The State of Syrah - Has it Lost its Mojo?

Greetings all;

New user on Wine Berserkers, and if you stomach a bit of self-promotion, I wanted to direct all interested Berserkers to the second of two articles I’ve written for a new website called, about the state of syrah. The link is below:" onclick=";return false;

Of course I want you to read it, but I’m more interested in hearing your opinions and learning what you think of the issues raised. I’m very concerned about how Syrah is being ignored if not completely dissed in the market and among consumers these days, and as a reporter, critic, and lover of the stuff, I want to get to the bottom of it. I would like nothing better than to change the course of its moribund state at the moment. Please sound off, pass on to like-minded Syrah enthusiasts. Feel free to sound off both here and at the zester site. Thanks!


Tonight I tasted an 03 Copain “Hawks Butte” Yorkville Highlands.

This bad boy “oozed” mojo. [welldone.gif]

I wish it would a little. Wouldnt have to pay the crazy prices Im paying for LaLas, SQN, Astralis, Velvet Glove, Grange et al. NM the bargains in Carlisle, Novy, Lyrique et al. and the reasonably priced Pax (some) Lillian, Saxum, Rudius, Lucia, Amon Ra, Keplinger, Copain et al.
Never mind that Im just getting into Cote rotie…
Going to a Lala tasting this weekend that is the tasting Ive been looking forward to the most since well, the SQN tasting earlier this year…
Shit…let there be no mojo.

To me - Syrah is just getting it’s mojo, but I understand the sales are not that great. I hope they are good enough that my favorite producers (Carlisle/Lucia) keep making it, but not good enough to drive prices higher!

It is true that Syrah is dead. IMO, this is due to the over-promotion of the SUV syrahs which wow for a glass but no one actually wants to drink.
It’s a shame because Syrah is very well suited to a lot of California’s microclimates and the soil types make for great variety and complexity of expression.

Was just at a party in LA this weekend and talked to a couple who said, unbidden, how much they HATED syrah. These are collectors, have a home in Napa Valley, drink California all the time, and yet they find syrahs too thick, too jammy, too alcoholic. I thought 'god, if a California wine lover hates syrah for these reasons, we’re definitely talking about a very strong feeling that has little to do with reality, or at least with a complete picture (like saying Obama’s health care initiative is about death camps.)

Anyway, imo, syrah’s worth saving, and it’s worth discussing how. Thanks.

Pretty much in agreement, though I can name some N. Rhone syrahs that are fairly large framed, and still amazingly good. Very much looking forward to your syrah, if I get a chance at it :slight_smile:

Given your time on our list, I’m sure you will be offered some! The '07s show potential, but we are still on a Syrah learning curve and the '08s are the first that get me really excited.

Ain’t that great! Does that mean I can now purchase a bottle of Chave for $20?

As a syrah enthusiast, I have spent quite a bit of time seeking out those syrahs from California that are true to the character of the varietal. The past few vintages have seen a paradigm shift away from the overblown, jammy, syrupy, heavy wines to those that seek to let the unique flavors shine. There are many vintners today that produce syrahs that have elegance, balance, minerality, and depth. These wines provide a thrill ride showing the full range of bacon fat, roasted meat, black olives, road tar, dark fruits, smoke and pepper that makes these wines interesting.

I don’t think it’s lost it’s mojo. As I’ve said to many of my friends who never drank syrah until they had them with me, everyone likes syrah, they just don’t know it yet.

For those who say that syrah is too thick, too jammy, too alcoholic, I invite you to try any of the following:

2006 Myriad Las Madres Vineyard
2005 Rudius Syrah
2004 Arcadian Westerly
2006 Cabot One Barrel Kimberly’s
2003 Jaffurs Larner
2005 DuMOL Russian River Valley
2006 Arnot-Roberts Clary Ranch
2005 Novy Rosella’s
2006 Tensley Colson Canyon
2004 Peay Les Titans
2005 Bohème Que Syrah Vineyard

I’m no expert on new world Syrah, but a recent bottle of 2000 ESJ Wylie-Fenaughty would make any Francophile a phan. Tons of iron, smoked meat and pure black fruits all buffered by a striking acidic spine.

I’ve had too many Syrahs from CA and elsewhere that were totally devoid of that raw varietal characteristic that makes Syrah truly GREAT (they usually taste like something slightly resembling Cabernet and/or Zinfandel). I don’t know enough about wine making to figure out if it’s by design or if it’s just too difficult to let it shine the way it does in the Northern Rhone.

I sell wines for a living here in Oregon. Syrah is one of my favorite grapes. For my taste, most of the Syrahs that I taste tend to the over-extracted and over-oaked side, especially from Washington. So far, the best domestic Syrah I have ever had was 1997 Alban Reva Syrah. I had never seen a Syrah so change and develop in the glass over a couple of hours. But back then i think I paid $24. I have had some really nice imported syrah for less than $20, some less than $15 like Guillaume Durand.

Can’t wait. I would love to be able to buy more N. Rhones at a discount to current pricing.

Paul, I know I have seen some S. Rhones going for decent prices recently, even here from Dan the the like. Wouldn’t we expect the same from those you seek in the North anytime soon?

As a cali syrah drinker, I have seen amazing deals lately. Some even much less than list from the winery. From the cheap seats I see syrah finally finding its rightful place. The market has surely set the bar on this one, something I can’t say for my first love, cab.

I popped a 2004 Carlisle “Judge Family” Syrah last night - absolutely mind bendingly good! Rich, yet not overdone, balanced and loaded with fruit, delicious!

I love Syrah…when it says Dehlinger on the label.

Great topic! I still buy quite a few Nothern Rhone syrahs an love the flavors of this varietal. But my purchase of CA syrahs has became almost nil over the past couple of years for the reasons stated above. Leading the pack is overripe fruit, over concentration of fruit, and to much oak and alcohol.

Some of the writers have indicated that CA styles are changing, and perhaps I should revisit some of the wines recommended. for the most part, however, any stylistic change made last year wouldn’t normally show up for at least a couple of years in the bottle.

I have touched on this issue before and syrahs are an excellent example. In the US a wine only has to be 75% of a varietal to carry the name. To often, imo, the true characteristics of syrah that I like gets blended out with the addition of cab and/or zin to wine. To me a syrah should have a note of white pepper that is distinct in the wine. When done properly, this note blends beautifully with the other flavors of the grape. If the white pepper note is blended out, or the fruit is picked so ripe it disappears, the essence of syrah is lost to me.

I am probably in a minority, but I want a pinot to taste like a pinot and not a syrah. I want a syrah to taste like a syrah, not a cab or zin. That just seems to be asking to much from CA producers these days.

Well, it’s funny–this comes on the heels of the thread I started here (and on EBob) in response to the Clos Mimi review, an 18.5% alcohol Syrah that “wasn’t for everybody [especially those of incapable of thinking outside the box].”

When I first got into wine in the 1970’s, red table wines typically maxed out at 13% alcohol, with an occasional 14%. Over time, for a variety of reasons, the alcohol levels have crept up. While some of the wines may be more “rich,” I know a lot of folks who just don’t want to drink at 15-16+% alcohol wine with dinner. And yet more and more Syrahs end up in that range.

I’m glad that winemakers are able to make wine from Syrah in a wide range of styles, but between people’s palates and the economy, I think it’s increasingly difficult for someone to successfully make and sell a $50+ Syrah with 15-16+% alcohol level. The market for that kind of wine clearly is on the decline.



Amen! I wish I had saved the CA vintner and his quote from an interview a couple years ago with WS. His exact words were “I don’t make food wine. Food wine is boring. People don’t want food wine”.

I think that is the issue on a postage stamp. Wine that compliments meals is what the majority of wine drinkers want, it’s just not what the vintners want to make.

I don’t go to a fish market to buy steak, and I don’t buy wine from vintners with that attitude expressed in their wines.

Great topic. And something that I talk about with distributors and winemakers all the time. Despite some of the negative news out there, I am happy to report:

My Syrah sales have tripled in the last year alone.

This is a result on a concerted effort on my part to promote the wines:

  1. When a customer asks for a Cab or Pinot, I suggest trying Syrah.

  2. If they don’t have any idea of what to drink, I suggest Syrah.

  3. If they ask about Syrah, I say it it comes between Pinot and Cab (in a general sense for it’s weight).

And, of course, I am finding much more great Syrah out there in the last few years. We have really come a long way in California.

I have many more choices than I used to. It certainly is not a go to wine for most but with some promotion and exposure, I think we can get there.

In the trenches…