Another Look at What Syrah Can Be

For our VINO tastings, in general, we try to show participants a glimpse of the whole world of wines, something beyond just California and the New World and to create opportunities, which both professionals and non-professionals would not normally have access to…this is one of those tastings.

Over the years, while growing up in this industry, I was always taught Syrah was one of the world’s top five “noble” grape varieties. It was capable of making truly memorable red wines with that offered something extra. Along the way, something got lost in the transition from the old days to today. I would say Australian renditions muddied the waters some because of their BIG, opulent, over blown, often over ripe bottlings. These certainly created quite the sensation and headline news at one time because of their all universe high scores from the major wine writers. Syrah, however, doesn’t have to be loud, bold or swashbuckling. I prefer those that are transparent, refined, sultry, gamey, earthy and full of soul. I am hoping this tasting of four examples, served BLIND, will help you better understand what I am trying to describe. Hopefully, then they will help create a benchmark or two of what Syrah wines can be. 

2017 Lionel Faury Syrah “Collines Rhodaniennes”— Faury fashions more classical, blue collar styled wines–earnest, traditionally grounded, masculine & forthright.  This “Collines Rhodaniennes” bottling comes from parcels on plateaus at higher elevations than St Joseph, granitic soils. 80% destemmed. 6 months in demi-muids (10 to 20 years old).

2016 Jean-Paul Jamet SyrahCollines Rhodaniennes–Finally, some Jamet Syrah is making its way to the Islands! This estate is certainly in the groove of producing top caliber Syrah.  While their Cote Rotie wines are certainly “trophy”-esque, we find superb value in their Collines Rhodaniennes bottling.  The 2016 is a blend of three parcels:– young-vine Côte Rôtie; mica schist terroir on a plateau next to the domaine and outside of the Côte Rôtie appellation AND the 3rd from a plateau above Condrieu. Grapes are 90% de-stemmed and aged 11 months in older barrique (10-20 years old).

2016 Betton Crozes Hermitage “Espiègle”–100% Syrah from La Roche de Glun—alluvial soils with large quartz stones. Crushed by foot, wild yeast fermentation. One year in six year old (white Burgundy) barrels and bottled unfiltered and unfined.  This is an example of a more contemporary styled, fruit forward Syrah to compare with the others.

2015 Kermit Lynch/Louis Barruol Crozes Hermitage “Tenay”–The Louis Barruol-Kermit Lynch collaboration is the combination of two world class talents.  Louis has the insight & right connections/network to search out interesting parcels of Syrah (really focusing on the Petite Serine vine), crafting the wine & then blending the resulting wines with super palate Kermit Lynch.  A blend of two barrels from the lieu dit of Tenay, 30 to 50 year old heirloom/heritage vines.  The Tenay parcel is located on an upper slope just north of hermitage.  We loved the extra dimensions the old vine Serine innately has.

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