After an extended break it’s time for another installment of the Noble Grape Challenge. Last time we explored what Cabernet Sauvignon was all about, and today we’ll get to know Syrah/Shiraz.
About the Noble Grape Challenge
Remember the Noble Grape Challenge? Yeah, I kind of forgot about it too. Let me refresh you on what’s going on here – Wine Folly created the Noble Grape Challenge as a way to learn the spectrum of flavours and characteristics found in red and white wines. Taking nine reds and nine whites and going through them from lightest to darkest, we’ll learn about the key characteristics and flavours of each.
Two names, same wine – I know, what the heck is that all about?
It’s a classic Old World/New World story, really. Syrah is the flagship grape of the Rhone Valley. Appellations like Côte-Rôtie, the Hermitage and Chateauneuf du Pape make their living (and then some!) growing and making wine out of this grape. In this part of the world the wine tends to have lots of black and blue berry flavours along with some spicy and herbaceous notes and a distinct savoury character. It’s that savouriness that makes me (and many others) go nuts for this wine.
Ok, so that’s Syrah. What about Shiraz?
To answer that we have to talk about the land down under. When Australia was building up their wine industry they found that they made Syrah wines in a different yet particularly great way. They took to calling it Shiraz (perhaps to create a niche for themselves in the market?) and voila – the world came calling. A good Australian Shiraz will have the same berry fruit but it’ll taste much more ripe and juicy thanks to Australia’s super hot climate. A Shiraz from this part of the world will also have stronger spicy notes but you won’t find any herbaceous character – the heat has taken the grapes way past the green stage.
I’ve also seen more and more Shiraz and Syrah coming out of Niagara, which intrigues me because the Southern Ontario climate is not that generous comparatively. I’ve seen these wines are more commonly referred to as Syrah rather than Shiraz which makes me wonder if they’re perhaps signalling to me that the wine will be more toward the French style. I guess I’ll have to try one and report back!
The Test Case
Enough theory, which wine have I chosen to try? In the interests of widening my Southern Hemisphere palate (and in the interests of keeping my bank account healthy) I’ve chosen a Shiraz from Australia’s Barossa Valley: the Peter Lehmann 2013 Portrait Shiraz.
- It’s a lovely deep ruby colour in the glass, almost on the border of purple
- It’s also quite opaque in the glass
- The nose in full of red and black berries (strawberry, raspberry, red currant, blackberry), some vanilla (often a sign of oak aging) and something possibly spicy that tickles the back of my throat as I smell – not sure what that’s about, but I like it.
- The flavour is bright, spicy, and super punchy on the first sip! I get red currant, cranberry, blackberry and plum along with a generous amount of black pepper.
- It’s got some solid tannins, making my whole mouth tingle quite a bit, and the body is nice and full.
- It softened quite nicely after only a few minutes of being open.
I liked this wine, but I was a little disappointed in it. I was hoping it would be a bit more fruit driven (and ripe fruit at that) and less tannic. I knew I was taking a chance buying such an affordable Shiraz from Australia. A lot of the best examples (ie. most typical of the style) tend to cost more than the $16.95 I spent, even if that’s the upper range of my usual buys. But I did get it on sale so, you know, silver linings.
At time of writing the was just opened so I’m looking forward to tasting it again after a day or two of being open and mingling with oxygen.
Next up – the last noble red grape, Malbec!