6.9.09 Que Syrah/Shiraz

16 06 2009

6>9>09 –> Syrah? Shiraz? Brother grapes separated at birth? Nope!

Syrah and shiraz are the same grape. Aussies, South Africans, and some others have adopted the name shiraz (shih-raaz, like raspberry) because they’re 15 years old and want to be “different.”

Actually, Shiraz is actually a highly populous city in Iran and is known as the city of poets, wine, and flowers [thanks Wikipedia]. Legend – not fact – hast it that the syrah grape may have originated near the city of Shiraz, and thus Australians and South Africans called it thus when the grape came their way in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Stylistically, French syrah coming from the northern Rhone Valley tends to be more elegant yet intense while syrah from the southern Rhone is often heartier and rustic (and often blended with Grenache, Mourvedre, and other grapes not permitted in the north). French syrah is usually characterized by aromas and flavors of blackberries, roasted meat, smoke, pepper and spice.

Californian and Australian interpretations of syrah tend to be riper, softer, thicker and sometimes syrupy with characteristics of big opulent boysenberry, blackberry, and some spice.  When it comes down to it, you might find some Frenchy characteristics in your California syrah and vice versa. Let your nose be the judge and have fun with it.

For our tasting, we brown bagged the bottles so we could taste blind and see whether Tim was correct in his bias against shiraz. So, (besides me, brown bagger extraordinarie) we unkowingly started with a 2007 Penfold’s Koonunga Hill Shiraz (South Australia), $9. Off the bat, Tim said “smells like a syrah not shiraz.” Nikki guessed CA syrah. She smelled blackberry, Katie noticed the alcohol and along with Tim concurred that the smell was like a wet towel that you use to clean up wine.
The palate was one dimensional. It was a jammy fruit bomb with no acidity on the finish. Katie some kind of cotton candy flavor and Nikki got angel food cake. We concluded that while not super exciting, this would make a good drinking game/party wine.

Up next, 2006 Bell Syrah, (Canterbury Vineyard, Sierra Foothills, CA), $22. What a nose… Kaite got figs and a meaty component, I sensed some bacon fat and leather, Nikki found it smoky, Tim got dark heavy jammy fruit and tire rubber. With the various dead animal characteristics and tire rubber, Katie concluded that this bitch smells like road kill. Sweet, delicious, road kill.
The palate was spicy and smoky, Nikki noticed leather, and Tim found it a lot more mellow. This was the most interesting wine and our favorite of the night.

Third was a 2006 Andrew Murray Vineyards “Tous les Jours” Syrah (Central Coast, CA), $18. This one smelled grenache-y, with some black cherry and coffee bean characteristics and a campfire/barbeque smell noticed by Katie.
The palate was soft and smooth with red and black berry. Nikki got a barbeque potato chip flavor. Katie found a natural dried fruit leather component and Tim got black cherry soda. Overall a solid and interesting wine.

And we finish it up with France:  a 200? Domaine Lafarge “Los Planos” Syrah (Cotes Catalanes, France), $10. On the nose, right off the bat Katie got poop and was offended. Later she noticed the smell of grass clumps from a lawnmower bag. I was stoked to get some white pepper (CLASSIC for syrah), but no so stoked about an oxidative, port/sherry component. This is table wine, not dessert wine, Domaine Lafarge. Nikki got prosciutto and Tim concurred and got salty meat.
The palate had some bite/alch. Katie – keepin’ it funky – got “either bark, wood chips, or wheat thins” and sweat. Tim found it smelled ocean-y. This wine was ‘aight.

The verdict: Tim was correct in guessing that the two middle wines were CA syrah, Nikki and Katie got a couple right guesses as to what was what, and I was the knowitall that got to orchestrate the whole shebang. The conclusion? We like syrah…



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