Saturday, March 26, 2005

Wine Flight: Syrah...and the "Old-World" versus "New-World" Discussion Emerges Again (NW)

This wine flight focuses on four interpretations of Syrah, listed from lowest to highest retail price per bottle:

McManis Syrah 2002 (approx. $10):
Stinky nose only partly burns off
Gives way to sweet cherry, cola, and green pepper
Interesting qualities, but difficult to decipher
San Joaquin Valley, California

Ravenswood "Icon" Sonoma County 2001 (approx $18):
Smooth and fresh tasting, maybe a little green on the nose
Basic layers of berries, cherry, finishing with some vanilla
Rhone-style Syrah blend with Grenache and Mouvedre
Sonoma County, California

Papillon Crozes-Hermitage 2002 (approx. $27)
Stinky nose at first, then burns off to a light a fruity note
No big burst of fruit, just well-layered and balanced
Very much in the old-world style (subtle and layered, not up-front fruit)
Paired well with food from fried oysters to rack-of-lamb

Foley Estates Syrah Santa Rita Hills 2002 (approx. $32):
Smooth and silky, big cherry flavors, a smokey layer, hint of pepper
Soft tannins and medium length finish
Versatile wine, paired well with a variety of food courses
Santa Barbara County, California

These wine represent three California and one French appellation. They are all different! I organized the listings by price, but a better wine flight arrangement is from lighter to heavier. Not having tasted some of these prior prevented me from using this method. After this tasting, I would arrange them in a flight as follows: McManis- Papillon- Ravenswood- Foley.

In general, I'm having trouble understanding Syrah. I think a lot of Syrahs pair well with food, as did all these wines, especially the Papillon and the Foley. But I can't get over the stinky nose present on two of these and the green nose present on one of the wines. What is this? I'm not sure, but my guess is that it has something to do with wines created from Syrah in the "old-world" style. That is to say, attempting to create well-balanced wines that are not too sweet, pair well with food, and are well-balanced. These are the original qualities of dry table wine made in the "old-world" countries of Europe. If you taste a Syrah created in the "new-world" style of big up-front fruit, you'll notice a difference. The "new-world" often refers to wine regions that have really developed commercially within the past 50 years such as most of the western hemisphere. I am guessing this style of Syrah must mask the stinky nose behind big, fruity aromas. However, many of these "fruit-forward" wines are sweet and grapey, low on acidity, and fail to pair well with food. This is often true of Australian "Shiraz" which is just a re-name of the Syrah varietal. Shiraz has developed a well-deserved reputation as a really interesting varietal with a fruity, pepppery character and has become so successful in the American market that many North American wineries are now using the term "Shiraz" instead of Syrah on their labels. Either way, it is a "new-world" style of winemaking and seems to be quite different in this varietal.

I like both "old-world" and "new-world"-style wines. They both have enjoyable qualities and can please a crowd. I'm just having trouble understanding Syrah as a varietal. I've got a lot to learn...and hopefully, a lot of time to learn. By the way, my favorite was the Foley, but none of them knocked my socks off. Raise a glass! -NW

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

New world means "New Jersey" which = a laboratory of artificial flavors; you know butilated hydroxy anisole with a twinge of raisin flavoring; oops, have to run, the satellite is honing in on my location...