Syrah to the left of me, Shiraz to the right
Every grape variety thrives under different conditions. Some are quite specific and fickle about where they can be planted. Nebbiolo, for instance, rarely does well outside of some concentrated regions of Italy. Pinot Noir is notorious for giving winemakers in many parts of the world fits. Conversely, there are some varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon which are a bit less difficult. Certainly there are classic regions for grapes like this too, but it also does pretty well in a greater number of spots. Another grape with a similar ability to adapt is Syrah. Whether it's the Rhone in France, Northern California, South America or Australia, there are many distinct and appealing expressions of this grape. Many consumers have come to know it from the tons of low-priced versions coming out of Australia, where they label it Shiraz. Australia has done amazing things with and for this grape. Today you can find Shiraz from Australia for virtually any price-point you can imagine, and the quality varies just as much. At the same time, Syrah from South America has been increasing both in exports to the U.S. and in the quality available. There are also many unique expressions emerging from different regions. Some examples from Chile have been of particular note. The key is finding wines where the quality, complexity and flavor profile you're looking for intersect with the number of dollars you're willing to part with to have that experience. This time out I'll look at three expressions of this grape that are excellent values in relatively different price ranges.
First up is the Paringa 2008 Shiraz. This wine was produced from fruit from the Riverland region of Australia. This 2008 offering is 100 percent Shiraz; 2008 was a drought year and the fruit yield was lower than normal. This wine has a suggested retail price of $10.99.
The nose of this 2008 Shiraz features strawberry jam aromas and hints of vanilla bean and white pepper. When you take the first sip, red and black raspberry flavors emerge and make their presence known by providing oodles of sweet, rich berry fruit. The finish shows off cherry cola, rhubarb, Kirsch liqueur and continued vanilla notes. This Shiraz is a good, solid wine for the price. It has plenty of immediately appealing upfront fruit, but unlike many others in this price range it also has a good middle and a solid finish backing it up.
The second wine is the Koyle 2007 Royale Syrah. This release was produced using fruit from their home estate in Colchauga Valley. In addition to Syrah (85 percent), this wine also contains Malbec (11 percent), and Carmenere (4 percent). The fruit was hand-picked and manually sorted. Fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks followed by barrel aging in French oak over a period of 18 months. About 2,200 cases of this Syrah were produced, and it has a suggested retail price of $25.99.
Blackberry, cedar, vanilla and eucalyptus aromas fill the nose of this Syrah. Plum and blueberry flavors lead the palate which shows a multitude of dry, dark fruit flavors. These are supported be a solid core of spice flavors such as black pepper and clove to name a few. Smoked meats, minerals, dark chocolate and earth characteristics all emerge on the finish, which shows off impressive length. This wine is framed by good acidity. This Syrah is certainly tasty on its own, but it will shine when paired with hearty, full flavored foods. This wine is a great value that easily blows away its price-point in terms of quality-to-price ratio.
Finally we come to the Matetic Vineyards 2008 EQ Syrah. This wine was produced using fruit sourced at three distinct sub-regions within the Roasario section of the San Antonio Valley of Chile. All are Estate vineyards. This offering is 100 percent Syrah. Fermentation took place in 4-ton tanks using selected yeasts. Barrel aging followed over 12 months in entirely French oak. About 2,100 cases of this wine were produced, and it has a suggested retail price of $42.99.
Leather, violets, plum and blueberry aromas all leap from the expressive and lively nose of this 2008 Syrah. The palate is full and round, and it features dark fruits exploding with brooding intensity and flavors. Huckleberry pie, mission fig and blueberry are of particular note. A thick vein of spices is also along for the ride. Black and white pepper, along with nutmeg and a hint of cardamom are all present. Rhubarb, black tea and cigar box flavors all emerge on the finish, which simply goes on and on showing off impressive persistence. This wine has excellent balance, firm acidity and medium tannins that yield with some air. This Syrah is equally impressive and delicious on its own or paired with flavorful foods.
This trio of wines represents a tiny cross section of the wide array of styles being crafted from Syrah. Each of them is tasty in its own right and represents a good value. The Paringa is affordable enough to be an everyday value for many folks. The Koyle is a stunning value in its price category. The EQ from Matetic Vineyards could be used as a benchmark example of Chilean Syrah. If you're going to buy Syrah in the $30 to $50 price range, you'll be hard pressed to do better than this wine. Start with these three, but don't stop there, drink more Syrah!