Waitrose have been selling a St. Joseph red from the above co-operative for many years and it’s always ben a reliable Syrah, often with some complexity. However I haven’t bought a bottle for a while and – memory playing tricks, no doubt – it didn’t taste quite as I remembered it. In particular, the white pepper notes characteristic of Syrah were absent, leaving a fruity wine with little complexity. Youthful in appearance, some strawberry notes rather spirity on the nose, slightly smokey. A decent drink and if northern Rhone is your thing you’ll find it agreeable.
[Geoff: This was underwhelming when first tried which we have noticed before in wines from this particular AC, the largest in the northern Rhone. It seemed too young to have developed any Syrah characteristics. I kept it vacuumed and in the fridge for four days by which time it started to change into something more interesting. This confirmed my suspicions that it had been released and sold way before its time – a pity. I wonder if this is the result of stocks being piled up before of a certain political action?]
We have blogged this wine before and been very impressed with its quality. Without knowing this fact I tasted the wine blind, approaching it objectively. My notes are below.
Appearance: Dull red, some viscosity, low intensity of colour.
Nose: Perfumed, cooked cranberry, some sweet spice.
Taste: Dry, long, complexity, perfume notes, pure, some gaminess, delicate, needs some bass notes.
My immediate reaction was to claim an organic wine because of its purity and lack of power as well as its rather uninviting, dull appearance. I did identify southern French Syrah but was certainly surprised when the wine was revealed, especially given my previous eulogising.
Awkward teenager? Poor bottle? Over the hill? Whatever it was it wasn’t up to our previous experiences.
[Richard: we’ve blogged this wine in 2014 (absolutely loved it), in 2016 (not quite as keen) and last weekend – even less keen. I had a bottle in 2017 which showed really well. This time: not as elegant, less of a wow factor. No idea why but there are two bottles left so we’ll see.]
Mornington Peninsula in Victoria is cool enough to attract growers of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay – amongst other grape varieties. This was one of those other, a Shiraz from the Paringa Estate, purchased via The Wine Society. The vintage was 2013 and, more typically of Australia, had an ABV of 14%. We tasted it on Saturday and then again on Sunday but the difference was minimal.
The ruby red rim and dense core showed it was mature but also having some ability to age – there was no trace of brick colours. The fruit nose was very slight, if you concentrated hard enough, which was a surprise to both of us. The usual suspects were present on the palate – pepper, liquorice, dark cherry – and it was full with a good mouth feel. However, and this was a big however, it lacked a bit of life, pzazz, vim, oomph, which disappointed. It was an okay-ish red wine but rather characterless. It might be wanting a couple of years yet but the lack of acidity and freshness didn’t bode well for its development.
(We’ll blog a northern Rhone Cote Rotie syrah soon. I have already tried it solo but we’ll taste it together – the difference is quite considerable.)
[Richard: from a mixed half case of Mornington wines, two of which we have blogged on favourably (here and here). This one was less impressive for two reasons. Firstly, not much varietal character and secondly, just a bit ordinary. Disappointing, especially as on opening I thought it was going to be interesting. But it didn’t develop.]
An interesting name for a wine. Radford Dale Nudity 2014, from the Voor-Paardeberg region in South Africa. Why Nudity? Because it hasn’t any added sulphur and just the bare wine, I presume. The grape is Syrah and it has 12% ABV.
To look at it appeared right where it should be, i.e. no brown or purple rim – just red and an intense red at that. There was some viscosity. The aromas were pleasantly complex; fragrant, perfumed and very much cooked strawberries, suggesting some ageing. It had a thin mouth feel with both acidity and tannins. The dominant notes were strawberries (prompting my Grenache guess) and lighter cherries but there was bags of flavour. It had slightly sweet notes which tended to pall after a couple of mouthfuls. For me, it lacked a bit of bottom (nothing to do with its name, you understand) and gravity.
It wasn’t cheap and, although good, I question its VFM.
[Richard: yes, £18 (TWS) and not really worth it. A decent wine with some interesting nuances, which drunk very easily – amazing how much difference a reduction in alcohol from, say, 14% to 12% makes. However if you very looking forward to some typical syrah tastes and flavours, I’m afraid they’d been stripped away and the result was a bit Emperor’s new clothes, a phrase used on TWS website, where it has three bad reviews.]
This wine was the second, fortunately, of two red wines tasted on Sunday. And what a lovely drop it was. From the noted Gimblett Gravels, sub region of Hawkes Bay, North Island, NZ, the Syrah grape produces a drink in the same style as the northern Rhone. It is made only in years when the conditions are ideal.
We have written about a less expensive Gimblett Gravels which were also good because they retained the lightness of style and peppery quality that makes northern Rhone Syrahs so attractive. However, this was a considerable step up in quality and, it must be said, a more powerful and intense wine.
My notes mention a brick rimmed wine with an intense red core and sweet, stewed black fruits on the nose. At first it was difficult to identify the fruit but the blackberry notes came through bringing with it the slight firm ‘greenness’ you get with blackberries. This rescued it from being unattractively jammy. The velvety mouth feel was notable, as were the wine’s tannins and its lengthy dryness. There was a pleasing bit of tar in its richness. Richard summed it up well with the phrase “restrained power”; we got a sense of it being rich and firm rather than broad and wallowing. Lovely.
The Trinity Hill web site is very informative about the soils being not fertile and low in moisture making the vine less vigorous with less berries means greater concentration of flavours. It worked for us.
[Richard: from Great Western Wines. Intended as a homage to Rhone reds, made from vines which were grown from cuttings of older vines on the Côte Rôtie. An addition of 2% viognier adds to the complexity. Very classy, elegant and fragrant with great mouth feel and persistence. A pleasure to drink. Not cheap but worth the money, I felt.]
With it’s distinctive white pepper aroma Syrah is an easily identifiable grape. This wine was so peppery – in the taste as well – that I thought it must be French. However, had I pondered a bit longer I might have identified a rather bright character, with no heaviness, which would point away from the Rhone with its high temperatures towards, say New Zealand. And so it proved (Quarter Acre 2011, Hawke’s Bay, from M&S). A very nice wine with an easy to drink, tempting, spicy taste, if a little short. Recommended.
[Geoff: this wine scored well in the recent Decanter awards, hence my purchase (£15). I liked its bold peppery smells and taste – as R. points out. Can see it being a ‘crowd pleaser’ and good value. Very enjoyable.
On Monday, R & I attended a WS tasting in Leicester devoted to two grape varieties – Riesling and Syrah. Richard thought that it would be a perfect preparation to prime our palates with a Gimblett Gravels NZ Syrah from Craggy Range. This was Le Sol 2009 and cost £38; I tasted it blind.
The colour was an intense ruby red and it showed some viscosity but not overmuch. The nose, initially an alluring menthol, was dominated by black fruits but, surprisingly, no pepper notes which steered me away from Syrah. The flavour of very ripe cherries was long; it had a great depth with well-integrated tannins and some fresh acidity which lifted the wine. A very enjoyable wine which surprised me with its fuller style – a contrast to the lighter style of NZ Syrah recently tasted.
The age of this wine certainly contributed to our enjoyment unlike the WS Syrahs at the tasting many of which I thought were much too young. They needed decanting to take away some of their raw edges but, credit to the WS for putting on an interesting niche tasting.
[Richard: as you can see from the label I took this out of the rack many times, wondering if it was ready (purchased 2012 from the WS). Finally it was and it proved a useful reference to the wines tasted on Monday – better than all except a 1989, £220 Hermitage. Very well made, classy and easy to drink.]