Week 3 – Syrah/Shiraz

Tasting Notes

Ebenezer & Seppeltsfield ShirazEmma says: “I’m concerned that now I’ve promised Andy this wine will taste like one of his favourite crisp varieties “Frazzles”, that he will be disappointed if this doesn’t turn out to be a bacon wine.

My hope is that this wine really shows that beautiful bold fruit of the new world Shiraz but with that sophistication that comes from Barossa; that bit more complexity and dimension.

And wow, this Chateau Tanunda wine has certainly a lot of power. The aromas are really diverse, the fruit bursts from the glass, lots of raspberry & blueberry, very ripe but not too jammy. It might not have a bacon aroma, but it has this wild savoury character typical of Shiraz, smoky with an oriental spice twist. There is also a distinct molasses or brown sugar note which I always find in these wines; something that makes them very enticing. Plus there is a definite hint of eucalyptus, a classic note of Australian reds, apparently because the grape skins do absorb these characters from the abundant local eucalyptus trees.

Then to taste it is as succulent and rich as expected. I do love the way Shiraz feels rich and velvety in texture when it comes from a warm climate like Barossa. And paying that little bit extra (£15) for this wine has paid off. It has a real array of flavours from the dense red fruits to the sweet menthol, licquorice spice, then a hint of vanilla sweetness and brown sugar to finish. To put it simply this wine is GOOD. I’m glad I don’t have the bottle with me or I’d finish it.

Something I didn’t get from this wine is black pepper. That is a character of Shiraz that so many people tell me about but I always seem to miss. It used to frustrate me a lot when I was blind tasting for my wine exams, but then I read it is just one of those sensory characters that some people are more sensitive to than others.  You might want to test which camp you fall into with your Shiraz.

 And one more thing to watch out for from the Shiraz/Syrah you are tasting. This is a grape that is prone to reduction (see my Terminology section) so you might find when you open the bottle is can be dumb or flat, maybe with an eggy aroma. If that is the case swirl it in the glass or decant it. Give it time and the oxygen can reverse that problem and you’ll start to notice it becomes fruiter and generally wakes up.

For food matching, it is true that Frazzles may be your ultimate pre dinner match for this wine. But if you are feeling more sensible and want to have a decent dinner with it I’d advise food with equally bold flavours, maybe spiced or barbecued meats. Or for those on Veganuary you can go for padron peppers, roasted vegetable lasagna or tortilla.”

Andy says: “Australian Shiraz this week, and I’ve been looking forward to this ever since Emma said that it might taste like Frazzles, the king of bacon flavoured corn based snacks. She admitted privately that she meant French Shiraz and not Shiraz in general, so we’re off to a bad start.

I was hoping for something more from this full bodied red. There was mild tannin (that ‘grip’ you get on the tongue’), a whisper of smoke, and quite a short finish. It was lacking the punch in the mouth burst of flavour that I was hoping for. You know, that one that knocks you back a little and makes you go ‘wow, ok’. Actually, on second thoughts the finish isn’t that short, but does fade sooner than you’d like.

A day or so after opening and the wine opens up, and I get more fruit and mild hint of a jammy character, but still lacking a bit of intensity for me. Maybe that’s the idea… maybe, omg, I’m learning.

Still probably my favourite of the three so far.”

Buying Guidelines

If you’ve read the grape guide pages, then you’ll know Shiraz/Syrah is the grape I have come to view as “sexy” through the influence of a Mexican winery owner. Yes, indeed.

When I thought of which particular Shiraz/Syrah we should taste I thought I’d have to go straight to the style I would put most firmly in that “sexy” camp. I might be wrong, but I find the Barossa (Australian) style Shiraz the one that has those wickedly enticing flavours, and that’s what we’ll be trying this week. It is all raspberry ripple, brown sugar and velvet in its texture. Plus, the alcohol is a bit of a devil because it can often reach 14% or more. [Warning – you might not feel so sexy the next day after that bottle]

Finding this wine should be relatively simple because most retailers, large or small, should stock an Australian Shiraz. So this week head to the Australian section and find a Shiraz from the Barossa, McLaren Vale or Hunter Valley regions. This should represent best bang for buck.

Whilst we really want you to taste the same thing as us, if you’ve drunk a lot of Aussie Shiraz before and find this a boring option, then try some styles a little further afield. There are some great Syrahs from New Zealand (Hawkes Bay), South Africa (Paarl), Chile (Limari or Elqui Valley), California or even Canada (Okanagan). Get stuck in.

Finally, if you are not a fan of ripe fruity new world wines then you can go old world and give us some thoughts on the classics. The region most known for pure Syrah is the Rhone Valley. Northern villages of that region like Cote Rotie, St Joseph or Cornas produce amazing wines of great intensity and they have more complexity in additional infusions of wild herbs, black olives and more earthy savoury notes.

Oh and look out for bacon flavours or aromas. For some reason good Syrah always smells to me like a packet of Frazzles. I’d like to know if anyone else gets that…

14 thoughts to “Week 3 – Syrah/Shiraz”

  1. Chose a Torbeck Woodcutters 2015 Shiraz from the Barossa Valley. Being a big fan of most wines from that region it met all expectations.
    Ripe fruit nose along with a deep rich berry color. Smooth, soft and well balanced with a hint of licorice and spice. We did expect more complexity, but it was perfect to drink solo.

  2. I found a McClaren Vale Wine called Aficionado. The wine was really juicy at first but left me feeling parched after drinking it. By the second glass that didn’t bother me so much. It didn’t really feel like a wine I would just pop open and drink again without food. Don’t get me wrong it actually tasted great but feels like it needs some food with it. If you are someone who eats meat or cheese it would be a nice wine to choose, since I’m doing neither these days unlikely one I’ll repeat soon.

    1. Hi Sonia,
      Great to have you on board. I don’t know that wine but I’m guessing it probably had quite high alcohol if it left you feeling that way. I’m tasted quite a few Oz Shiraz over 15%abv which is just crazy. So you are right. Most sensible to have food with it and not just a packet of frazzles which wouldn’t quite soak up the alcohol!

  3. I tried the St Hallett Bin No 17 Reserve Shiraz 2016 (from Waitrose, £8.99). In appearance, it was a deep, dark, inky purple, but still clear.

    On the nose it was immediately clear that it was a big beast! I got dark berries (blackberries?), pepper and I’d even hazard a guess on tar. There was a difficult-to-pinpoint mustiness, but on reading the notes I saw ‘blown out matches’ which was exactly it! For the record, I also got a bit of the Frazzles thing!

    The taste was less big and complex than smell had led me to anticipate. It was much less fruity than I’d expected. It had a strong, tannic finish (quite acidic) but despite the obvious strength there wasn’t as much body and smoothness as I’d hoped. That uncanny candle-wick was there again!

    Overall I’d say this is a nice wine that would be great with a barbecue. However, I’m not sure it’s taste can live up to its strength. A slight case of all bang with no sizzle (as opposed to Frazzle).

    1. Hi Will,

      Interesting notes. St Hallet is a lovely winery and I would expect good things from them too. I think that comment about ‘blown out matches’ means it had reduction (see wine terminology). That explains why the fruit was muted. It might have helped to aerate it a bit – if you ever find that again. Basically I would just swirl it around the glass a lot which adds more oxygen to the wine and helps to remove the reduction. Shiraz is naturally prone to that problem. Hence you found it.

      But I agree, Shiraz is a big wine. You have to sort of be in the mood for it.

  4. Yalumba Galway Vintage 2015 Barossa Shiraz 14.5%

    Waitrose (sorry Emma) £9.49 reduced from £14.99

    I had a very promising start with this wine. On opening the screw cap I immediately got a waft of smokey, dark jammy fruit. A good sign, I think.

    The wine is clean and bright and is dark ruby in colour.

    The nose is rich, warm and smokey chopped by gunpowder sharpness. The fruit is luxurious and welcoming.

    The palate gives mountains of cherry fruit balanced with woody tannins and a nice prickle of acidity. What I am not getting is the spice, but with so much else, I am not missing it.

    The finish delivers oaky, cabbagey flavours rather than fruit but goes on for a reasonable time.

    This wine cries out for big food for accompaniment, but tonight’s sausages will have to suffice!

    Is this the one? Not really, and no Frazzles!

    Many years ago I spent over £20 on a bottle of Shiraz that had been recommended to me by staff at the sadly missed Oddbins. It was magnificent. All that I think Shiraz should be. Complex, spicy and delicious with a finish that lasted forever. I just wish that I had kept a note of the maker!!

    Perhaps I should have spent more.

    1. Hi Ian,

      Yalumba is a great winery so I would have made that choice too – plus the discount sounds pretty good too.

      Shame it didn’t live up to expectations. Maybe an excuse to buy another bottle soon…

  5. I made the mistake of reading the buying notes while I was walking through to Tesco to buy the wine. As a result I ended up with a Barossa, Chilean Shiraz (that’s what it says on the label) and a New Zealand Syrah.

    I cracked open the Barossa and was immediately blown away by the deepness of the colour. I’m loving this already because I have a comparison to the tempranillo a few weeks ago. The difference in colour is quite something, as is everything else.

    The label on the bottle suggested plum, cherry and blackberry, along with vanilla and black pepper notes. The cherry is definitely there for me, and I’m trying to find a taste of Ribena but I can’t. I just know that it’s a very nice bottle of wine. There’s a smoothness to it which could be attributed to the vanilla side and a spiciness that could be related to the black pepper. If I’m pushed to say that I can actually smell either than I would have to say no.

    I love shiraz, possibly because I ‘learned’ to drink red wine on bottles of shiraz at our local pub. A very good friend and I would buy a bottle, drink through it and buy a second. It was Jacobs Creek Shiraz and we felt very posh. It may not have been the finest but I didn’t care and it lead me to enjoy red wine.

    The best bottle of shiraz I’ve had in the last few years was from Margaret River. I was on a winery tour and went to a place called Mongrel Creek. I tasted it and loved it and purchased a bottle for my father (crossing fingers that I would be there when he opened it). I’m always nervous about buying bottles when you’re tasting stuff, because you’re invariably drunk. Fortunately this did not disappoint and to this day remains the best I’ve had. I know there are still plenty more to try though 🙂

    The other two bottles that I purchased will sit around for a while and wait for a steak or a BBQ.

    1. Hi Dan,
      Sounds like I’ve managed to increase Tesco’s wine sales last week. Hey- ho!
      Like your notes though. I agree that Shiraz is more on the cherry/red fruits than dark fruit side. So you got it right and the label was wrong!
      That Margaret River trip sounds great. I love the wines from that region. It is almost another country to Barossa and has a cooler coastal influence. So the wines has that bit more freshness and often a herbal note. I bet you also tried plenty of Cabernet there since it is a great region for it.

  6. Happy Friday…my selection this week was made easy due to the fact I had a case of Ebeneza & Seppeltfields Shiraz 2014 at home. Wow I did enjoy this with fillet steak last Saturday evening.

    A really powerful Shiraz, on the nose I could have easily mistaken it for a Bordeaux, slightly older, aged smell (only slightly not as powerful and distinctive as those from Bordeaux). A well balanced wine with rounded tannins.

    I agree with Emma, lots of dark fruits, black fruits and cherry flavours coming through. This Shiraz definitely needs food, i could not drink this on its own and whilst it went well with fillet steak, i think next time I’ll pair it with more roasted, stronger flavoured red meat……or……as i do like Frazzles, perhaps I’ll give it a go?!

  7. Whoops, I’ve jumped the gun again. And what’s worst, I’ve been really swotty and have tried two wines this time.
    I’m a big fan of the Syrah grape. My preference would be for a Rhône wine, ideally from the north, but I also like many Syrahs from across the southern Rhone and through the Languedoc and Roussillon. For instance I’m a big fan of Domaine Mandeville’s Syrah, which I’d recommend wholeheartedly, and have been enjoying an excellent Syrah from Italy recently (Capoverso, Cortona Syrah from Tuscany).
    Anyway, this week I looked at two New World examples. First was The Gum Shiraz 2016, an Adelaide Hills Australian Syrah from Marks & Spencer, currently on offer at £11.25 a bottle. I’ve always been a bit anti Aussie wines, having worked in Oddbins back in 2005/2006 at the tail end of the Aussie invasion. So many sweet and jammy Parker-esque wines would come in (I remember a Barbera at 16% ABV!), they put me off this style of wine for years. But while this wine is certainly big, after a day of being opened it revealed its more measured side.
    Deep garnet in the glass, The Gum has a luscious bouquet of squishy ripe black berries and vanillary poached cherries, with hints of roasted red pepper and fresh black peppercorns underneath. On the palate I got lots of sweet syrupy plum and morello cherry flavours over milk chocolate and warm spice notes. It’s dense and fairly voluptuous in the mouth, some skilful barrel ageing (I’m hazarding a guess here) giving its extra depth and suppleness. Definitely needed the 24 hours of breathing time, as straight out of the bottle I found it too intense and headachy. I liked it, but I’d never normally buy a wine like this, especially at this price. Just my preference.
    The second wine was Trinity Hill Syrah 2016 from Hawkes Bay in New Zealand, bought from the Wine Society at £10.40 (normal price £13.50). This is an altogether more refined wine, much more in a Rhône style, but lacking the certain smoky complexities that make Côte-Roties et al so special.
    Again, garnet red in colour, with a brighter, more focused nose of hedgerow berries, perfumed autumnal undergrowth and sweet kirsch. The perfumed freshness carries on to the palate, which is nicely tangy and balanced. The fruit is pronounced and ‘crunchy’, but also quite soft in flavour and not overcooked, very tangy and grippy, perfect for cutting through fatty cuts of meat. The only thing letting this wine down is a strong burnt vegetable bitterness on the back of the palate, bringing to mind the oddity of South African Pinotage *shudders*. Pretty sure there’s no oak on this wine as it’s so focused and grippy, but I could be wrong.
    For me, neither of these wines really got under the hood of what Syrah is for me, but that’s cool. They’re both interesting wines with plenty going for them, and they show two different faces of the grape.
    I look forward to reading some more notes.
    Oh, and Emma, no Frazzles for me. I had bacon in mind, but it just didn’t reveal itself to me. Can’t say I missed it!

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