By Aaron Winsor
Hello Prince Albert! I’ve been on a Syrah kick lately and have been tasting 100% Syrah as well as bended wines containing this beautiful grape. You may be thinking that Syrah sounds a lot like Shiraz and in fact they are genetically the exact same grape! The difference in flavors and style comes down to vineyard management/treatment, oaking style and winery production methods.
Shiraz is known for being extremely fruit forward with flavors of plum, dark cherry, cassis and pepper with firm but sweet tannins. Pepper and rich fruit are the main highlights making Shiraz an amazing choice for smooth sipping or pairing with steaks. Syrah on the other hand is a completely different beast.
The flavor profile of Syrah is often lighter and on the elegant side with drier flavors, floral notes (often violet), smoked meats and delicate spice (nutmeg, cinnamon & soft pepper) as opposed to a blast of black pepper like Shiraz.
New world countries like Australia, Canada, South Africa and USA produce some of the world’s best Shiraz but are now becoming known for also producing excellent examples of fine, age-worthy Syrah wines. Great examples of this are demonstrated by the two wines I sampled this week: one from Stellenbosch, South Africa and the other from Mendoza, Argentina. While both of these wines should be drank within a few years, they still offer some complexity and richness of flavor.
Both wines are nicely balanced with an excellent combination of dryness, rich fruit and subtleties like fine spice or animal notes. The same cannot always be said for Shiraz which can sometimes lean into flabby territory (full bodied and fruity without proper tannins or acidity to create balance). That being said, there are amazing examples of Shiraz demonstrating incredible finesse and depth of flavor like the higher-end offerings from Australia’s Yalumba or Henschke.
If you’re interested in the Old World style of Syrah then these wines can easily be found in blends and single varietal options from areas like the Cotes du Rousillon or the Cotes du Rhone in France, the Tejo or Alentejo areas of Portugal (among many others) or some of the blended wines from Spain. Wines from these areas tend to take on a spicier, grippy style with an emphasis on hearty tannins and balance between the richness of fruit and subtle spices.
Syrah makes an excellent pairing partner for other grapes and I tend to prefer it blended with Grenache (Garnacha), Mouvedre (Monastrell) or Tempranillo. The addition of Syrah with other grapes creates wines with tannic structure, intense flavors and ability to age. I recommend trying a Syrah or two to see what it’s all about! Both of the wines mentioned in this article are available for sampling so come on down and taste them for yourself! Here are my wine picks of the week!
1884 Syrah (2018): (Mendoza, Argentina). Dry red, deep purple/violet color. The nose is medium-plus intense with scents of rich blackberries and currants, earthy cocoa, baker’s chocolate, dark fruit, tar, hints of goat cheese and floral undertones. The flavor on the palate is packed with intense plum, blackberry and blueberry (dried fruits) while raisin skins and currants appear throughout the mid-palate and finish. Some alcohol heat can be felt and tasted as well as licorice, fresh coffee bean, cocoa and dusty chocolate mingling with fruit skins on the finish. Reminds me of Christmas cake. Medium-plus acidity, full body. Beautiful and satisfying with meats and cheeses of all kinds. Drink now or within 3 years. Very good! $25, 13.5% ABV
Glenelly Glass Collection Syrah 2017: (Stellenbosch, South Africa). Dry red, deep purple/violet color. The bouquet of this red is full of intense fruit like plums, dark cherries, blackberries, vanilla and hints of wet rock or smoke. Elegant spice and dark fruit are the first to appear on the palate which display intense plums, dark cherries, soft nutmeg, pepper (black and white), cocoa and hints of saline mineral which tingle and carry into the finish. Black tea tannins and rich fruit skins swirl together with a wisp of meaty smoke and a flash of warming pepper. Medium acidity and medium body with a drying effect in the mouth. An interesting animal note also appears which is akin to smoked meat or goat cheese. A beautifully dry sipping red with a touch of complexity and food pairing potential. Very good! $30, 14.5% ABV
Cheers and thanks for reading!