Syrah is without a doubt one of my favourite varietal wines. Its seductive ability to adapt to each region gives each Syrah a distinct and unique style.
With summer upon us, Syrah is complimented with heavy foods such barbequed chicken and meats. They also pair well with spicy, herbal or peppery dishes. Needless to say, I will be hitting the bottle as I bring out my barbeque set.
Its spicy aromatic flavour is probably why Syrah is most renowned in France and Australia. Both produce distinctive wines of this variety, and no single definition can pin down the definitive taste of a Syrah.
France, where Syrah is one of the noble grapes, yields cooler vintages. Although their climates range from baking hot slopes to windy hilltops, the Northern Rhone has coined the dense, savoury and peppery wine of Syrah. A slightly more aromatic blend is defined by the Cote-Rotie. Here, the grape demonstrates how crucial origin and climate plays a part in the eventual wine.
In comparison, Australia has adopted Syrah since the 1800s and allowed it to flourish into a unique, distinct style. In fact, it is one of the most widely planted grape varieties with a vast array of aromas. Australian winemakers also tend to produce Shiraz from the same grape variety, a sweeter, heavier and full bodied version of Syrah to some extent.
Keeping in tone with both Australia and France, California has also produced Syrah since the 1990s. Although it was initially dismissed by wine buyers, they have proved to have taken it into their own hands and developed a unique style, much like Australia had done so historically. In cooler areas, an earthy, meaty Syrah is produced filled with dark fruit and peppery aromas. These give an alluring finishing accent, and it is hard not to be intoxicated by the pleasantly spicy bouquet of flavours.
Do I have a particular favourite?
Yes, I suppose I do. Californian wineries have produced several successful Syrah wines as a result of their quest to perfect the process. I particularly enjoy the smoky, vibrant yet delicate character of the wine from this region. It is with no doubt a wine to go with a hearty, jovial atmosphere.
“A smoky, meaty offering that makes one think they are standing in the middle of a Texas Barbeque pit,” Robert Parker, 2007 Pax Syrah Obsidian
Not as soft as a cooler vintage, yet not as strong as a full bodied Shiraz, Syrah wines have always been my favourite to tackle an abundance of aromas without becoming completely overwhelmed.
Californian Syrah made its debut in the 1970s, but had its first success in the 1993s with its highest rated bottle from Santa Barbara. It is a truly captivating journey to watch a small vineyard blossom into a winery. Being at the birth and rich development of Californian Syrah is what makes this particular varietal a memorable experience.
I thoroughly recommend seeking out those wineries born from small vineyards, where loyal and enthusiastic wine buyers can enjoy edgy, gripping Syrah wines.
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