TN: Interesting range of Syrah / Shiraz

ZOOM BLIND TASTING #5: SYRAH - At home during circuit breaker (17/5/2020)

This was a really enjoyable tasting. It has been sometime since we did something Syrah-based, and I thought we had a lovely showcase of different styles (from Rhone and elsewhere), from more classic old-school, to the vanguard of modern, natural-wine making. It really did show how pleasurable (even young) Syrah can be in its many guises.

There were a couple of ringers thrown in as well - but these really stood out from the pack.

  • 2007 Muhr-van der Niepoort Syrah - Austria, Niederösterreich, Carnuntum
    Enjoyable - a rather elegantly styled Syrah that reminded me of a St Joseph. This had a deep but rather alluring nose, with wafts of blueberries and plums, alongside some peppery spice, violets and a touch of garrigue, all this playing against a backdrop of more savoury meat, tripe and earthy mineral notes. There was just a little hint of balsamic and soy creeping in there showing some sur-maturity, and maybe a hint of glycerol. Otherwise, quite nice. The palate struck quite a different tone though - this was really savoury, with a meaty chew and plenty of iron and stone notes underlying a juicy, but subtle mouthful of black cherries, blackberries and plums. I really liked the shape and feel of this, with fresh acidity and very fine tannins lending the wine a real sense of poise and focus, all the way from its savoury attack, to a long finished laced with slightly bittersweet bramble, garrigue, and more of that lovely peppery spice. There was something that reminded me a bit of bak kut teh soup. There was just a touch of alcohol heat that threw this off a bit, and it could have done with a bit more length and depth. Other than that though, I really liked it - there was a but of quiet strength and complexity to this, and yet it always felt nicely elegant. (91 pts.)
  • 2013 Rene Rostaing Côte-Rôtie La Landonne - France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Côte-Rôtie
    Superb, even if it was still rather too young to fully enjoy. I loved the nose on this. It had a nice deep expression of sweet dark berries and plums alongside bits of spice and earth, wild herb and florals. With time and air, some smoky, peppery notes and a hint of olive tapenade came up as well. There was something distinctly Rhonish on this, even though the ripe on the fruit aromas threw me off a bit initially. Really nice. The palate showed a lot of youthful verve and structure on it, with slightly powdery, teeth-coating tannins and a stirring bit of acidity racing through brighter, higher-toned flavours of red cherries and juicy berries, laced with a bit of warm, white peppery spice and a hint of violets as the wine moved into a slightly drying, bittersweet bramble and mineral finish. Energetic and enjoyable, with nice perfumy feel to it, even if it was way too young - this really needs another 6-8 years for that firm, sinewy structure to tone down. Today, it was certainly better with food than without, even after a day after being double-decanted. There is certainly a nicely elegant quality here though, and it will be lovely to try again when it hits its stride. Great stuff. (94 pts.)
  • 2015 Alléno & Chapoutier St. Joseph La Croix de Chabot - France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, St. Joseph
    Really quite nice. This had one of the more old-school noses on the night at first, with some bretty notes - think dirty earth, meat, and a little sauvage barnyard hint. Not too bad, but there was definitely some funk in there. Past that, there were deeper aromas of dark plums and berries seasoned with a bit of spice. It all came together fairly well actually, with the brett actually lifting with time and air. The palate was still marked by quite a bit of structure, with prickly acidity and a fine, but firm, mouth-coating layer of tannins framing a strong, muscular core of brighter black cherry and blueberry flavours, maybe shading into cassis territory. There was a nice sense of juicy clarity to this which I really liked. It had a solid mid palate too, with a savoury chew of meat and olive tapenade coming out. A decent finish closed the wine out, with a nice flush of warm spice, garrigue and even a hint of wild lavender trailing away into full, satisfying end. Yummy. This still needs a bit of time yet, maybe another 3-4 years, but without quite being a world-beater, it is already showing as a nicely balanced and very nicely integrated wine. I liked this. (92 pts.)
  • 2005 Penfolds Shiraz St. Henri - Australia, South Australia
    A nice, polished Aussie Shiraz. This really stood out from Rhone wines on show just on its nose alone. It smelt rather more modern and international, with sweet notes of blueberries, cassis and plums galore, these coated with a touch of glycerol, and then a little bit of garrigue and spice, maybe a touch of violets. With a bit of time, there was just a little hint of earth and meat creeping in at the edges. Really quite nice I must say, but certainly different from the more delicate, garrigue-driven Northern Rhone bouquets of some of the other wines. The palate was very different too - thicker, creamier, with more oak influence on it, but also with just rather a riper fruit expression, with a sweet depth of plums and blackberries and cassis, almost straying into confit fruit territory, this infused with a bit of spice, herb and a lick of minty eucalyptus on the mid-palate. There a touch of earthiness and a hint of savoury meat, maybe a touch of bittersweet herb on the finish, but this was really more about plump fruit than anything else. Pleasant though, with a nice sense of balance and soft, velvety tannins making for a very drinkable wine; yet also with a nice sense of depth and breadth that marked it as more serious than a well-made quaffer. A very good example starting to drink well now. (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Roc d’Anglade Gard - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Gard
    Pretty good - a wine for the wine geeks. There was unusual nose on this one, with a green tone the first thing that struck me - almost asparagus or capsicum - and then rather high-toned notes of sweet strawberries, red berries and darker-skinned cherries, leading into a nicely earthy, slightly spicy undertone. Pleasant actually, bringing to mind Loire on that bouquet, with a bit of strawberry Fruitella sweets thrown in for good measure. The palate was similarly edged with a bit of green, but there was more going on here as well, with fine-boned but firm, chewy tannins and very bright acidity framing a bright mouthful of red berries and cherries riding on more savoury bed of earth and mineral. With some time and air, a warm peppery spice started coming out as well. There was a nice pure quality to this. A rather light, lithe, elegant expression, but very amply structured too - it was enjoyable enough with a bit of food. It is still in its youth though - this would be interesting to try in another 6-8 years where, hopefully, the structure will tame a bit and the wine will integrate and gain a touch more complexity. (91 pts.)
  • 1986 Domaine les Goubert Gigondas - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Gigondas
    Wow. This was a real surprise - one of those rare moments when the wine world throws you a little miracle, and angels start to sing unexpectedly. The oldest and most mature of the wines by some distance: this had a lovely nose of dried red fruit - think plums, cherries and strawberries - then a bit of earth and woody cinnamon spice, a tiny curl of smoke, and some lovely sweet wafts of dried rose petals. A lovely, perfumed nose, with a bit of honeyed sweetness in there as well. Wow. This smelt for all the world like a very mature Burgundy or Barolo. The palate was beautiful as well, with velvet tannins and gentle acidity melting over a lovely, creamy mouthful of red cherries and raspberries and strawberries - tons of petit fruits rouge just glowing with a mature, almost honeyed sweetness. With a bit of time, just a tiny suggestion of earth, herb and mineral started coming up on the mid-palate as well. Oh my - this was brilliant and dripping with deliciousness; so fresh and juicy too. What a wonderfully pure, focused wine. There was then a gently long finish to end it all off, with a quiet linger of warm smoke and spice that spread across the backplate alongside a little blush of orange peel and dried florals. What an absolute delight. What this lacked in intensity or power, it more than made up for in elegance, grace and purity. A beautiful drop, drinking absolutely perfectly on the way. The stars aligned with this one - right time, right place, perfect maturity. I wish more unexpected gems would be thrown up like that every now and then. (95 pts.)
  • 2017 Domaine Barge Côte-Rôtie Coeur de Combard - France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Côte-Rôtie
    Pretty good, especially if you appreciate the style. I did not quite like it when first popped, but this got better and better with time and air. It had the most perfumed nose on the night - a heady mix of garrigue, lavender and violets dancing alongside sweet notes of blueberries and sweet, almost candied aromas of cherries and blackcurrants. Roundtree Fruit Pastilles came to mind. With a bit of air, some more savoury accents of earth and meat and brush herbs came out as well. Very attractive, if just a bit too sweet smelling for my tastes. The palate shared that same sweet, perfumed feel as the nose, without bring quite as complex, with some creamy new oak flavours wed to bright, juicy notes of raspberry and cherry, and a lot more of those violet and lavender notes. Fairly light bodied, and really, really sweet at first here - made me think raspberry ripple or cherry pie. Tannins were soft and velvety, and the acidity was also there, with a juicy, almost citrus freshness that came out especially towards the nicely spiced finish. There was a good purity about the wine I thought. Thankfully, the overt sweetness came down a little with time too, and the palate began to feel a bit more integrated, with some spice coming out nicely. Very natural wine making in style, almost to a fault, but this was well-made and enjoyable. It needs time for the puppy fat to melt away though - would be interesting to try again in a few years. (92 pts.)
  • 2018 Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet (Hervé Souhaut) Sainte-Epine - France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, St. Joseph
    This was quite a lovely drop for such a young wine - quite unlike any young Syrah / Shiraz I have tasted. There was just so much elegance and energy to it. The nose was drop-dead gorgeous, with lifted notes of sweet blueberries infused with violets, wild lavender and garrigue, and then a little touch of stony earth - a wonderfully perfumed bouquet that brought me right back to Provence. The palate was very pure and transparent, quite weightless in spite of the 13.5% on the label. Here, wonderfully light, lithe flavours of blueberries, red plums and fresh cherries, then violets and spice, all danced across the mouth on a bed of velvety tannins and fresh acidity. Ballerina-like grace I thought, with all the prettiness of a romantic movement. Only negative might have been the finish, which felt decent rather than truly long, ending with a little kiss of warm spice and some orange peel. Lovely stuff in all though, this was all weightless depth and effortless elegance - I could drink it all day. I am not sure how well this will age, but it is drinking wonderfully in its youth. I would love to try it again in 5 and then 10 years time - if I can keep my hands off for that long! (92 pts.)

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