Monday, April 2, 2012


Syrah and other wines (e.g., Grenache, Viognier) typical of the Rhône River region of Southern France are gaining in popularity in the U.S. Among the most popular is Syrah or Shiraz (Syrah is called Shiraz in Australia and goes by either name in many other regions).

Syrah is full of character and famous for its majestic longevity. Some of the best and most distinctive Syrahs are Côte Rôtie and Hermitage, from the northern part of the Rhône River, south of Lyons.

Deep purple and tannic when young, Syrah has strong tar and peppery flavors. The wine matures slowly and becomes full-bodied with more depth and complexity as it ages. It has been the choice for pairing with game meats (gibier) in France for centuries. Australia has been producing a large amount of Shiraz in recent years, and they often blend it with Cabernet Sauvignon and other red wine grapes.

In California, Syrah/Shiraz wine production has increased dramatically, particularly in the Central Coast region. Most of the wineries are relatively small but produce wonderful wines, albeit somewhat expensive, due to the smaller production. I recently attended the Rhône Rangers wine tasting event (Rhône-style wines by American wine makers) in San Francisco and tasted many wonderful, well-made wines, but the retail price of many is $30 or more per bottle – not an everyday wine.
However, I recently found a good Shiraz from Australia made by the famous Côte Rôtie wine maker Michael Chapoutier in collaboration with Napa wine distributor Anthony Terlato.
The 2009 Terlato-Chapoutier Shiraz-Viognier  Victoria ($13.99 at K & L Wines) contains 5% Viognier for a bright, spicy and elegant Aussie Shiraz. It is different from typical Australian Shiraz, and I enjoyed the wine and its affordable price.

My other dinner wine choice is the 2010 Sainte-Croix Syrah-Merlot ($4.99 at Trader Joe’s), which is a 50/50 Syrah-Merlot blend. It is a Vin de Pays (one level above table wine) d’Oc (from the South of France) but well balanced. This is a great value in a Syrah... and good with spring lamb at this time of year.

FLAVORS/AROMAS associated with Syrah wine:
Ripe blackberry, black current, plums with a hint of smokiness, blueberry jam, black cherry, prune, spice/pepper, olives, roasted nut, oak, tar.

2010 Sainte- Croix  Syrah-Merlot

2010 Domaine Terlato & Chapoutier  Shiraz-Viognier

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