruit, spices and fl owers,’ HC. ‘The oak is there but it’s well integrated, which lends the wine a remarkable freshness. Would sit well on a list on its own if you only have one from New Zealand,’ JM. ‘Nice peppercorn aromas, fresh, seductive. The oak is well integrated,’ MS.
£16.02, Liberty Wines

Villa Maria
‘It ticks all the boxes of what you want from a Hawke’s Bay Syrah. Freshness, peppery character, light body, balance and a spicy finish,’ HC. ‘Deep and juicy with smooth tannins. Hints of black pepper, plum, crushed blueberries and blackberries, with a Pinot Noir-ish black cherry element on the palate,’ JM. ‘A well-rounded, easy to understand Syrah. Firm on the palate, showing black cherry and spices,’ MS.
£10.24, Hatch Mansfield

Panel comments

Harry Crowther, Grape Times
Kiwi Syrah is not necessarily my style of Syrah, because sometimes the ground black-pepper tone can be a bit overwhelming. That said, I found throughout the whole flight a great sense of terroir and typicity. Black pepper is unmissable but the crisp, lifted acidity really made these wines shine. Hawke’s Bay is very terroir-specific so it’s a must-have for relatively large wine lists where the sommelier is eager to go beyond New Zealand Pinot Noir.

Jacopo Mazzeo, Imbibe
One grape and a huge diversity of styles, with top quality as the common denominator: That’s what this flight says to me. Personally, I love the fresh, spicy tone that characterises New Zealand Syrah, especially when it supports delicate floral and wild berry notes. The quality of the 2016 vintage is also evident, as most of the wines showed ripe tannins, good acidity, length and brilliant aromatic complexity.

Mattia Scarpazza, Petersham Nurseries
The more premium labels displayed great personality. In a restaurant setting, I see them working really well in a tasting flight, maybe compared to Old World interpretations. For many wine lists New Zealand Syrah is still a niche product, but most sommeliers would acknowledge it’s generally well made. I think Kiwi Syrah can easily bring a different personality to the wine list.

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