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.]
Probably the most reliable indicator for spotting a particular grape is white pepper on the nose and taste. This invariably means syrah.
Given the taste and appearance I felt confident that this was a syrah from the Old World, that is France, Rhone valley. Right, wrong and wrong. In fact from the Gimblett Gravels region in New Zealand. Not a style I know very well but this was certainly an excellent example, being light and youthful in appearance, lean and savoury on the palate.
[Geoff: This was a purchase from a recently discovered wine shop in Ledbury called Hay Wines. Just over £10, it had all the characteristics of a gentler Northern Rhone syrah with bags of refreshing flavours and weighing in at a lightweight 12.5% ABV. Ideal for us oldies and rather nostalgic as this is the alcohol level we grew up with. A lunchtime syrah, no less. It was the first of two good wines this Sunday]
Sunday tasting. Two wines, the same grape – syrah – from different continents, a similar price with us each opening and tasting one of them the night before. Would we be able to identify them if tasted blind? How good was our taste memory? (Claire, Geoff’s wife did the pouring in our absence). In fact it was pretty easy, even from the nose.
The wines: Cline 2012 (California) and Hermitage 2014 (France, from the Cave de Tain co-op). The Cline has been blogged before. We thought MWW had sold out but a few more turned up, around £16. The Hermitage was from Waitrose, reduced from £28 to £17. I’d tried the Hermitage on Saturday and thought it was restrained and elegant, with a rather reticent nose. The Cline delivered a big blast of blueberry fruit on the nose and was tarry/smokey on the palate with a silky mouth feel and clearly wasn’t the Hermitage. Both wines were very enjoyable and well priced – although I don’t think we’d have paid £28 for the Hermitage – and drank well into the evening. (Geoff was having fish so I got both bottles).
[Geoff: Comparisons are at the heart of wine tasting. We compare in expectation – “I think this wine might be like …”; we compare via memory – “This wasn’t as good as …..”; and we compare grapes, vintages, areas, growers etc. And I especially love blind comparisons.
These two wines created lots of discussions which Richard had summarised excellently above. For me, the Hermitage had the edge on elegance and freshness because of the apparent higher acidity – I’d noted it as tasting like (another comparison) a bowl of summer fruits, both red and black. The Cline, slightly older, had developed some tertiary notes – tar, smoke, vanilla – which was shown up against the fresher Rhone. Both were lovely wines – well-made, layered and great examples of a lovely grape.]
Following my white Burgundy, Richard supplied a red wine from about 150 miles further south, namely the Cote Rotie in the northern Rhone. We have blogged this before but it was great to rekindle an old flame.
The ‘roasted slope’, centred on the left bank town of Ampuis, has south-east facing vineyards that rise vertiginously, sometimes with as much as 60% incline. This makes working the granite based soils very difficult and there is often only two or three vines in the width of the terracing. The slope does get ‘roasted’ but can produce some very fine Syrahs, delicate and perfumed, rather than the heavier styles – although it can produce those as well.
Cote Rotie ‘Ampodium’ 2010 from Rostaing has an ABV of 13.5% and is pure Syrah. The medium intense ruby colour was lighter than I expected. The nose I can best describe as smelling a raspberry-ripple ice cream – all vanilla and light red fruits. There was a warm, comforting feeling about this smell (probably thanks to the vanilla) but little of the expected pepper. The delicate notes changed to blueberry as it sat in the glass. The mouth feel, as Richard stated, had an attractive leanness and purity helped by the acidity which was maintained throughout. I had an immediate flavour of almonds but this did not last. The relative youth of the wine came through in all the attractive fruit but this was underscored with the maturing notes of vanilla; its tannins were present but not obtrusive. This was a really enjoyable wine which will go on for a few years yet.
[Richard: interesting that the white pepper nose Geoff remarked on two years ago has, for him, vanished. I thought it was still there, but only just. Age or bottle variation – who knows? Check back here in 2018. Still a lovely balanced wine – and my favourite syrah – though I marginally preferred it on first tasting.]
We’ve done this wine before but Richard’s seemingly endless [much reduced] stock of wines secreted all over his house [mainly in the loft] has thrown up a later vintage than the 2000 we tried earlier. I was tasting it blind.
This is classified as a Vin du Pays because the vigneron will not conform to the local AC rules; this notoriety has had an amazing effect on the prices of the wines. That and their undoubted quality, of course. These VdPs are commanding prices of £50 upwards for this particular vintage.
A blind tasting then, the wine having been decanted for 60 mins. Colour: very intense black with a brick red rim and pronounced viscosity. The nose was layered into bramble fruits, figs, iodine, menthol but with a refreshing acidity. The menthol gave me the hint of Syrah in the blend whilst the intensity suggested somewhere hot, I ventured the south of France. The palate, to be frank, was disappointing after such intriguing smells. It was very slightly oxidised and had lost the freshness, tannins and drying flavours dominated. It was medium in length. Maybe the decanting had ‘matured’ it too much?
When revealed to be Trevallon’s blend of 50% Syrah and Cabernet, the wine having spent two years in barrel we looked up the previous blog of the 2000 which was much more positive. Other blogs for this vintage were more positive but I did read how there is considerable variation in bottles and some issues with ‘brett’ in the wines. By the following day it had become quite ordinary and lacking in any fruit. What a pity.
[Richard: from Leon Stolarski, £31. The previous vintage tasted (I bought a half case of 6 different vintages) was just wonderful and this didn’t quite measure up, although it improved into the evening with the tannins mellowing – or perhaps that was the accompanying roast chicken.]