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Super Syrah/Shiraz

An article about Shiraz, Exel? That big, blockblusting, clumsy, bullyboy bruiser of a red… the vindaloo of wine…?

Ah, you as well. We understand your point; we do hear that a lot. But not all Shiraz is like that. And Syrah very rarely is.

Syrah? Shiraz? Same thing, surely?

Yes and no. Yes, the same grape, but no, a very different style… it’s exactly the same story with Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio. One is revered and regarded as elegant and classy; the other as … well, less so, and sometimes even a little … er … vernacular. Simply, the same grape develops in a different way because of different environmental factors – terroir, if you will – and is then handled differently in the winery in line with those differences. 

So, "same-same, but different"? Do go on.

With pleasure. In the very simplest of terms, you could start with Syrah = French, Shiraz = Australian. But it’s more complex than that.

Syrah’s great origin is the northern Rhone valley – the home of the appellations of Hermitage, Cornas, Côte-Rotie, St-Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage. We might think of that as a pretty warm spot, but (t)here Syrah is right on its margin of being able to ripen.  Like the other great regions of France (most notably Bordeaux and Burgundy), it is exactly that slow, steady, just-about-making-it-to ripeness that makes for wines of such great quality … in the good years. Ever present, however, is the risk of a cool or wet year and with it ‘green’, grippy, under-ripe wines. 

Fascinating. And the impact on the wines is … what?

Those great Rhone appellations - and other areas where Syrah just-about ripens (more below) - produce powerful-but-elegant reds famous for their bewitching perfume; a “heavenly, floral fragrance”, Oz Clarke calls it. That perfume? Smoke, minerality, herbiness and, in particular, pepper – overlying a potent-but-not-cloying blackberry/brambly fruitiness. The pepper thing is one of those weird flavour sensations about which some folk get most excited: it’s like the whole petrol/kerosene thing with Riesling. Indeed, there’s a great article on pepper in wine (especially in Syrah) in the current (February) edition of Decanter (www.decanter.com). Note also that alcohol levels in these wines are typically only 11.5 to 13.5% abv, except in the headiest of years.

So, that’s Syrah. And Shiraz?

Yes, yes. Now your Shiraz is altogether different: we are into very different aromas and flavours; ones that reflect much greater warmth and ripeness, with alcohol levels nearly always above 13.5% (and as high as 16% in extreme cases). Here the fruit is blacker – even straying into cassis/blackcurrant (more normally the preserve of Cabernet Sauvignon) – and altogether sweeter: ‘chocolate’ and ‘liquorice’ are two of the tasting keywords with Shiraz.  As it ages, good Shiraz develops some proper age flavours – leather and treacle are classic tones.

Clumsy stuff, yes?

We’d leave you to judge, but we’d see that as a harsh verdict. Yes, there’s occasional clumsiness where winemakers get lazy and just allow over-ripeness and grape sugar levels to climb too high. Wines can become bloated and ‘flabby’, and, although fermented to dryness, lack any sort of acidity to balance out the palate and/or provide much refreshment. And that balance is lacking in many budget-level Shirazes; Shiraz is a wonderfully easy grape to grow, vinify and transform into a super-fruity wine … which explains its huge rise to prominence on supermarket shelves in the last 25 years.

We certainly note that plenty of Syrah fans are not fans of Shiraz. And vice versa. For the former, there’s a lack of refinedness and elegance: they see a carthorse lining up for The Derby. For the latter, there’s often just not enough ‘ooomph’’ or 'octane” for them in a Syrah.

We don’t really see the clumsiness thing. After all, vintage Port is 20% abv (+) and carries altogether more punch than the biggest of even Barossa Shirazes… yet very few folk knock it for lack of elegance. It’s just a style thing: Shiraz is typically a ‘big’ wine. Drink it cautiously and even sparingly, we might advise.

So, two wines for the price of one grape, then?

Yes, exactly. Perhaps more so than for any other variety. And its all down to the sensitivity of the grape itself. It may produce ‘big’ wines, but this is one sensitive variety.

We often think first of other grapes being highly sensitive to conditions and the champions of reflecting their terroir: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, certainly. But Syrah/Shiraz would have to be on that list. As we mentioned, the Northern Rhone is only just warm enough to ripen Syrah to a great wine; vineyards here have to be carefully sited to maximise their exposure to heat/sun and dodge the chilly Mistral. Yet, travel just 60 km further south into the Southern Rhone – home of Vacqueyras, Gigondas, Châteauneuf and Côtes du Rhone – and it’s nearly always too hot to get the best from Syrah, losing, as it does, acidity, florality and aroma. Here – and the same is true in the crus of Languedoc - Syrah vineyards need a reduced aspect to the sun, or, more normally, a site at higher altitude, to prevent that flabbiness. This explains some part of the blending of Syrah in these regions, where components lost to heat in the Syrah can be made good by the use of other varieties.

And the terroir point is interesting; Oz Clarke identifies five different terroirs in Australia’s McLaren Vale, revolving mainly around the great variety of soil types there. These terroirs produce greatly varying wines, from the peppery and spicy to the fleshy and the bold (we highly recommend Oz’s excellent “Grapes and Wines”).

You mentioned blending… 

We did. Although it’s a variety that (quite clearly) makes amazing wines on its own, there’s more blending of Shiraz out there than you may think. Almost everything red from the Southern Rhone has some Shiraz in it, here adding some bite and darker fruit to the red-fruitness of Grenache, but often boosted by tannin and acidity from Mourvedre. This same classic ‘GSM’ trio is increasingly common in both Australia and California (home of the ‘Rhone Ranger’ movement). In many Châteauneufs, Syrah plays a very minor role in a blend that can contain up to 13 varieties! In Languedoc, Cinsault and Carignan are common, mainly for economy/bulking, but also to add aroma, fruit, colour and tannins.

In Australia, Shiraz is classically blended with Cab Sauv: the latter provides the structure, tannin and acidity while the Shiraz is employed to bring fruit to the mid-palate, an area where Cab Sauv can typically struggle.

Perhaps the oddest blend is the most famous of them all: with white Viognier, as still practiced in some of the finest Cote(s)-Roties, most notably those of Guigal. A few % of Viognier, co-fermented with the Shiraz, serendipitously boosts the perfume and silkiness of the wine, and, rather weirdly, even deepens the colour.

And that’s before we mention fizzy Shiraz.

Fizzy Shiraz?

Yup. And it demands respect. It’s a serious glass of wine, the best made via method traditionelle as for Champagne. Just because it’s a fizzy oddity doesn’t make it frivolous. There’s weight, body and tannin here. We were surprised, too.

Can we go back to the naming thing? So, Syrah in France, Shiraz in Australia?

As an approximation, yes. But, really, the name goes with the style nowadays, not the geography. Where the leaner, peppery, perfumey style is made – almost regardless now of location – it’s termed Syrah. The fuller, darker, chocolately style… Shiraz. Wines made in the latter style in Languedoc are appearing under the Shiraz banner; leaner wines made at altitude in Australia are emerging as Syrahs. From South Africa, California and Chile, one will see both monikers. New Zealand mainly trades as Syrah: being the cooler climate that it is (see below), the leaner style predominates here.

I suspect you’re now going to reel off an expose of your Syrahs and Shirazes from across the world to tempt me to buy some, yes?

Oooh, you cynic. But yes, we are.

We’ve drawn together those that have most wowed any or all of a) us, b) our shop customers, c) our internet clients d) those who have attended our tastings or e) Decanter in the last year. All are 100% Syrah/Shiraz (bar perhaps the odd few % of Viognier as above). All appear at the bottom of this page. Here goes…

From the Northern Rhone, Francois et Fils’ Côte-Rotie wowed Decanter (95 points for the 2015 vintage, Outstanding, topping the Feb 18 review: we are now onto the 2016) at a price of just £41 for this esteemed appellation and great vintage (2015 in the Northern Rhone scores 97 on Wine Enthusiast (WE)’s new vintage chart). We advise snapping this up before it all goes – Côte-Rotie opportunities like this come around very seldom. Jaboulet produce wonderful specimens from all of the Rhone appellations – a varying price points, the Domaine de Thalabert Crozes-Hermitage 2014, the Grand Pompée St-Joseph 2016 (another tremendous vintage, 95 points with WE) and Les Jalets Crozes-Hermitage 2016 are a tremendous trio indeed.

Sticking to the Syrah style, we venture to New Zealand. The South Island is simply too cold for Syrah, but the North Island has two noted zones. Warm Waikehe Island (offshore of Auckland) is home to producers Man O’War, and their Dreadnought treads the divide between Syrah and Shiraz in glorious fashion. Hawke’s Bay, near Napier, is the new fortress of NZ Syrah, with a very Rhone-like climate regime. It was originally thought warm enough for Cab Sauv, but increasingly emerges as really only warm enough for Syrah, which thrives here. The famed Gimblett Gravels play host to some of the very best examples, and few are better than those of either Trinity Hill or Craggy Range: brilliant winemakers both, offering a range of price points.

The USA offers great examples of Syrah. From California, Truchard’s is a classic New World Syrah from cool Carneros that really impressed us at a recent producer tasting. In Washington State, the ebullient Charles Smith’s Boom Boom Syrah offers fantastic value (and a wacky label), while Château Ste Michelle produce two great examples: their ‘everyday’ Syrah, which represents awesome value at just £14, and their luxury Pundit (produced under their Tenet label) – again, an incredible £25 for such a boutique wine.

When we reach Australia, we’re deep into the Shiraz style and it’s immensely hard to pick our favourites. For sheer depth, with age already built in (prime drinking window now), Two Hands’ Coach House Block 2006 is hard to beat at the price, and enormously popular with customers who have taken the plunge. Shaw & Smith’s 2015 also landed a recent Outstanding 95 points from Decanter and is is real cracker.

We adore the work of Samantha O’Keefe at South Africa’s Lismore, and their Syrah 2016 is no exception. It manages to combine the power of a New World Shiraz with the elegance of an Old World Syrah, while the ever-excellent Thelema do a wonderful job with their 2014 at just ~£15 – this wine really ought to be priced more highly!

Last but not least, we visit Chile and two brilliant wines from two northern valleys where Syrah has become the trump card. Falernia’s Reserva Syrah 2012 from the Elquí valley has some great age development now, and is a great ‘pepper’ example, while the Caballo Loco Grand Cru 2014 from Limari is as opulent style of Syrah as you could hope to find and is now drinking beautifully.

And for the sparkling... look no further than the Peter Lehmann Black Queen...

Whatever you choose, happy drinking.

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Francois & Fils Cote-Rotie 2016 (1x75cl)

The 2015 vintage was awarded 95 points and an Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their February 2018 edition review of Northern Rhone 2015 (see blue link below).

Francois & Fils Cote-Rotie 2015 - February 2018 Decanter review

The François family have been traditional farmers for four generations - their main activity is making farmhouse cheeses from the milk from their twenty-five cows, which they sell at local markets across the Rhône Valley. They began bottling their own Côte-Rôtie in 1991, expanding it further when their son Yoann joined the business in 2004. Today, the François family owns four hectares in Côte-Rôtie. Grapes from the young vines are sold to 'négociants' or are used for their earlier drinking IGP Syrah. Only the best and most expressive grapes are used to make their Côte-Rôtie.

The François family owns approximately four hectares of vines. Its Côte-Rôtie is made using grapes from three South facing parcels: 'Les Rochains', 'Rozier' and 'Le Bourrier' which account for about 1.5 hectares. All three vineyards are located in the 'Côte Brune' in the Northern Rhône. The vineyards are very steep, as they usually are in this area, and grapes can only be harvested by hand. The soil, mainly composed of mica-schist, is rich in minerals and has proven a good base for the 30-year-old vines of Syrah and Viognier. The vines are planted at a density of 8,000 to 9,000 per hectare and yields are 35 to 40 hectolitres per hectare.

Parcels were vinified separately and then blended to make a wine with great balance and layers of complexity. Both batches were aged for 18 months in 30% new oak barrels (228 litre and 400 litre), before the wine was blended just prior to bottling. In the Côte-Rôtie tradition, it was made with 5% Viognier and leaving around 30% of the stems on the Syrah.

This wine is made using Syrah 95%, Viognier 5%.

Superbly concentrated with aromas of blackcurrants, brambles and blackberries and a delicious jammy character. It is well structured with richness and good density. Spices linger on the long finish.

£40.90

Paul Jaboulet Aine Crozes Hermitage Domaine De Thalabert Rouge 2014 (1x75cl)

The 2013 vintage was awarded 94 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) (see blue link below).

Paul Jaboulet Aine Crozes Hermitage Domaine De Thalabert 2013 - Decanter review

Since the early 19th Century, Paul Jaboulet Ainé has been synonymous with quality wine in the Rhône Valley. Jaboulet’s Hermitages - white and red - and most of their upper wines - are the stuff of legend. The famous Rhone winery was bought by the Frey family in 2006. The Freys, owners of Chateau la Lagune in Bordeaux, saw the potential of the vineyards. They brought renewed energy to this corner of France and to one of its greatest names.

The Domaine de Thalabert Crozes-Hermitage, as the Oxford Companion to Wine describes it, remains the "appellation's principal standard bearer". It has long been seen as having the quality of nearby Hermitage, particularly in good vintages, at only a small fraction of the price.

See this link for an excellent guided tasting of the 2012 vintage by one of the world's leading sommeliers.

The Crozes-Hermitage vineyard is the largest of all the northern Rhône Valley appellations. It extends over 11 communes situated in the Drôme, on the left bank of the Rhône. Domaine de Thalabert has belonged to the Maison Paul Jaboulet Aîné since 1834. It is situated on the plain, and is the oldest in the appellation.

This estate of around 40 ha lies on a pebbly plain that is glacial in origin. The small, round pebbles store heat during the day and release it at night, providing optimum ripening of the Syrah grapes  Average vine age is an impressive 40 to 60 years.

100% Syrah. The grapes from the Thalabert estate are carefully sorted then meticulously vinified using traditional methods. Traditionally aged in wood for 12 months in Jaboulet's ancient VINEUM cellar.

Deep ruby and bright. Intense, complex and aromatic with a blend of red berries and animal notes. Powerful and fine; noble tannins; full, well-balanced finish.

£30.75

Paul Jaboulet Aine Saint Joseph Le Grand Pompee 2016 (1x 75cl)

The winery was originally founded in 1834 by Antoine Jaboulet in the Northern Rhone Valley. This famous Rhone winery was bought by the Frey family in 2006. The Freys, owners of Chateau la Lagune in Bordeaux, saw the potential of the vineyards. They brought renewed energy to this corner of France. Since the takeover, Caroline Frey has successfully transformed the entire range, putting more emphasis on greater fruit expression and dramatically reducing the amount of new oak. The only way is up for this transformed domaine.

The name Le Grand Pompée comes from Victor Hugo’s novel Legende des Siecles. In the 9th century, the Grande Pompée – the faithful companion to Charlemagne – fought against the Moors on the right bank of the Rhône. A famous line from the book reads: “And wine, that wine beloved of the Grand Pompée.

100% Syrah. The grapes for this wine are de-stemmed, crushed and fermented at controlled temperatures. The wine is aged for 12 months in oak vats before release.

The Le Grand Pompée is deep ruby red in colour with violet hues. It has a rich and concentrated nose of very ripe red fruits, sweet spices and finishes with some liquorice notes. It is a harmonious wine with rounded tannins.

£22.55

Paul Jaboulet Aine Crozes Hermitage Rouge Les Jalets 2016 (1x 75cl)

Since the early 19th Century, Paul Jaboulet Ainé has been synonymous with quality wine in the Rhône Valley. Jaboulet’s Hermitages - white and red - and most of their upper wines - are the stuff of legend. The famous Rhone winery was bought by the Frey family in 2006. The Freys, owners of Chateau la Lagune in Bordeaux, saw the potential of the vineyards. They brought renewed energy to this corner of France and to one of its greatest names.

The name Les Jalets comes from the soil nature of the vineyards, located in the plain of Les Chassis, stemming from the word jalets,  is the Old French word for the pebbles left by alpine glaciers, as famously found at Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Average vine age is around 25 years. 

100% Syrah. Grapes were destemmed, crushed and subject to a thermo-regulated alcoholic fermentation then vattied over 3 weeks. Ageing/elevage  was in old French oak vats for 12 months.

Bright ruby red in colour with a violet hue. Round and concentrated. This fruit-driven red Crozes Hermitage is a classic. It shows the real typicity of the area (red berries, liquorice, spices, peppers). On the nose, it is intense but approachable, with perfumes of red berries and a touch of spice. On the palate, it is smooth and rich, with more liquorice on the finish.

£20.40

Man O War Dreadnought Syrah 2015 (1x75cl)

The Man O’ War story begins with a special piece of land which has a rich history. Located at the eastern end of Waiheke Island, Man O’ War is a stunning array of coastal hillsides with high cliffs and pristine beaches forming a ruggedly beautiful coastline. It was along this coastline that Captain James Cook came to anchor during his first voyage around the islands of New Zealand in 1769. Upon sighting the ancient stands of magnificent kauri trees ashore, Cook noted in his journals that they would make ideal masts for the Man O' War battleships of the Royal Navy. Thus, the name Man O’ War was bestowed upon this unique land. With a desire to protect this treasured land’s natural beauty and sense of history for future generations, the owners purchased the four contiguous farms that now form the 4,500 acres of Man O’ War in the early 1980s. 

Typical aromas for Dreadnought Syrah include a smoky peat character that provides a savoury edge to the overt blueberry and pepper aromas, that mix of savoury and sweet that is reminiscent of the Northern Rhone is style. This wine has excellent fruit accessibility with a richly textured palate restrained with a streak of acidity and a mineral edge derived from a small portion of stem inclusion all supported by a classic Dreadnought tannin structure creating a complex and harmonious wine with plenty of ageing potential.

To see a comprehensive information sheet for this wine from the winemakers at Man O' War, please click on the blue link below.

Man O' War Dreadnought Syrah 2015 - fiche technique

£29.70

Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2016 (1x75cl)

Awarded 95 points and Gold status at the 2019 IWC (International Wine Challenge) in May 2019 (see blue link below for review and their tasting note).

Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2016 - IWC 2019 award and review

Since its inception in 1993, partners John Hancock, who has been making wine in New Zealand for over 35 years, and Robert and Robyn Wilson, owners of The Bleeding Heart and The Don in London, have made Trinity Hill a byword for quality and consistency. Winemaker Warren Gibson has been with Trinity Hill since 1997. He is also in charge of the 80 hectares of vineyard owned by Trinity Hill, of which 47 are in the Gimblett Gravels. The Gimblett Gravels, planted on the former bed of the Ngaruroro River, is now a highly sought after sub-region renowned for the quality of its wines. The Trinity Hill wines have an elegance, balance, drinkability and precision of flavour. This estate was one of the first to plant grapes on the Gimblett Gravels in 1993.

The Gimblett Gravels winegrowing area is a small sub-region in the Hawkes Bay of New Zealand defined by a very unique stony soil type. This wine is made from estate grown grapes from the Tin Shed and Gimblett Stones vineyards.

A very late beginning to the season was followed by a very warm summer and early autumn period. The warm days were also combined with warm night-time temperatures and high humidity. It was definitely a season to be close and vigilant with the vines.

Grapes were hand harvested from a range of individual sites and clones and then fermented separately before blending. A range of maceration periods allowed for increased complexity. 20% whole bunches were included in the fermentations which contribute to freshness, aromatics and structure. The wine was aged for 14 months in a mixture of new and old 228 litre French oak barriques and larger 5,000 litre oak casks. This barrel ageing regime includes stirring of the lees and very minimal racking.

This Syrah is deep and vibrant crimson in colour, with wild raspberry, blueberry, cracked pepper and hints of vanilla bean on the nose. Powerful, ripe tannins give the wine great structure. Oak plays a supporting role to the wine's pure fruit expression. This purity combined with refreshing natural acidity mean there is excellent potential for ageing. Development of mineral, gamey characters will result from bottle-age.

This wine is suitable for vegans and vegetarians.

£20.20

Trinity Hill Hawkes Bay Syrah 2016 (1x75cl)

Since its inception in 1993, partners John Hancock, who has been making wine in New Zealand for over 35 years, and Robert and Robyn Wilson, owners of The Bleeding Heart and The Don in London, have made Trinity Hill a byword for quality and consistency. Winemaker Warren Gibson has been with Trinity Hill since 1997. He is also in charge of the 80 hectares of vineyard owned by Trinity Hill, 47 of which are in the Gimblett Gravels and knows the Hawkes Bay and Gimblett Gravels exceptionally well. The wines reflect this, as they characterise the best of what Hawkes Bay can produce. They have an elegance, balance, drinkability and precision of flavour that makes them a joy to sell.

The Syrah grapes were taken from a range of vineyards, including the company owned properties in the Gimblett Gravels region and contracted fruit from the Bridge Pa Triangle. The soils are free draining with low fertility and the vines benefit from prevailing hot, dry westerly winds.

The 2015/2016 vintage in Hawkes Bay provided various challenges for winegrowers. The winter was relatively mild but was followed by a cool, moist spring. This threatened many thinner-skinned varieties with some yields being affected by rot. Affected fruit was removed and crops were thinned, which gave healthy fruit a good chance. A hot, dry summer also helped to preserve fruit health and provided optimal conditions for fruit ripening. At harvest, grapes had developed robust flavour profiles and had low sugar levels meaning resulting wines were aromatic with moderate alcohol levels.

Each individual vineyard parcel was harvested separately with the majority of batches then de-stemmed prior to fermentation. Approximately 15% of the parcels were fermented as whole bunches. Subsequently, gentle daily pumping over of the skins during fermentation helped extract a soft, complex structure. The skin maceration was extended for up to three weeks following fermentation to further integrate and soften the tannins. Following seven months of ageing in a combination of small French oak and stainless steel tanks, the individual blocks were blended to create the ideal marriage of components.

The blackberry, spice and liqorice nuances combine to produce a fruit dominant but complex wine. A small inclusion of the white variety Viognier gives the wine beautiful perfume and allows the wine more accessibility while young.

This wine is of the lighter style and can happily be enjoyed by the glass or alternatively with a wide range of food, particularly red meat dishes, game or pasta.

£15.05

Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2016 (1x 75cl)

Awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their February 2019 article "Rotundone: spice it up" about peppery flavours in wine; (see blue link below).

Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Vineyard Syrah 2016 - February 2019 Decanter review

Craggy Range produces a collection of iconic wines from multiple regions in New Zealand. Owner Terry Peabody and his family pursued the single vineyard approach to winemaking, planting on green fields and bare land ensuring a focus on quality from the very beginning. New Zealand, with its diversity of soils types offered the perfect location to plant the vines. From the stony, warm soils of the Gimblett Gravels in Hawke's Bay to the volcanic, clay soils of Te Muna Road in Martinborough these exceptional vineyards produce wines with amazing aromatics, purity and complexity.

The vines originate from a Heritage clone of Syrah brought to New Zealand around 150 years ago. Gimblett Gravels is a designation encompassing a centuries old dried river bed in Hawke’s Bay that is believed to be the first in the New World where the ultimate boundary is defined by a distinct soil type. The vines are planted in the stoniest parts of the vineyard to a heritage clone of Syrah brought to New Zealand in the 1840s. Matt Stafford, Chief Winemaker says of this wine: "We are excited about the potential for cool climate Syrah in New Zealand, especially grown on the Gimblett Gravels of Hawke's Bay."

The grapes for this wine are harvested buy hand and are destalked prior to fermentation. Open top stainless steel tanks are used in the fermentation of Craggy Range's Gimblett Gravels Syrah and the yeast is innoculated into the must to start the process. After this the wine is left to mature in French oak barriques (20% are new) for 16 months.

This wine is of the deepest red colour with a vibrant purple hue. There are beautiful aromatics of violet, dark rose, freshly cracked pepper and boysenberry. Wonderful fruit purity on the palate is perfectly balanced with precise acidity and fine, dusty tannins for a long, elegant finish. This wine goes particularly well with lamb and venison dishes.

To see Craggy Range's information sheet for this wine please click on the blue link below.

Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2016 - fiche technique

£22.10

Craggy Range Le Sol Syrah 2015 (1x75cl)

The 2013 vintage was awarded 98 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com(see blue link below).

Craggy Range Le Sol Syrah 2013 - Dec 2017 Decanter review

Craggy Range produces a collection of iconic wines from multiple regions in New Zealand. Owner Terry Peabody and his family pursued the single vineyard approach to winemaking, planting on green fields and bare land ensuring a focus on quality from the very beginning. New Zealand, with its diversity of soils types offered the perfect location to plant the vines. From the stony, warm soils of the Gimblett Gravels in Hawke's Bay to the volcanic, clay soils of Te Muna Road in Martinborough these exceptional vineyards produce wines with amazing aromatics, purity and complexity.

Le Sol is born of the renowned Gimblett Gravels viticultural appellation with its gravelly soils attracting the sun in summer and insulating the vines in winter. The vines are planted in the stoniest parts of the vineyard to a heritage clone of Syrah brought to New Zealand in the 1840s.

The grapes for this wine were hand harvested and completely destemmed before fermentation was allowed to start. They used a combination of open top French oak cuves and open top stainless steel tanks for the fermentation process with yeast being added to the must. The wine was then allowed to mature in French oak barriques (30% new) for 17 months.

Le Sol has a colour of the deepest red with a vibrant purple hue. This is an expressive cool climate Syrah with lifted notes of violets, fresh boysenberries, sandalwood and a hint of dried, peppered meat. The palate has a dense core of dark fruits beautifully integrated by acidity and fine, dusty tannins giving the wine a long, elegant feel towards the dry finish.

To see Craggy Range's information sheet for this wine please click on the blue link below.

Craggy Range Le Sol Syrah 2015 - fiche technique

£52.60

Charles Smith Boom Boom Syrah 2017 (1x75cl)

See blue link below for the excellent fiche technique/technical note from the winemakers at Charles Smith.

Charles Smith Boom Boom Syrah 2017 - fiche technique

In the maker's words: Boom Boom! exploded on the wine industry in 2007, and this spicy Syrah has been one of Washington State’s signature wines ever since. It’s a tribute to Charles’ first love lost—a woman nicknamed “Boom Boom” O’Brien—and it’s one of the biggest and boldest Syrahs of all time. It’s not surprising that wine drinkers everywhere have fallen in love with it.

More conventionally expressed: This wine is made by Charles Smith, a self–taught winemaker who brings his rock and roll spirit to the vineyards of Walla Walla, Washington. As a romantic young man, Charles Smith moved across the world to Denmark to follow his love for his girlfriend at the time. In Scandinavia, he became a recognized manager for rock bands such as The Raveonettes. While travelling on the road with these bands, he developed his passion for wine. In 1999, he moved back to Washington, opened a wine store and became friendly with a French winemaker, later convincing him to move to Walla Walla to make wine together.

Aromas of fresh picked herbs and wet earth. Rich black cherry and tobacco are followed by hints of lavender on the finish. An explosive dark cherry bomb! We'd agree with other tasting notes we've seen that read, "blackberry, boysenberry, dry-hung meat, white pepper, savoury herbs". The "crushed granite" bit... not so much.

£17.65

Columbia Valley Syrah, Chateau Ste Michelle 2016 (1x 75cl)

Please click on this link to see a most informative video about this wine which has been made by Ray McKee, red winemaker at Chateau Ste Michelle.

"Great wine can only come from Italy or California" was the misconception Chateau Ste Michelle’s founding fathers set out to prove wrong when they first broke ground and pioneered the Washington wine region, shortly after the repeal of Prohibition in the USA. They have certainly opened our eyes to some of the wonderful wines that Washington State has to offer.  Chateau Ste. Michelle is one of the few premium wineries in the world with two state-of-the-art wineries, one for red and one for white. The whites are made at the Chateau in Woodinville, WA, while the reds are made at their Canoe Ridge Estate winery in Eastern Washington.

To read Chateau Ste Michelle's excellent tasting note and information on this wine please click on the blue link below.

Chateau Ste Michelle Columbia Valley Syrah 2016 - fiche technique

£14.70

Tenet Wines The Pundit Syrah 2016 (1x75cl)

Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Head Winemaker Bob Bertheau and his Washington team, along with Rhône valley collaborators, winemaker Michel Gassier and enology consultant Philippe Cambie, have combined their experience to produce two wines: Tenet GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre) and The Pundit Syrah. Philippe and Michel provide expertise and use local techniques honed through centuries of experience with Rhône grapes in their birthplace, while the Chateau Ste. Michelle team provides expert knowledge of Washington fruit and the best in modern winemaking techniques. The combination of the two approaches produces wines that are balanced and vibrant and have a true sense of place. The goal is to break the old paradigms and have people look at Syrah and other Rhône varieties in a new light, leaving old prejudices behind. They share the strong belief (or “tenet”) that Syrah and its Rhône brethren can thrive in the Columbia Valley.

This wine is a blend of 90% Syrah, 4% Grenache, 4% Mourvèdre and 2% Viognier (which is co-fermented with the Syrah).

To see an excellent information sheet and tasting note that has been produced by the team at Tenet Wines, please click on the blue link below.

Tenet Wines The Pundit Syrah 2016 - fiche technique

£25.20

Two Hands Coach House Block Shiraz 2006 (1x 75cl)

Quality without compromise is central to the Two Hands philosophy, driving all the decisions from fruit and oak selection to packaging and promotion. "We strive to differentiate ourselves; to be unique, fun and innovative in our business approach while maintaining a high degree of professionalism and integrity."

The Coach House Block Shiraz comes from an estate grown single vineyard near the tiny hamlet of Greenock in the Barossa Valley. It is generous and supple whilst soft and approachable upon release. An ultra-rich, heady, mouth-filling Shiraz that combines balanced acidity and mid-palate texture.

See blue link below for the fiche technique/technical note from the winemakers themselves.

Two Hands Coach House Block Shiraz 2006 - fiche technique

Simply an outstanding wine. Once decanted, you can smell this beast from three feet away. Black fruits highlight the full bodied palate with bits of spice, tobacco and licorice. The finish goes on through desert and part of the journey home.

£32.00

Shaw + Smith Shiraz 2016 (1x75cl)

The 2015 vintage was awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their November 2018 article on Australia's Adelaide Hills (see blue link below).

Shaw + Smith Shiraz 2015 - Nov 2018 Decanter review

Established in 1989 by Martin Shaw and Michael Hill Smith MW, Shaw + Smith's aim is to make contemporary, high quality wines that stand among the best of their type in Australia. The wines are made exclusively from fruit grown in the Adelaide Hills, one of Australia's coolest and most exciting regions. Shaw + Smith specialise in grape varieties suited to cooler climates, such as Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, and also make fantastic wines from Shiraz and Pinot Noir.

The fruit was sourced from vineyards in the warmer, drier parts of the Adelaide Hills, notably Macclesfield and from low yielding vineyards in Balhannah, near the Shaw and Smith winery. Soils here are shallow red/brown loam over schist and clay. The vines are planted at a density of 2,700 - 5,500 vines per hectare and are hand pruned with vertical shoot positioned canopies. Low yields of two kilos per vine were achieved by aggressive pruning and pre-harvest bunch thinning.

September’s start to the growing season was warmer than average, leading to good canopy and fruit development. January rainfall provided relief from earlier high temperatures and was timely to aid fruit development through the ripening period, resulting in healthy fruit being harvested two weeks earlier than average.

The grapes were hand picked and fermented as a combination of whole berries and whole bunches in open fermenters, with gentle plunging and minimal working. The wine was aged in French oak for fourteen months, of which one third was new.

100% Shiraz.

Fresh and vibrant on the nose, with red fruit aromas and some dried herb notes. The palate shows bright cherry, raspberry, and mulberry, a hint of dark chocolate and plenty of structure, with grippy tannins that build through to the finish.

£24.85

Lismore Estate Cape South Coast Syrah 2016 (1x75cl)

Samantha O'Keefe left California with dreams of starting a family and finding paradise. Tucked into the foothills of a dramatic mountain range at the bottom of Africa, Lismore Estate Vineyards was born alongside her nascent family. A passionate vision, combined with vines planted at 300 metres, which are chilled by winter snow and nourished by the African summer sun, produces classic, cool climate wines which are rich, complex and lovingly hand crafted.

While 2016 presented the third year of drought for most regions of South Africa, the Overberg received sufficient rainfall to produce a harvest with average yields and an above average quality. The Greyton region saw a long ripening season with very little stress in the vineyards, resulting in excellent quality fruit.

The vineyards are planted on slopes at the base of the Riviersonderend Mountain Range, where the Syrah is planted in heavy schist soils with no irrigation. The combination of elevation and climate make for an extended ripening period which is approximately three to four weeks later than the more traditional wine growing areas in the Western Cape. Extreme diurnal temperature shifts in these vineyards promote complexity, depth and concentration and presents a Syrah that has a very distinct sense of place.

The grapes were picked at optimal ripeness. 40% were fermented in whole bunches in small open vats and 60% were destemmed and fermented in a 5,000 litre wooden fermenter with gentle pigeage (cap immersion) throughout. The free run wine was drained off and the fermented grapes were then pressed in a traditional wooden basket press. The wine was racked into barrels where malolactic fermentation took place, then blended into a 3,000 litre wooden vat, where the wine was aged for 10 months.

An exotic experience which shifts your mind to another place. Cassis, blackberry and cherry on the nose with hints of white pepper, ground herbs and the strong floral perfume of crushed violets. Light and elegant, but structured with a fresh acidity.

Delicious with a slow-roasted shoulder of lamb and gratin dauphinoise; wood-fired pigeon or a warm lentil salad with Portobello mushrooms. To experience the best this wine has to offer, decanting is suggested.

This wine is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

£28.15

Thelema Shiraz 2015 (1x75cl)

Cabernet may be its trump card, but the origins of Thelema owe more to the wines of Burgundy than Bordeaux: it was a bottle of Puligny-Montrachet that lured Gyles Webb away from accountancy in Durban to winemaking in Stellenbosch. Armed with a winemaking degree and influenced by travels in Tuscany, Bordeaux and California, Gyles and his wife Barbara – a noted triathlete – bought Thelema, an old fruit farm high on the slopes of the Simonsberg mountain, in 1983.

This is the wilder side of Stellenbosch, where spotted leopards roam the vines and a combination of elevation and eucalyptus trees creates a much-prized style of Cabernet with a distinctively minty freshness. These days Gyles is Cellar Master, with the talented Schultz brothers (Rudi and Werner) responsible for the winemaking and vineyards respectively. But the philosophy remains true to Gyles’ original vision, centred on the principle of what he calls ‘benign neglect’ – minimal fining and filtration, and no use of commercial yeasts in the red wines. True too to the Thelema name, taken from the idealised concept of a new world order imagined by 16th century French monk, physician and writer Rabelais.

For the full data sheet and technical information from the winemakers themselves, click the blue link below.

Thelema Shiraz 2014 - fiche technique

£15.40

Vina Falernia Syrah Reserva 2012 (1x 75cl)

Viña Falernia is located in the Elqui Valley between La Serena and Vicuña, 520 km (323 miles) to the North of Santiago and it is at present Chile´s nothernmost winery estate. Chile is isolated geographically, with the long and high ridge of the grandiose Andes Mountain Range acting as a barrier to the East, and the deep and immense Pacific Ocean to the West. The vast Atacama Desert to the North and a long chain on rocky islands reaching south to the Antarctic, complete the protective ring. Viña Falernia was founded in 1998 after Aldo Olivier Gramola realised the potential for producing superb wines in this semi-arid valley. The driving force has been his passion for wine and the challenge of transforming a tract of desert into green vineyards with enormous potential. Utilizing the latest technologies, Viña Falernia has succeded in transforming itself into a premium wine producer.

Viña Falernia is highly committed to improving productive processes with the lowest environmental impact in the vineyards and in the winery as well. The winery is located in the Vicuña area and is equipped with state of the art technology. Despite the use of technology throughout the production process, grapes are exclusively hand picked, harvested in small bins of 15 kg each and delivered directly to the winery for processing within minutes of being picked.

To read an excellent information sheet and tasting note about this wine from the winemakers at Falernia, please click on the blue link below.

Falernia Syrah Reserva 2012 - fiche technique

£14.65

Caballo Loco Grand Cru Limari 2015 (1x75cl)

The Caballo Loco Grands Crus were created by Valdivieso to show the different wines that are fundamental components of the icon Caballo Loco wine. For this reason, specific wines from specific valleys wine were born, where each strain/blend reflects the maximum expression of that valley.

One can arguably see these wines as understudies for the "true" Caballo Loco, but they are more than that, being quite superb - and full-throttle - wines in their own right, made with all the care, attention and know-how of the NV/"solera" version.

This Grand Cru Apalta represents all the fruit power and smoothness of the Limari Valley, showcasing the excellent Syrah (100% here) of this region.

See blue link below for the fiche technique/technical note from the winemakers themselves.

Caballo Loco Grand Cru Limari 2014 - fiche technique

A big, full-bodied wine with delicious aromas and flavours of ripe red cherries, coffee and dark chocolate. It has a luxurious texture and a lingering finish.

£23.55

Peter Lehmann Masters `Black Queen` Sparkling Shiraz 2013 (1x75cl)

Peter Lehmann, with 33 vintages already under his belt, started his own winery in 1979, partly as a means of helping with the glut of grapes then afflicting the Barossa. "I'll take your grapes and turn them into wine," he told the desperate growers, many of them conservative farmers of Silesian descent who regarded their old vines as part of their patrimony. "But I'll only be able to pay you when I sell the wine." They gratefully accepted. Without this deal, it is widely thought that the Barossa would have lost a huge chunk of its old vines. The 'Masters' wines are made from the parcels regarded by the winemakers as the best Semillon, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz of the vintage.

Peter Lehmann Wines works with over 140 growers across the length and breadth of the Barossa Valley region, with access to over 750 individual vineyard sites. The Black Queen is made from Shiraz grown on old, low-yielding vines in premium vineyards in the Moppa and Light Pass districts.

Often referred to as the jewel in their/his crown, Lehmann's lack Queen Sparkling Shiraz is a unique and indulgent wine using grapes sourced from premium vineyards in the Barossa region, used to craft this exceptional wine. 

See blue link below for the excellent fiche technique/technical note from Peter Lehmann.

Peter Lehmann Masters `Black Queen` Sparkling Shiraz 2013 - fiche technique

Beautifully deep in colour with a persistent fine bead. The bouquet shows hints of satsuma, plum and black cherry leading to an explosion of dark exotic fruits on the palate. A very special sparkling red for times of celebration.

£22.80
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