Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews
Independent reviews of some local and imported wines available in New Zealand, including earlier vintages.

Geoff Kelly  MSc (Hons)

Introduction  (mostly shared with the Cabernet / Merlot Forum report)
As a lead-in to Pinot Noir 2010,  Hawkes Bay WineGrowers hosted two red wine Conferences in Hawkes Bay.  The first day was the Cabernet / Merlot Forum on Friday 29 January,  with a joint Conference dinner in the evening,  followed by the Syrah Symposium Saturday 30.  Since inquiries exceeded places,  the bookings and stats available are for both,  as a package deal.  144 people enrolled,  51 of them from overseas,  only 11 of those being Australian,  the balance coming from 9 other countries amongst which the United Kingdom contingent were most evident due to some high-profile wine-writers.  The impression was the Syrah day attracted a little more excitement than the first day,  but there wasn't much in it.  And it was certainly great to have the winemaking consultant for the first-growth-equivalent Ch Cheval-Blanc amongst us.  With only the Sunday off,  Pinot Noir 2010 started in Wellington on the evening of Monday 1 February,  continuing through to late on the Thursday.  This was certainly a saturated wine season,  without even mentioning the follow-up Aromatic 1-day Conference in Nelson on Saturday 6 February.  

The Hawkes Bay Conferences started on a lower-key note than the Pinot Noir Conference proper,  but a pleasing one.  A spokesman for Air New Zealand (one of the main sponsors for the Hawkes Bay programme) made the point that the airline sees New Zealand wine as critical to the branding of the company.  Their goal is to demonstrably have superior wine at each fare level,  to differentiate Air New Zealand from competitors.  Such is their progress with this,  that New Zealand syrah has already displaced Australian shiraz,  in terms of volume used.

THE SYRAH SYMPOSIUM:  The pattern for the Saturday was essentially similar to the Cabernet / Merlot Forum,  the Syrah Symposium comprising approximately eight seminars and four tastings,  and the day concluding with a round-up all-speakers panel questions and discussion session.  The day had a slightly higher buzz level about it,  a greater sense of expectation maybe for the trendy newcomer grape – there were no vacant seats.  The task set me was to report on the tastings and the wines.  There was however too much other content to not be tempted to report some impressions.  The wine reviews conclude the report.

New Zealand case study and Tasting:  Rod Easthope
Due to a travel hitch,  the first two items on the programme were reversed.  This allowed Rod Easthope,  chief winemaker for Craggy Range,  to set the day rolling with a great insight into both syrah the grape,  and the operations of the Craggy Range winery.  In its 11 short years Craggy Range has become one of the top 'must taste' New Zealand wineries.  Rod was both informative and provocative:
#  Already they have more than 60,000 syrah vines planted,  are now replacing lesser clones of merlot with it;
#  A key issue is,  syrah offers a range of valid styles,  whereas Cabernet / Merlot is a much more circumscribed wine;
#  At Craggy Range,  they like to differentiate between winemakers,  and beverage makers.  The latter intervene more,  and standardise the wine more.  They wish to let each vintage speak for itself;
#  90% of their syrah is the main New Zealand selection or Limmer clone,  planted at 4,200 vines per hectare.  They have some later clones,  but none match the flavour intensity of the local heritage clone,  in their experience;
#  Craggy place great emphasis on 'detailed,  accurate and uniform' canopy management,  to end up with no shaded leaves,  and no leaves at all in the fruit zone;
#  Crop thinning aims to produce one bunch per shoot for the prestige wine Le Sol,  yielding c.6 t/ha or 40 hL/ha,  and 1.5 bunches per shoot (9 t/ha or 60 hL/ha) for their mainstream Gimblett Gravels Syrah (formerly labelled Block 14);
#  All syrah is hand-picked,  timing depending ideally on taste,  but season and conditions can influence.  Yes,  they do all the analyses,  but it is flavour that matters.  To achieve the desired flavour concentration,  they usually wait for light skin dimpling,  but not shrivelling.  They particularly want to avoid the "dead fruit" character associated with raisining,  as frequently encountered with Australian and Californian examples of the variety.  [ Comment:  even hanging to that stage,  there is some risk of losing florality and temperate-climate magic,  and raising the chance of sur-maturité characters such as the boysenberry fruit notes so characterising Australian renderings of the grape – more comment later.];
#  No cold soaking at all,  and no logic in it,  merely a fad that increases chances of both brett and VA from undesired yeast strains.  For the same reasons all musts inoculated,  to quickly achieve a vigorous population of desired yeasts;
#  No enzymes used,  no yeast supplements,  again want expression of that year's fruit,  not standardising;
#  No viognier co-fermentations under the Craggy Range label,  blurs the character of syrah;
#  All oak French,  but beyond that no longer too fussed as to origin,  more concerned about reputation of cooper,  and achieving quality three-year air-dried medium-toast wood;
#  Some stimulating thoughts on formula winemaking and pH manipulation,  versus minimal intervention winemaking for style and quality;
#  New oak use has been reduced in recent years.  Currently,  the Gimblett Gravels wine is 25%, and Le Sol 40%.  [ Comment:  be great if this trend continues,  letting the grape speak even more – both the Craggy Syrahs at the Symposium looked oaky against the top wines.]
#  Then followed the most clear-cut and succinct understanding of achieving and maintaining quality in the elevage of syrah that I have ever heard.  Syrah has the reputation of being prone to sulphide-production in fermentation and subsequently.  Rod Easthope's conclusions in the background notes for the Symposium Handbook are worth reproducing verbatim (with permission):

Maturation:  Brett and Sulphides:  I don't like the flavours produced by Brettanomyces.  To me,  it smothers terroir,  i.e. 4EP [ 4-ethylphenol,  the primary component of the brett aroma ] smells the same whether it is in wines made in the Rhone or New Zealand.  The paradox of purity and complexity can be achieved without the corruption of winemaking faults.  However,  I also don't like the draconian,  academically inspired advice to prevent Brett.  In my experience,  acid additions to lower pH to the presumed safe zone in conjunction with large SO2 additions defeat the purpose of elevage in barrel.  Under this regime I see colour and flavour maturing,  but tannins don't – they remain hard.  Also,  this SO2-imposed microbial stability sets wines down the reductive pathway.  Okay,  so you don't have Brett,  but you end up with unbalanced,  hard wines that require heavy intervention at finishing with fining and copper additions to mop up the products of a reductive environment.  And that just doesn't sound like winemaking to me.

We don't adjust pH (which typically means wines are maturing post-MLF with pHs of 3.65 – 3.75),  and we have none to very low Free SO2 levels.  This allows the incremental oxygen ingress to actually have an effect on the maturation of the tannins and that same oxygen ingress neutralises the reductive elements that are naturally produced during ferment,  MLF and yeast autolysis.  This regime allows the wine to go through all the oxidative and reductive reactions unaffected by SO2.  After 18 months of this regime the wines have a degree of redox stability that then means copper can be avoided and the wine can be bottled under screwcap without fear of sulphides developing.  We just need the marketing and sales departments to be brave here.

Pivotal to this regime is barriques.  With larger vessels I see reduction even under a zero SO2 regime,  where the oxygen ingress is insufficient to negate the effect of the reductive elements produced.  Also pivotal to this story is storing the wine below 13° C,  post MLF.  Below 13° C we don't see Brettanomyces growth – even at these relatively high pHs.

Finishing / Bottling:  Our maturation techniques mean that no fining is required – be it copper or tannin removal.  However,  it does mean that we sterile filter (0.45 micron) our Syrah – as we can't guarantee the conditions the wine will endure once it leaves our warehouse.

Tasting 1:      6 wines

2008  Bilancia Syrah / Viognier
2008  Church Road Syrah Reserve
2008  Coopers Creek Syrah Chalk Ridge Select Vineyards
  2008  Craggy Range Syrah Gimblett Gravels Single Vineyard
2008  Mudbrick Syrah Reserve
2008  Te Mata Estate Syrah Bullnose

This first tasting set the syrah day off on an exciting note,  simply because its goal was to illustrate styles of New Zealand syrah,  there was a wine from beyond Hawkes Bay,  and the wines were all uniformly non-prestige offerings,  better to illustrate site and winemaker differences of approach.

Shiraz in Australia:  James Halliday
The next session deceptively titled merely:  "Australian Shiraz",  in fact displayed the extraordinary breadth and depth of James Halliday's encyclopaedic [ literally now: The Australian Wine Encyclopedia, 2009 ] knowledge.  First,  the facts.  Syrah is the result of a natural crossing centuries ago between mondeuse blanche and dureza,  both Northern Rhone varieties scarcely surviving today.  Syrah was brought to Australia in 1839,  and as shiraz it is by far the dominant red variety,  amounting to 442,000 tonnes harvested in 2008,  that being 45% of all reds harvested,  and 24% of all wine production in that country.

The oldest producing shiraz vines in Australia are in the Barossa Valley,  up to 165 years of age,  in Victoria at Tahbilk 149 years,  and in the Hunter Valley at McWilliams Mount Pleasant vineyard,  up to 146 years.  Due to phylloxera in Europe,  the oldest of these are highly likely to be the oldest syrah vines in the world.  Though there may have been up to five nineteenth century importations,  and though there are now 'numerous' clones available,  the main ones in use are thought to be descendants of those brought by James Busby.  Latter-day clonal work initially focused on yield (as in Europe),  but is now quality-centred.

In terms of production,  James differentiated between volume producers making 50,000 – 500,000 9-litre cases,  much of that made in stainless steel with oak,  and smaller producers operating more traditionally,  except that finishing fermentation in barrel is becoming widespread,  and the trend is from American to French oak,  and less new oak.   He discussed winemaking in some detail,  at several points gleefully noting strong contrasts between his view and Rod Easthope's.  In the broadest terms,  James now recognises four main stylings of shiraz in Australia:
#  South Australian Traditional:  14 – 15.5% alcohol,  much old-vine wine,  plum,  prune,  blackberry and mocha (maybe) characters:  Barossa,  Clare and Eden Valleys,  McLaren Vale;  
#  Intermediate Traditional:  around 14%,  often old vines,  spicy and earthy characters:  Hunter Valley,  New South Wales;  Goulburn Valley,  Victoria;  Langhorne Creek and Coonawarra,  both South Australia;
#  Continental:  around 14%,  mostly vines less than 50 years age (but some areas long-previously in production),  medium to full body,  often minty,  spicy,  dark fruits,  an exciting class:  Canberra,  Hilltops and Orange,  all New South Wales;  Bendigo,  Grampians,  Heathcote and Pyrenees,  all Victoria;  and Adelaide Hills,  South Australia;
#  Cool Maritime,  13 – 14%,  younger vines (but some areas long-previously in production),  fine fragrant red and black cherry,  pepper,  thoughts of syrah:  Margaret River,  West Australia;  Sunbury,  Yarra Valley,  Geelong and Mornington Peninsula,  all Victoria.

Concluding remarks touched on shiraz / viognier blends,  and how strongly this white variety can make its presence known,  even to the point of perhaps needing a separate judging class for the blends,  and then a break-down of the Australian shiraz market by price point:  under $8,  11%;  $8 – $11,  22%;  $11 – $14,  22%;  $14 – $19,  21%;  $19 – 35,  16%;  over $35,  8%.  And,  wistful final thought,  45% of the shelf price of each bottle of shiraz is now tax,  in Australia.

Technical sessions:
It was a long morning.  Three of the four next presentations (all before lunch) were technical to very technical.  The first by Dr Petra King of the Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT) dealt with the topic of high vine vigour in syrah leading to reduced quality.  Grape yield can vary 8 – 10 fold within uniformly managed vineyards.  Strategies to optimise grape quality were reviewed briefly.  The second,  by Rod Chittenden also from EIT,  discussed co-fermentation of syrah and viognier.  One had to listen carefully,  some details which caused you to pause and think resulted in losing the next point:  for example,  co-fermented wines show increased astringency and reduced bitterness.  And yes,  it is true:  despite the dilution of adding a white grape,  a 10% viognier / syrah co-fermentation produces increased colour density in the wine,  the relatively high phenolic content of viognier playing a part.  Both papers will be reported on elsewhere;  New Zealand WineGrower often has progress reports on New Zealand research topics such as these.

The third technical report was by Associate Prof Markus Herderich,  based at the Australian Wine Research Institute,  Adelaide.  His topic was "Syrah and Pepper Aroma Compound".  When the research started,  there was no known chemistry for the pepper aroma,  hard though that is to believe.  At the conclusion the new compound (–)-rotundone is the source – described as "an obscure sesquiterpene".  It is extremely potent,  its sensory threshold in wine is around 16 ng / litre,  which in (perhaps) more meaningful terms the speaker stated that 1 gram would make the entire Australian grape crush smell peppery.  Fleshing that out a little via James' earlier paper,  that is 1.8 million tonnes of grapes harvested in 2008,  which at standard conversion rates for the red and white fractions means c.1.3 billion litres of wine would smell peppery.  Yet the extraordinary detail is,  20% of all sensory panellists could not smell the compound at the highest level offered for tasting (4000 ng/L).  [ Comment:  I suspect a similar dilemma prevails for some of the floral components which make temperate climate syrah and pinot noir so beautiful and distinctive.  When one thinks about it,  that is one in five people,  which could mean one in five winemakers cannot smell these key wine characters,  and thus have no idea of the beauty that can be achieved in these winestyles.  This kind of thought would certainly explain the way some winemakers approach pinot noir in New Zealand. ]  One report is available in: Wood et al, 2008:  Journal Agricultural & Food Chemistry 56:  3738 – 44.

Cool-climate Australian Shiraz, and Tasting:  Dan Buckle
The second tasting of the morning was presented by Dan Buckle,  winemaker at Mount Langi Ghiran.  I had not realised quite how cool this west Victorian vineyard is,  on ancient granites at 350m altitude,  35 kilometres southeast from Great Western.  Degree days average 1152,  less than Hawkes Bay,  but at the same time it is Australia – in 2008 13 days exceeded 40° C.,  so it is not temperate-climate in some seasons,  in the sense that concept is understood by fine wine proponents of regions such as Hawkes Bay,  Bordeaux or Hermitage.  The speaker touched on many interesting details,  and clearly the vineyard is far from easy.  High must pHs are common despite the cool-climate and acid parent materials,  necessitating tartaric additions.  The goal now is 'small and beautiful',  no more blockbusters.  Langi Ghiran does include some stems,  may have a little tail-end barrel fermentation,  does not use viognier,  and all wines are sterile-filtered to bottle.

Tasting 2:     6 wines  

2008  Clonakilla Shiraz / Viognier
2008  Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz Langi
2006  Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz Langi
  2004  Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz Langi
2007  Paringa Estate Shiraz Reserve Barrel Selection
2006  Shaw and Smith Shiraz

The impact of this Australian tasting was dramatic,  compared with the Cabernet / Merlots the previous day.  It included the best Australian expression of syrah,  as opposed to shiraz,  I have ever tasted,  the Paringa Estate from Mornington Peninsula.  It far and away outclassed the world-famous J L Chave Hermitage shown later in the day,  as did one of the Langi Ghiran wines.  In comparison,  the Canberra wine was cool,  narrow,  and tainted with eucalyptus,  and the Adelaide Hills wine was more hot-climate and relatively simple.  It was perhaps not ideal to have three vintages of Langi Ghiran:  a well-chosen West Australian and another cooler exemplar from South Australia or western Victoria would have broadened the scope.

The Rhone Valley,  and tasting:  Jason Yapp
The first tasting after lunch had been scheduled for presentation by John Livingstone-Learmonth,  author of the definitive text on the Rhone Valley (The Wines of the Northern Rhone,  2005),  but in the event Jason Yapp of Yapp Brothers in Wiltshire,  famed specialist English importer of Rhone wines,  stood in.  To a person who loves the reds of the Northern Rhone,  this session was intriguing.  The presentation gave glimpses of the history and an outline of syrah in the Northern Rhone Valley,  though as is often the case with European wine visitors,  the romance of the wine and region sometimes failed to withstand analytical enquiry at the tasting stage.  Snippets in passing:
#  Undoubtedly the district was producing wines in Roman times,  both winery and vineyard terrace evidence;  
#  Hermitage:  the first wine in the world without a single exception ° Thomas Jefferson 1787;
#  Northern Rhone:  90% red,  10% white,  mean annual temperature of 12.5°C,  un-blended except for Cote Rotie sometimes,  longer lived,  more expensive,  often individual / local ACs,  high proportion of independent growers,  no rosé;
#  Southern Rhone:  90% red,  6% rosé,  4% white,  mean annual temperature 13.5°C,  mostly blended,  less expensive (except cru Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas),  often regional ACs,  high proportion of co-ops,  world-class rosé;
#  Hermitage:  140 ha,  40 hL / ha AC limit (= 2.1 t/ac),  typically steep slopes including granite,  up to 15% white grapes allowed in blends but virtually all wines 100% syrah,   intense wines lasting 30 years,  and rarely dry out,  Les Bessards the finest site;
#  Cote Rotie:  202 ha,  40 hL / ha,  typically sleep slopes on more diverse rock types,  up to 20% viognier allowed,  rarely more than 5% used (Jason has seen one 20% viognier blend – 'not a good experiment'),  Cote Brune wines fade after c.30 years (good ones),  Cote Blonde more like 15 years;
#  Cornas:  90 ha,  40 hL / ha,  amphitheatre slopes including granites,  high average age of vines,  closest in style to Hermitage,  but tending more rustic,  best before 20 years,  renaissance awaited;
#  St Joseph:  920 ha,  40 hL per hectare,  typically less hilly,  no granites,  usually less serious than Cote Rotie or Hermitage,  but latterly Yves Cuilleron,  J L Chave,  Alain Graillot and Florentin aiming for more cellar-worthy wines;
#  Crozes-Hermitage:  1280 ha,  AC 45 hL / ha,  the most variable district,  best wine from restricted more hilly or high-terrace sites,  most less intense,  less ripe,  shorter lived,  up to 15% white grapes allowed,  but most wines syrah 100%.

Tasting 3:         6 wines

2001  J-L Chave Hermitage
2004  Clape Cornas
2007  Yves Cuilleron St-Joseph l'Amarybelle
  2007  Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage
2005  Guigal Cote Rotie Ch d'Ampuis
1999  Patrick Jasmin Cote Rotie

This is a New Zealand report,  from someone keenly interested in the syrahs of the Northern Rhone,  since first cellaring a full case of 1969 Jaboulet Hermitage la Chapelle,  at release.  So I will say,  immediately,  that this tasting confirmed to the Nth degree the view expressed for some time in these pages,  that New Zealand can make syrah wines which challenge the finest in the Northern Rhone,  can sometimes match them in terms of their spectrum of flavour characters and appropriate ripeness,  and often surpass them in technical quality.  Where our best do not yet quite measure up is in that intensity of bouquet and flavour within a beautifully dry and light yet powerful construct which the best Northern Rhone syrahs show,  coupled with the subtler oak handling and lower alcohol of many quality examples (unless specifically made for the American market).  In other words,  our syrahs tend to be clearly very berry-fruity,  often more alcoholic,  and all too often,  too oaky – as with some of our pinot noirs.  But yet,  they are clearly syrah,  not shiraz.  And our subtlest,  notably Te Mata Syrah Bullnose in its best years,  so closely matches the best offerings of a modern producer such as Yves Cuilleron,  as to be at best indistinguishable.

Within the wines shown by Jason,  only the Guigal d'Ampuis and the Clape came within cooee of the above criteria,  though the latter was a little bretty.  The famous J L Chave Hermitage showed less ripeness and precision than a tolerably good vintage of Bullnose or Craggy Range's standard Gimblett Gravels wine,  and the Cuilleron (a producer I have the highest regard for) on this occasion showed a similar streak of leafyness to the Chave,  but was better balanced with respect to oak.  The Graillot as is too often the case with this producer was sour and stalky,  and the Jasmin Cote Rotie was a cot-case for brett spoilage,  though this did not seem apparent to our UK visitors.  Neither of the latter wines was appropriate to a presentation such as this one,  unless the intention was to display faults – which did not at all appear to be the case.  Detail follows in the reviews.

An intriguing comment from an American viewpoint came around this point from Evan Goldstein MS,  summarised:  What is the greatest wine you ever tasted ? – pinot noir,  naturally,  and what was the worst ? – pinot noir,  yes I thought so;  well ... syrah is not like that,  it is not cerebral,  it over-delivers,  it is the most versatile red with food,  and the most keenly sought wine in the $US10 – 20 bracket for restaurants.

New Zealand and World Syrahs,  and tasting:  Tim Atkin MW
The concluding and eagerly awaited presentation of the day came from Tim Atkin MW,  wine correspondent for The Observer UK,  co-chairman for the London International Wine Challenge,  website:  www.timatkin.com  His stimulating lead-in to the tasting can be summarised in his later observation:  You don't realise just how great the potential for syrah is in New Zealand.  Plant more of it,  and for your top wines,  strive for a sense of place.  That will make the wine even more special.  Tim noted the Guigal d'Ampuis in the previous tasting could be criticised for that:  it was first and foremost a great Guigal syrah,  not a great Cote Rotie.  Not all agreed with that.

One working title for the tasting was 'New Zealand versus The World'.  Tim referred to it more as a 'World Style Tasting',  and that was certainly where it excelled.  The tasting presented wines from:  Walla Walla Valley,  Washington State;  Coastal Zone,  South Africa;  Tuscany,  Italy;  Manchuela,  Spain;  San Antonio Valley,  Chile;  Estremadura,  Portugal;  Carneros,  California;  Golan Heights,  Israel;  Waiheke Island,  New Zealand;  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand.  It seems safe to say that no syrah tasting of this calibre has ever been assembled and presented in New Zealand before – a fantastic achievement.  

Tasting 4:      10 wines

2007  Boekenhoutskloof Syrah
2007  Craggy Range Syrah Le Sol
2007  Finca [ Syrah / Mourvedre ] Sandoval
2006  Gramercy Cellars Syrah John Lewis
2006  Isola e Olena Syrah Collezione di Marchi IGT
  2008  Man O'War Syrah Dreadnought Reserve
2007  Matetic Vineyards Syrah EQ
2006  Quinta do Monte d'Oiro [ Syrah ] Reserva
2007  Saintsbury Syrah Rodgers Creek Carneros
2004  Yarden Syrah Ortal Vineyard

And without too much qualification,  this tasting was in truth simply sensational.  It displayed an understanding of syrah the grape on the part of the presenter,  and a mastery of the wine styles that it could make in various climates around the world,  which was unmatched in either the Cabernet / Merlot Forum,  or more notably,  the Pinot Noir 2010 Conference.  It was therefore the tasting highlight of all three Conferences.  It also happened to include the top syrah of the day,  but that was incidental to the grip of the subject the speaker showed.  Kudos to Tim Atkin therefore;  where and how he secured the wines and had them available here,  I do not know,  but we need him to present such a tasting similarly resourced not only for the next couple of Syrah Symposiums,  but also for Pinot Noir 2013,  merely as a starter.  Further comment in the later section under the heading:  Can critical wine evaluation ....

The only criticism that could be made is that the average heat summation of the regions sampled was higher than has greatest application to syrah cultivation in New Zealand,  and therefore the cooler phases of ripe syrah in the white pepper grading to black pepper sequence,  and therefore the most floral and beautiful phases,  were largely missing.  Perfection would have been achieved with an Hermitage of the same calibre as the better wines,  and a fine (meaning subtle) Australian example showing a hint of syrah,  though compressing that country into one representative is asking a lot.  Observing the notion that because wines from a region have already been examined during the Conference,  therefore leave them out of the World Review,  is mistaken.  Twelve wines would be a max,  but is perfectly feasible.  What an even greater delight such a tasting would be.

Panel discussion:  Rod McDonald,  Symposium Chairman
This concluding session to a long day included discussion of the issue of whole bunch / stem components in the ferment.  As a person who believes that stylistically,  great syrah needs an approach to its winemaking much more akin to pinot noir than cabernet / merlot,  the subject intrigues me a good deal.  Some of our larger and more boisterous syrahs could,  I think,  be finessed in a ripe year by a touch of the whole bunch approach.  The qualities sought are the enhanced florals on bouquet,  particularly,  which the finest Cote Rotie and Hermitage wines display,  but also sometimes more tenderness on palate.  So when an Australian speaker commented on the role of stems,  Rod Easthope was quickly on his feet to say words to the effect of:  In our climate we have enough freshness and vitality in our syrah,  without stems.  Relative to some other countries,  we are in a different place,  and that's all there is to it !  Brave words:  there is at least half a Syrah Conference and sensational tastings to be had from that one exchange alone.  I agree we are in a different place,  but the evidence is New Zealand makes syrahs ranging from nondescript cool leafy and stalky lesser Crozes-Hermitage look-alikes through all the Northern Rhone Villages including Hermitage,  and  beyond in the hottest years to wines tiptoeing a little towards more complex Australian examples such as from Heathcote.  The tell-tale for the Australian 'condition' is the appearance of the boysenberry over-ripe aroma and flavour element,  as outlined in my earlier review discussing a ripening curve for syrah.  

Study of the wines shown on this day alone indicate that the most complex of the wines,  those that combine beautiful wall-flower and dianthus florality with dark red fruits centred on cassis grading through to dark plums,  are more likely to have a percentage of whole-bunch.  In Hawkes Bay's hotter years,  the tending-heroic Craggy Range Le Sol has no floral component at all.  In such years the Gimblett Gravels can be too hot for optimal syrah floral expression from berries alone,  and the probability is that for some sites,  seasons and cropping rates a percentage of whole-bunch would introduce another dimension into the wine.  Therefore Rod's postulation as a blanket proposal fails.  The key issue would become a judgement as to what percentage of whole-bunch any given climatic season merited,  exactly as leading northern Rhone producers practise today.  Further discussion scattered through the wine reviews,  notably under the Gramercy Syrah and Te Mata Bullnose headings.

Evan Goldstein added to his earlier comments on syrah acceptability in restaurants by noting:  Americans like big,  so a darker,  deeper colour is always better.  Another questioner asked if there were a danger that as New Zealand's young vines aged,  would the wines lose the great freshness they show now.  Alan Limmer as grower of the oldest syrah in the country,  replied there was no worry there,  the resulting wines were just deeper and longer on the palate.  A great thought to end the Syrah Symposium on,  and full-circle in the sense it confirms the much longer experience and expertise reflected in the ideals of the AOC approach to wine quality in France,  particularly as exemplified in Burgundy and the Northern Rhone.  

NB:  I have not background-researched or verified every view reported.  If I have misrepresented any speaker,  please advise me.  My reviews for all the wines conclude this report.

CAN CRITICAL WINE EVALUATION HELP THE WINE INDUSTRY ... comment stimulated by both the Cabernet / Merlot Forum and the Syrah Symposium in Hawkes Bay,  Jan 2010:    (this section shared with the Cabernet / Merlot Forum report)
First,  though,  a few general principles emerged from both the Cabernet / Merlot Forum and the Syrah Symposium in Hawkes Bay,  as they did from Pinot Noir 2010.  It is worth expanding on some thoughts already presented for the latter.

I touched on the contribution both local and overseas wine-writers,  critics and commentators can make to the New Zealand wine industry in my review of Pinot Noir 2010,  saying the wine industry in New Zealand needed to grow beyond the stage of 'needing'  praise.  The reciprocal is our overseas visitors appear to feel constrained by virtue of travel assistance received,  and therefore are reluctant to provide even constructive criticism.  Praise is naturally enough always welcome,  for a job well-done,  but we have reached a point of competence where praise now needs to be tempered by critical evaluation,  and fulsome praise is in fact unhelpful.  

Put simply,  as things stand right now,  we are not getting the best value out of these overseas people.  Visitors such as Jamie Goode PhD have both textbooks (The Science of Wine,  2005) and a website (www.wine.anorak.com) to their credit,  sources containing some of the best and most-accessible technical wine information in the world,  but that does not too often come through in these Conferences.  I can only hope that in some of the one-to-one meetings with winemakers,  more penetrating comment is made.  Likewise influential commentators such as Neal Martin,  by virtue of his connections,  now taste the greatest wines in the world regularly – wines which most New Zealand winemakers,  wine-writers and commentators can never hope to taste.  

We need the lessons these people can bring from such tastings urgently.  In particular we need long,  serious,  sit-down,  contemplative and interactive tastings where winemakers can meet with these people over selected bottles,  and a relaxed tasting and discussion can be both moderated and focussed by a New Zealander with a clear grasp of both wine-style as well as the technicalities on the one hand,  and the personalities on the other.  A Job-like role,  really ... such a person must particularly have the gift of disarming both parties from being unduly defensive.  Instead the topics must be explored in depth.  We particularly need constructive discussion on the interplay between style and technical components,  and the balance the critics see in a given wine,  compared with the evaluation of winemakers sometimes overly concerned with technical factors.  

The simplest example,  and it is only one example,  is brett,  where most wine-people (meaning consumers) simply love the savoury smells and tastes associated with 'acceptable' levels of this yeast.  In both the Bordeaux tasting,  and in the Syrahs of the World tasting,  our overseas visitors scarcely mentioned or acknowledged the clear presence of brett in several wines,  and tended to be dismissive of any concern about its presence even when obvious.  Yet in the leading Australasian wine judgings,  we are approaching a point where wines showing any detectable brett are rejected completely from any medal possibility.  As I have pointed out before,  Farr Vintners London are now regarded as the finest Bordeaux merchants on Earth,  and their considered view over the years has been that Ch Leoville Barton is the most 'bankable' of all the classed growths,  year in and year out.  It is rare to find Leoville-Barton without some brett.  Are we missing the point,  perhaps ?  Wine as an artefact of civilised life is ultimately about aesthetics,  beauty,  and enjoyment,  not technology.  Science can be one-eyed.  Surely the role of technology should be to optimise desired outcomes in wine,  rather than dictate what is and is not acceptable.  Where should the balance lie ?  As noted in the review for the Man O'War Dreadnought Syrah,  perhaps sterile-filtering to bottle allows us to have the best of both worlds.

When it comes to presenting formal Tastings in major Conferences,  a good indication of what could be achieved was evident in the Syrahs of the World (other than Australia and France) tasting organised by Tim Atkin MW of the UK,  for the Syrah Symposium on the Saturday.  That tasting showed superb deployment of wine resources,  bespeaking a great understanding of the performance of syrah the grape in various climates around the world.  The calibre of this tasting made a vivid contrast to either the Cabernet / Merlot "Showcase Tasting" on the Friday,  or "The Great Pinot Noirs of the World" tasting a few days later in Wellington,  though there were one or two technical quibbles in passing – European wine-commentators do have enormous difficulty in isolating brett in their sensory impressions,  which makes discussing its role difficult.  But overall,  this tasting superbly illustrated the need for organisers of Conference tastings to understand much more comprehensively the performance of the nominated grape variety,  and the range of legitimate winestyles it may display,  if the tasting is to work well.  And then,  organisers must personally taste a wide range of candidate wines,  before finalising and ordering purposefully for the Conference,  if that goal is to be achieved.

So in one sense,  for the best reasons in the world,  we are in receipt of a disservice,  on this whole issue.  Only Tim White from Australia had the gumption at one stage in Hawkes Bay to stand up and say,  at one of the Conferences,  and about one of the wines:  we are all being much too polite,  or words to that effect.  And another couple of thoughts on this issue are:  there is in fact informed opinion in New Zealand that is not being well used.  All too often,  conclusions reached by New Zealanders after careful comparative tastings are simply ignored by the industry.  And yet,  as soon as a commentator from overseas makes exactly the same observations,  their views are slavishly endorsed.  The extent to which New Zealand wine companies still issue press releases trumpeting praise of the firm's wines by some unknown wine-writer in Asia,  or favourable results from some equally obscure wine judging in deepest Bulgaria or similar,  while ignoring detailed New Zealand studies of infinitely greater local relevance,  bespeaks a colonial insecurity syndrome no longer appropriate to creative wine achievements in New Zealand in the 2000s.  We need to both believe in our own people a great deal more,  now,  and debate well-informed and well-intentioned criticism whether local or from overseas more constructively.  But,  as for overseas commentators,  or for the wines themselves (the underlying subject of this debate),  local commentators too vary in quality.  As always,  critical evaluation,  not defensive reaction,  is required.                  
A related concern could also be drawn from these Cabernet / Merlot and Syrah Conferences in Hawkes Bay.  There it was evident that panel and session leaders were at pains to keep most of the discussion in-house.  Perhaps this was subconscious,  but the underlying presumption conveyed seemed to be,  winemakers know best.  But further to that,  as I recollect,  no winemaker from outside Hawkes Bay was at any point asked to comment,  notwithstanding the expertise evident in making both cabernet / merlot and syrah winestyles on Waiheke Island,  some of whom were present.  And,  some of the wines shown by Hawkes Bay winemakers demonstrated that they are not in fact infallible.  Likewise,  very little comment was drawn from the floor generally – except sometimes from overseas visitors,  where there is the reservation noted above.  Consequently the level of debate was much less penetrating,  frank,  and constructive than ideal.  We need a much more thoughtful and mature approach in all these matters,  in 2010,  if the industry is to capture the hearts and minds of more tasters,  in more countries,  in the years to come.    

Acknowledgements:  It was a pleasure to be invited to report on these Conferences by Hawkes Bay WineGrowers.  Behind the scenes,  Nicola Pentelow of Gameplan NZ Ltd,  event organiser,  provided all help to secure samples and check wines.  I very much appreciated winemakers supplying supplementary information,  though this meant disturbing them at their busiest season.  These are exciting Conferences in the New Zealand wine calendar.  The suggestions I offer are made in the hope that further improvements will be sought,  so that future Conferences particularly benefit small-scale proprietors who cannot easily go to well-structured tastings relevant to their craft and business.  


All Conference wines are reviewed in one rank-order sequence.  This approach facilitates a more objective style of review,  compared with the special pleading a wine may sometimes receive in an individual tasting.  Brett taints in the European wines,  and euc'y taints in the Australian wines,  are clear examples.

2008  Bilancia Syrah / Viognier
2007  Boekenhoutskloof Syrah
2001  J-L Chave Hermitage
2008  Church Road Syrah Reserve
2004  Clape Cornas
2008  Clonakilla Shiraz / Viognier
2008  Coopers Creek Syrah Chalk Ridge Select Vineyards
2008  Craggy Range Syrah Gimblett Gravels Single Vineyard
2007  Craggy Range Syrah Le Sol
2007  Yves Cuilleron St-Joseph l'Amarybelle
2007  Esk Valley Syrah Winemaker's (formerly Reserve)
2007  Finca [ Syrah / Mourvedre ] Sandoval
2007  Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage
2006  Gramercy Cellars Syrah John Lewis
2005  Guigal Cote Rotie Ch d'Ampuis
  2006  Isola e Olena Syrah Collezione di Marchi IGT
1999  Patrick Jasmin Cote Rotie
2008  Man O'War Syrah Dreadnought Reserve
2007  Matetic Vineyards Syrah EQ
2006  Quinta do Monte d'Oiro [ Syrah ] Reserva
2008  Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz Langi
2006  Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz Langi
2004  Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz Langi
2008  Mudbrick Syrah Reserve
2007  Paringa Estate Shiraz Reserve Barrel Selection
2007  Saintsbury Syrah Rodgers Creek Carneros
2006  Shaw and Smith Shiraz
2008  Te Mata Estate Syrah Bullnose
2004  Yarden Syrah Ortal Vineyard

Syrah = Shiraz
2006  Gramercy Cellars Syrah John Lewis   19  ()
Walla Walla Valley,  Washington,  USA:  13.9%;  $93   [ cork;  price is simple conversion from US$65;  Sy 100% from 2 vineyards;  60% whole bunch fermentation, winemaking detail scanty on website;  15 months in 100% French oak 20%  new;  this is the winery's top syrah,  seeking to emulate Cote Rotie / Hermitage,  a four-barrel selection resulting in 97 cases;  WA / Miller,  2008: aromas of smoke, meat, game, and blueberry ... in a lean style, it gains its structure from acidity. The flavors are attractive and wine has solid length ... wines to tickle the intellect ... diversity is a good thing. 91;  www.gramercycellars.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  in the middle for depth.  Bouquet progressively opens up to a very exciting multifaceted display of syrah florals,  including a definitive wallflower note,  as well as roses,  violets,  plus some cracked black peppercorn.  Below is cassis and fresh dark plums,  with no hints of sur-maturité,  all beautifully soft and round,  yet aromatic too.  Palate shows all the bouquet attributes of great syrah,  in a beautiful texture,  softer and more charming now than Craggy Range Le Sol.  This is a superb syrah of a calibre to scare proprietors in Hermitage.  Noteworthy winemaking components to my taste include the freshness,  the multidimensional aroma complexities which I associate with whole-bunch / ripe-stem use in a warmer climate,  and only 20% new oak.

The proprietor's mission statement has much to say to New Zealand winemakers of the bigger-is-better school.  Summarised:  Harrington's goal ... balanced wines with limited new oak influence that taste of a specific place ... minimalist winemaking ... commitment to quality and dedication to sustainability.  We feel that a long term relationship is essential, working with the same blocks in the same vineyards each vintage ... to harvest ripe – not over-ripe – grapes, intervene minimally in the winemaking process, and not to smother the wine with a lot of new oak.  We believe that too many wines have excessive alcohol and new oak, are overly fruity and taste like they could be from anywhere.  We create wines that display balance, fruit and earthiness, and minimal new oak flavors.  This is our passion ... to produce wines that complement food ....  

This is one of the finest syrahs I have ever tasted – worth the entry fee to the Symposium to taste this wine alone,  and be inspired by it.  In my view the key revelation is the use of whole bunch,  which ties in perfectly with the bouquet attributes.  It also ties in nicely with the views hinted at by James Halliday in the morning,  in his chiding Rod Easthope for being a bit closed-mind on the issue.  This wine shows to a tee both the wisdom of seeking first to emulate the great French models,  and that it can be done in the new world.  That is a far cry from being convinced the new world can do better,  which usually means size rather than subtlety.  On that note,  Jay Miller's  words (on erobertparker.com) imply he respects the style of the Gramercy,  but it is not quite his favourite (which appears to be bigger).  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 01/10

2007  Paringa Estate Shiraz Reserve Barrel Selection   18 ½ +  ()
Mornington Peninsula,  Victoria,  Australia:  14.5%;  $102   [ screwcap;  price is simple conversion from AU$80;  Sy 100%,  hand-picked @ 0.8 t/ac from intensively managed vines to optimise fruit exposure;  100% de-stemmed,  c.2 days cold-soak then inoculated yeast,  14 days cuvaison to dryness,  no yeast-BF;  initial tartaric adjustment at de-stemming,  topped up to 2 g/L addition after MLF in barrel;  c.15 months in French oak 100% new;  medium-polish filter to bottle;  15 Trophies already in Australia,  including Best Shiraz @ Royal Melbourne (usually meaningful);  250 cases of 12;  Halliday on the 2006: Saturated colour; significantly greater volume of flavour than the Estate, all share the elements of spice and cracked pepper that make these wines so special. 96;  www.paringaestate.com.au ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a fresh and delightful colour,  in the middle for depth.  This is a wondrous wine,  a syrah from Australia illustrating perfectly how virtually all the mainland is too hot for optimal varietal quality – if expression as syrah is the goal.  It is a little spirity,  but there are soft wallflower florals and suggestions of dianthus no more mint-affected than one or two New Zealand syrahs.  Despite being wonderfully rich,  the palate shows vibrant cassis,  a touch of cracked peppercorn,  a nearly natural acid balance [ I thought,  before detail supplied ],  and subtle oak.  It seems to have more delicacy and poise than Le Sol,  reminding rather more of New Zealand's 2007 Church Road Syrah Reserve,  though the pH of 3.37 certainly argues against that impression.  From the New Zealand perspective,  the Paringa is a sensation,  showing (sadly for us) that we do not have the syrah winestyle all to ourselves,  in Australasia.  Not imported into New Zealand,  sadly.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 01/10

2008  Coopers Creek Syrah Chalk Ridge Select Vineyards   18 ½ +  ()
Havelock North district,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $26   [ cork;  Sy 96%,  Vi 4,  all hand-picked @ 2.7 t/ac from a hill-slope site with limestone;  syrah de-stemmed,  2 days cold soak,  co-fermented via wild yeast initially then inoculated,  21 days cuvaison;  MLF and 14 months in French oak c. 50% new;  RS 2.5 g/L;  sterile-filtered to bottle;  www.cooperscreek.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  as good a colour as the Paringa Estate,  in the middle for depth.  Bouquet is wonderfully varietal,  clear cut syrah florals on ripe cassis grading to bottled black doris plum,  clear cracked black peppercorn complexity,  slightly more oak than some,  and a weight of fruit reminiscent more of the Clape Cornas (adjusted for age) than some of the fleshy New World wines.  Coopers Creek Chalk Ridge Syrah has leapt to the forefront,  the last couple of vintages,  and the Northern Rhone styling in this wine is sheer delight.  The given RS is not readily detectable / apparent.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 01/10

2007  Esk Valley Syrah Winemaker's (formerly Reserve)   18 ½ +  ()
Cornerstone Vineyard,  Gimblett Gravels,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $65   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested from vines planted in 1996,  de-stemmed;  total wild-yeast and wild-malo fermentation,  no enzyme,  no tannin,  and cuvaison extending to 32 days;  MLF and c.21 months in French oak 30% new,  with 2-weekly lees stirring but no racking;  total production < 300 cases,  WA / Martin, 2009: (before bottling) ... fine blackberry, plum and cassis. Good earthy notes ... ripe black fruit, nice acidity, svelte, lots of black fruits towards the finish that has a degree of elegance and focus. Good potential. (90-92);  www.eskvalley.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a beautiful colour.  Bouquet is intensely cassisy and nearly violets floral,  with implicit cracked black peppercorn.  In mouth the varietal definition is superb,  the reduced use of new oak in 2007 allowing the variety to shine through in a style closer to Bullnose Syrah than to Le Sol.  This is a lovely rich wine,  the best yet under this label,  fractionally less aromatic than the Coopers Creek,  which will repay cellaring 5 – 15 maybe 20 years.  GK 01/10

2007  Craggy Range Syrah Le Sol   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.2%;  $93   [ cork;  Sy 100% Limmer clone,  hand-harvested @ 2.2 t/ac from a stony part of the vineyard;  100% de-stemmed,  2 days cold soak,  wild-yeast fermentation in open-top oak cuves,  22 days cuvaison including cold-soak;  no BF component;  MLF and 20 months in French oak 42% new;  RS nil;  filtered;  c. 1000 cases (of 12) of the 2007;  WA / Martin,  2009: very intense, almost introverted on the nose, closed compared to the Block 14 but the palate is full-bodied with immense chewy tannins, real weight and concentration but good acidity. Huge grip, pure black cherry, cassis and plum but velvety and caressing on the finish. Iron first/velvet glove etc. Unreal. 96;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  the second deepest in its tasting.  Bouquet on this syrah is ultra-clean at a ripeness level a little beyond optimal varietal complexity in a temperate climate.  Floral character is more attenuated than the Gramercy,  but the cassis and black plum is comparable,  or perhaps with a little more dark chocolate.  On palate,  the whole wine is firmer and more youthful,  as if pH were lower and new oak much higher.  Whereas the Gramercy is sensational (once breathed) now,  the Craggy Range needs several years to soften and be accessible.  Each year,  one feels the need to coax the Craggy winemakers to reveal more of the beauty of syrah by increasing the floral component / reducing the sur-maturité (the top-rated Gramercy Syrah with its significant whole-bunch component is highly relevant to this discussion),  and cutting the new oak – certainly needed here.  Beauty would also be increased if the syrahs were handled more as if they were pinot noir.  Further comment under the Te Mata Bullnose wine,  below.  We have the Australians to 'thank' for this obsession with new oak for syrah,  in the style they deservedly call shiraz.  We can do better than that,  in New Zealand.  Cellar 10 – 20 years.  GK 01/10

2005  Guigal Cote Rotie Ch d'Ampuis   18 ½  ()
Cote Rotie,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $237   [ cork;  Sy 93%,  Vi 7;  a blend of 6 vineyards,  average vine age 50 + years;  38 months in new French oak;  WA / Parker, 2009:  masculine-styled ... dense, concentrated, and powerful, with gamy black currant, spice box, bacon fat, and herb notes, this chewy, tannic, enormously promising ... two decades or more. (94-96);  www.guigal.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  lighter and older than the top wines.  Great to record that this vintage of d'Ampuis shows much less brett than several recent vintages.  The syrah varietal quality and in particular the florality of this wine matches beautifully with the top New Zealand wines,  augmented by 7% viognier,  showing yet again just how exciting syrah is in New Zealand.  The ratio of new oak to rich cassisy fruit is higher than the subtlest of the top New Zealand wines,  again more on a par with the latest Craggy Range wines,  which makes for a long but drying aftertaste,  yet it is sustained by the fruit richness.  The acid balance is perfection,  serving to highlight the harshness of wines with added tartaric.  Some thought the wine too oaky,  in the ensuing discussion.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 01/10

2008  Church Road Syrah Reserve   18 +  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle 86%,  Gimblett Gravels 14,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $38   [ cork;  Sy 100% hand-harvested and sorted;  no cold soak,  inoculated yeast,  warm-fermented in open-top oak and concrete vessels,  up to 4 weeks cuvaison,  controlled aeration;  c. 14 months in burgundy barrels c. 42% new;  www.churchroad.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  very deep and dense and exciting,  one of the darkest wines in the syrah flights.  This year's Church Road Syrah shows greater ripeness and more oak than the wonderful wines of the previous two vintages,  meaning that the floral component and ultimate syrah quality has diminished a little.  Palate is darkly plummy,  but still retaining good cracked black peppercorn notes,  giving a big mouthful of flavour,  more obvious and less subtle than New Zealand's (often) benchmark syrah,  Te Mata Bullnose.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 01/10

2007  Saintsbury Syrah Rodgers Creek Carneros   18 +  ()
Carneros,  California,  USA:  14.5%;  $57   [ cork;  price is simple conversion from US$40;  Sy 100%,  all de-stemmed;  7 days cold-soak,  17 days cuvaison;  13 months in 100% French oak 40%  new;  Saintsbury is famed for its pinot noirs,  but proprietors wished to explore cool-climate syrah and 'have a little fun … Fruit bombs they are not';  WA / Parker, 2009: Bacon fat, meat, tapenade, black cherry, and black currant notes jump from the glass ... However, in the mouth, some tart acidity gives the wine a clipped, compact texture and mouthfeel. 3-4 years. 87;  www.saintsbury.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  one of the deeper and fresher even than the Craggy Gimblett Gravels.  Bouquet is a rich,  dense slightly spirity expression of cassisy syrah,  showing clean floral complexity and some spice and cracked peppercorn notes,  plus an aromatic smoky lift from some brett.  Palate is fresher than some,  and the acid tastes natural,  so perhaps this is the magic of syrah grown in a region famous for its pinot noir.  Total complexity is excellent – what a  pleasure to see two supple yet rich syrahs from America,  one of them totally free of the winemaking faults characterising so many American reds,  both restrained in their oaking and thus optimising syrah the variety.  We need to keep thinking about differentiating our syrah from shiraz,  so there are lessons in these two wines.  Intriguing (and understandable) that neither of these 'real' syrahs from America rate highly in the Wine Advocate scheme of things – the bigger-is-better syndrome,  I guess.  Also intriguing how consistent Parker is in denoting brett by 'bacon fat and tapenade' – it is this consistency of taste expression irrespective of the views that makes him (strictly,  not necessarily his now many contributing authors) a great taster and reference-point.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 01/10

2006  Quinta do Monte d'Oiro [ Syrah ] Reserva   18 +  ()
Estremadura,  Portugal:  14%;  $64   [ cork;  price is simple conversion from US$45;  Sy 94%,  Vi 6%, hand-harvested and sorted at 1.25 t./ac,  all de-stemmed;  Jurassic limestones in 675 mm rainfall zone;  10 days cuvaison;  18 months in all-French oak 30%  new; Chapoutier consult to Monte d'Oiro; WA / Squires, 2010: ...character and complexity, showing some Syrah-ish gamey notes, and possessing a bright, succulent finish. It remains lush and velvety ... 91;  http://www.quintadomontedoiro.com/fichatecnica_reserva.pdf ]
Ruby and velvet,  older than some,  about halfway in depth.  Bouquet is immediately that of syrah in a warmer climate than the top wines,  the wine showing a soft richness of fruit predominantly in the bottled dark plums phase.  There are suggestions of sultry dark florals too,  so it's still a lot cooler in style than syrah taken through to the boysenberry shiraz norms of Australia.  Rod Easthope,  maker of Craggy Range Le Sol,  accurately picked up the viognier in this wine,  at the blind stage – impressive.  Palate is a little more acid than some,  and tasting added,  which aggravates the high tannins at this stage,  so the wine isn't as charming right now – more like Le Sol,  but for slightly different reasons.  It is however completely clean,  and will cellar well and mellow into one of the better wines of this tasting.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 01/10

2008  Craggy Range Syrah Gimblett Gravels Single Vineyard   18  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $30   [ screwcap;  Sy 100%;  hand-harvested @ 3.2 t/ac;  100% de-stemmed,  inoculated fermentation in open-top s/s fermenters and oak cuves;  18 months in French oak 40% new;  RS <2 g/L;  formerly labelled Block 14,  but increased production has outgrown that supply alone;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  another excellent colour,  above midway in depth.  Like the 2008 Te Mata Bullnose,  this is a firmer and slightly leaner wine than the preceding vintage,  and it shows a lot of oak,  in fact too much given the fruit weight.  Oak may be popular in the marketplace,  but optimising syrah varietal quality is a longer-term goal to strive for.  Fruit ripeness and richness is a little better than the Te Mata,  but elegance from the oak viewpoint is less.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 01/10

2004  Clape Cornas   18  ()
Cornas,  Northern Rhone Valley,  New Zealand:  13%;  $110   [ cork;  price is simple conversion from US$77;  Sy 100% from vines 25 – 60 years age on granite;  whole-bunch fermentation and c.14 days cuvaison;  MLF and 18 months in French oak mostly foudre size,  minimal new oak or none some years;  Yapps describe the wine as showing:  rugged tannins,  which soften and sweeten with age;  WA / Parker, 2007:  ... zesty acidity, full-bodied power, and wonderful sweet blackberry and cassis fruit intermixed with some smoke, scorched earth, and new saddle leather. It’s a beauty, rich, full ... 12-15 years. 92;  no website found ]
Ruby and velvet,  much the same as the d'Ampuis.  What a joy virtually every bottle of Clape Cornas is,  year in and year out,  the essence of wine.  For this vintage,  bouquet is classic and traditional Cornas,  clearly floral and cassisy syrah,  beautifully subtle oak,  and just a little brett to add savoury charm and complexity.  Palate is not as rich as great years of Clape,  being more the weight of the 2008 Bullnose (age allowed for),  but fruit,  acid and oak are in wonderful balance compared with even Bullnose.  Quite apart from the quality of bouquet,  noting this is a producer who does not de-stem his syrah,  I wish our oak-obsessed winemakers would pay more attention to some of the subtler syrahs from the northern Rhone.  Producers such as Clape who in some years buys no new oak at all,  show what can be done with fine aromatic syrah grapes,  whereas (in general) Australians use oak to make their over-ripe and hence bland shiraz more aromatic.  In contrast,  we like the Northern Rhone can (ideally) achieve real aromatics in the grape,  and in the vineyard.  Australian over-use of oak is therefore not something we need to emulate here.  The (at best) pinot-like beauty of syrah is the aspect we need to optimise in New Zealand's climate.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 01/10

2006  Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz Langi   18  ()
Grampians district,  west Victoria,  Australia:  14.5%;  $86   [ screwcap;  price is simple conversion from AU$70;   Sh 100%,  hand-picked and sorted from single vineyard 'Old Block',  vines 43 years old,  on granite;  shrivelled as well as green berries excluded;  a 'small percentage' of whole bunch in fermentation,  in open vessels,  up to 21 days cuvaison;  MLF in barrel,  c.18 months in French oak 45% new,  balance 1-year;  1900 cases;  www.langi.com.au ]
Ruby and velvet,  a good weight.  Bouquet has a trace of tell-tale Australian eucalyptus detracting,  but below that shows a fairly subtle rendering of shiraz,  with syrah undertones.  There is nearly cassis quality in bottled black doris fruit,  almost dark roses and florals,  and good black doris berry on palate.  Palate is a little harder,  some suggestions of added acid but still the interest of nearly-syrah berry quality,  and the wine is not too oaky.  An intriguing shiraz,  not quite capturing the magic of the Paringa Estate,  to cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 01/10

2008  Te Mata Estate Syrah Bullnose   17 ½ +  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $43   [ cork;  3 clones of syrah hand-harvested,  100% de-stemmed;  extended cuvaison;  16 months in French oak 40% new;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  one of the lighter wines,  lighter than the exemplary 2007 vintage.  Te Mata Bullnose Syrah sets the pace for displaying the floral beauty of syrah in New Zealand,  and this wine keeps up that standard,  showing wallflowers and dianthus on cassis and black doris plum fruit.  In mouth the whole wine is more petite than is optimal,  and the total acid is a little high compared with the 2007.  But the balance of berry to oak is,  as always from Te Mata,  pretty good.  It is therefore still definitive syrah but in a lighter style,  more Cote Rotie or St Joseph this year than Hermitage.  Bullnose is usually 100% de-stemmed,  adding weight to Rod Easthope's view that whole-bunch fermentation is not necessary in New Zealand.  I would argue that in fact,  it is the fractionally cooler-than-Gimblett-Gravels siting of the Bullnose vineyard in the Ngatarawa Triangle which explains its great aroma in its best years,  and would cite the Church Road Reserve in its best years as confirmatory proof,  since it primarily derives from a vineyard close by Bullnose.  In my view these wines show that in fact the Gimblett Gravels syrahs would in typical warmer years achieve enhanced florality if they did include a ratio of whole-bunch fruit in the fermentation.  Be well worth experimenting.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 01/10

2008  Mudbrick Syrah Reserve   17 ½ +  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.4%;  $50   [ screwcap;  Sy 100%,  hand-picked and sorted in field,  cropping rate average 2 t/ac;  all de-stemmed,  inoculated yeast,  1 day cold-soak,  15 – 21 days cuvaison,  no additional acid needed,  no BF;  most MLF in barrel,  14 months in American 75% and French 25 oak,  50% new (the American fraction for 2008);  totally dry;  sterile-filtered to bottle,  296 cases;  www.mudbrick.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  deeper than the Te Mata '08.  Bouquet is tending obvious,  lots of cassisy berry,  lots of oak including some American,  perhaps subtlest brett savoury complexity,  but the oak makes it hard to tell.  In mouth there is good fruit florality made aromatic by the oak,  and rich cassis and fresh bottled plums.  The original fruit quality was I suspect very good here,  but the winemaking and oak in particular have moved the wine towards an Australian styling,  unfortunately.  This should cellar well,  it has lovely acid balance [ confirmed ],  and it may marry up into an exciting bottle meriting rescoring.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 01/10

2007  Finca [ Syrah / Mourvedre ] Sandoval   17 ½  ()
Manchuela,  Eastern Spain:  14.5%;  $44   [ cork;  price is simple conversion from US$31;   Sy 76%,  Mv 13%,  Bb 11,  grown at 770 m;  c.11 months in French oak 85%,  US 15,  55% new;  bottled unfined and unfiltered;  a small winery of only 80,000 litres capacity;   WA / Miller, 2010: … a brooding bouquet of underbrush, mineral, spice box, blueberry, and blackberry. Packed and impeccably balanced, this savory, layered effort is surprisingly forward for its size. 2-3 years … cellaring. 93;  http://www.do-manchuela.com/vent/24.html ]
Ruby and velvet,  some age showing,  the third deepest in its tasting,  one of the deeper of the day.  This syrah spoke eloquently of full berry ripeness,  a little riper than the Portuguese wine,  and hence showing sur-maturité if the floral / cassis component of syrah is considered important.  There are not really any florals as such,  but dominant bottled dark omega plums with just a suggestion of the boysenberry and dark chocolate as seen in the Australian view of the grape.  Palate is rich and saturated,  with seemingly natural acid,  yet still reasonable freshness for the ripeness level.  Perhaps there is some whole-bunch,  or an early-picked fraction.  The dark chocolate on the very dry aftertaste,  without spurious oak-induced mocha artefact,  is intriguing.  This is a good study wine in the context of a Syrah Symposium in New Zealand,  where the Gimblett Gravels have the potential to produce over-ripe wines in some years.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 01/10

2007  Yves Cuilleron St-Joseph l'Amarybelle   17 ½  ()
St-Joseph,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $60   [ cork;  Sy 100%,  hand-harvested from vines > 20 years age,  selected from 18 ha held in St-Joseph,  some on granites;  some whole-bunch,  fermentation in open vats,  cuvaison c.21 days;  MLF and c.18 months in barrel,  some new;  2007 not offered for review,  it seems;  www.cuilleron.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  older than the 2007 New Zealand wines,  but a similar weight.  Bouquet is intensely fragrant,  so much so one has to look at it twice.  And in the carnations florality there is some leafyness,  like so many Cote Roties,  raising the need to check the palate.  The berry quality is explicitly at the fragrant and aromatic cassis stage,  with an almost pinot-like 'sweetness' to the fruit – until the white pepper on palate quickly dismisses that notion.  Rather like the 2008 Bullnose,  as the wine rests in mouth the acid and a touch of leafyness become more noticeable,  and one wishes for more flesh and ripeness.  A very pure and valid expression of sub-optimally ripe syrah,  more light Cote Rotie in style than St Joseph.  Cellar 3 – 12 years.  GK 01/10

2008  Clonakilla Shiraz / Viognier   17 +  ()
Murrumbateman,  Canberra district,  New South Wales,  Australia:  14%;  $80   [ screwcap;  Sh 94%,  Vi 6%;  3 days cold-soak;  some wild-yeast,  20% whole-bunch in open fermentations / cuvaison to 21 days,  12 months in French oak,  30% new;  3 Australian reviews for this 2008 are 95, 97 and 97 points;  WA / Perrotti-Brown: The 2008 Shiraz Viognier is one of the finest vintages that I’ve tasted of this wine. Co-fermented with 6% Viognier, it was matured for 12 months in French oak, 30% new. The nose is a little closed and needs coaxing at this stage to reveal complex notes of smoky bacon and loam followed by licorice, red plums, crushed blackberries, peach blossoms and rose petals. Crisp acidity, medium level of very fine tannins and layers of savory and dark berry flavors. Very long finish ... to 2024. 96;  www.clonakilla.com.au ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  one of the lighter ones.  This is intriguing wine,  almost Cote Rotie with an Australian signature.  There is clear cassis and clear florality from the viognier,  with almost a touch of apricot (+ve).  Palate has cassisy syrah berry with a touch of stalk and eucalyptus,  the acid a little noticeable and the mouthfeel cool-year Northern Rhone.  Canberra is an exciting wine district,  from a New Zealand viewpoint,  which may challenge Hawkes Bay / Waiheke Island in achieving syrah quality,  in less euc'y years.  Cellar 3 – 12 years.  GK 01/10

2007  Boekenhoutskloof Syrah   17 +  ()
Coastal WO,  Cape district,  South Africa:  14.5%;  $60   [ cork;  price is simple conversion from US$42;   Sy 100%,  hand-harvested from vines 14 years;  an indication of the climate comes from picking being in late February;  4 days cold-soak,  initial wild-yeast,  some whole-bunch fermentation,  around 24 days cuvaison;  MLF in second-year barrels,  and 27 months all told in barrel;  pH 3.89;  website being upgraded;  www.boekenhoutskloof.co.za ]
Ruby and velvet,  some carmine.  This is one of the richer and denser wines,  needing some time to open up.  There is a suggestion of eucalyptus-like plant oils and a smokey oak character which is not brett-related (I think),  on fruit at the point of ripeness equating to darkest cassis grading to more densely plummy,  dark plums bottled.  On palate,  the flavours match,  a little added acid in the texture,  and more oak than the top wines.  The oak is not as pristine as some examples today,  still a common problem with South African reds,  which at the blind stage led me to either Chile or South Africa.  Finish is long and plummy in a burly way,  and all the 'complexities' are subtle and don't detract too much.  Interesting big wine,  shiraz rather than syrah,  though.  Cellar 5 –15 years.  GK 01/10

2001  J-L Chave Hermitage   17 +  ()
Hermitage,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $250   [ cork;  price is simple conversion from US$175;   Sy 100%,  average vine age > 40 years,  hand-harvested from 7 sites the largest being Les Bessards;  a small percentage of whole-bunch according to vintage,  cuvaison 3 – 4 weeks;  c.18 months in French oak,  usually 10 – 20% new,  the latter in 2001;  bottled un-filtered;  Livingstone-Learmonth,  2005: warm cooked fruit / olives, quite plush bouquet. Real elegance, lovely freshness combined with maturity – great style. Beau vin. Silken texture, tannins are defined, oily, pretty. Good length, mineral aftertaste with some dried fruits. 2024 – 29. ***** (out of 6 max.);  WA / Parker, 2003:  [component / barrel tasting only] ... should be an outstanding wine with a Burgundian-like finesse. ... plenty of sweet cassis fruit, medium body, noticeably high tannin, and gorgeous purity as well as symmetry. (91-95);  no website found ]
Old ruby,  one of the lighter wines.  Bouquet is lighter too,  first impressions being of oak more than berry.  Looking more closely,  there is lightly floral and cassisy but also slightly stalky berry,  smelling very fragrant,  but lean.  Palate confirms both the leanness of fruit and an excess of oak,  so while purer than the Clape,  it lacks the latter's balance and charm.  Aftertaste is long,  with a kind of leafy florality entwined with the new oak,  clearly syrah in a not-quite-optimally ripe way.  It makes an interesting comparison with the younger l'Amarybelle,  being slightly cooler and leaner but still varietal.  Fair to say our bottling has little in common with the reviews,  but this is not unusual with smaller producers.  And sometimes it is the reviewers,  as illustrated later.  Cellar 3 – 8 years or so.  GK 01/10

2006  Shaw and Smith Shiraz   17  ()
Adelaide Hills,  South Australia,  Australia:  14%;  $51   [ screwcap;  price is simple conversion from AU$40;  Sh 100%,  hand-picked @ c. 3 t/ac;  de-stemmed;  c.14 months in French oak 33% new; Shaw & Smith is a collaboration of cousins Martin Shaw and Michael Hill Smith MW;  4 well-known Australian wine reviewers have rated this wine 94,  95, 97  and 98 points,  in the usual world-apart chauvinistic Australian way;  no Parker review for 2007,  90 max for previous vintages;  WS / Steiman, 2010: This silky red is lighter than most Shiraz, creating a deft balance of creamy raspberry and currant flavors against polished tannins, lingering on the refined finish ... to 2017,  91. 5,000 cases;  www.shawandsmith.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  lighter than average.  Bouquet is lighter too,  smelling softly berried,  harmonious,  scarcely any eucalyptus,  no specifically varietal qualities,  gentle oak.  Palate shows ripeness more at the bottled plums and raspberry level with a touch of straightforward boysenberry creeping in,  fleshy fruit,  but let down by the hard (added) acid mainland Australia finds it so hard to avoid.  This is pleasant fragrant quite rich shiraz,  but it does not illuminate the cool-climate component of the discussion,  in that it is more shiraz than syrah.  Hard to see a $50 price-tag.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 01/10

2008  Bilancia Syrah / Viognier   16 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels 85% and balance Roy's Hill slopes adjacent to W,  New Zealand:  13%;  $32   [ screwcap;  Sy 94%,  Vi 6;  hand-harvested @ c. 2.4 t/ac;  4 – 5 days ambient soak,  Vi skins only co-fermented with Sy,  no whole-bunch,  wild yeast ferment,  c.20 days cuvaison;  MLF and 20 months in French oak 40% new;  dry,  sterile-filtered to bottle;  900 cases;  www.bilancia.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  but one of the lighter wines.  Bouquet is intriguing,  taking its place alongside the Chave as a fragrant wine with a near-dianthus floral component on light cassisy and cherry berry,  but also another raising doubts about ripeness – is it leafy?  Palate says yes,  total acid on the high side,  some stalkyness in the berry,  subtle oak,  but less ripe even than the Chave.  Attractive in its fresh style though,  to cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 01/10

2004  Yarden Syrah Ortal Vineyard   16 ½ +  ()
Golan Heights,  Israel:  14.5%;  $70   [ cork;  price is simple conversion from US$49;  Sy 100%,  hand-harvested from vines 4 – 5 years age,  growing at 920 m,  on volcanic-derived soils in an 800 mm annual rainfall zone;  vintage starts in July and ends in August;  18 months in French oak two-thirds new;  pH 3.64;  a 5 – 6,000 tonne winery;  WA / Squires, 2008: ...a touch of that French Syrah earthiness ...nicely balanced ...ripe tannins ...young and primary ... blackberry and vanilla tinged fruit ... needs a bit more intensity and finish. 88;  www.golanwines.co.il/wine_eng ]
Ruby and velvet,  medium weight.  Bouquet stands well apart from the other wines in the world tasting,  in showing a clearly estery and slightly malted hops character,  which coupled with stewed red plummy fruit,  and just a thought of prunes,  bespoke a warmer climate.  In mouth the wine reminded me of some earlier Mondavi Pinot Noir Reserves,  the oak showing a fragrant conifer-like note reminiscent of the days when Californian redwood was used in cooperage.  The wine is soft,  quite rich and very accessible,  showing some maturity now.  The estery note on bouquet does not lead to undue VA as the acid,  but the high alcohol is noticeable.  Finish is dominated by overtly cedary oak,  but over-ripe fruit persists too.  An interesting bottle,  as seen from this side of the world.  Cellar,  3 – 8 years.  GK 01/10

2008  Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz Langi   16 ½  ()
Grampians district,  west Victoria,  Australia:  14.5%;  $86   [ screwcap;  price is simple conversion from AU$70;  Sh 100%,  hand-picked and sorted from single vineyard 'Old Block',  vines 45 years old,  on granite;  heat-wave year,  shrivelled as well as green berries excluded;  60% whole-bunch fermentation in open vessels,  up to 21 days cuvaison;  MLF in barrel,  c.13 months in French oak 45% new,  balance 1-year;  480 cases,  release date 3/11;  www.langi.com.au ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  close to the 2006.  Bouquet however is quite different,  a conspicuous whole-berry character to it giving a roto-fermenter more everyday-shiraz quality to the wine.  Palate is simpler too,  all the fruit ripened to the dark plums and boysenberry about equal stage,  leaving syrah well behind.  Finish is very fruity but a bit euc'y,  a simple clean fleshy shiraz to cellar 3 – 10 years,  though the winemaker says 20 years.  GK 01/10

2004  Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz Langi   16 +  ()
Grampians district,  west Victoria,  Australia:  15%;  $76   [ screwcap;  price is simple conversion from AU$60;  Sh 100%,  hand-picked and sorted from single vineyard 'Old Block',  vines 41 years old,  on granite;  no info on % whole bunch fermentation if any,  in open vessels,  up to 10 days cuvaison;  MLF in tank and barrel,  c.18 months in French oak some new;  www.langi.com.au ]
Ruby and velvet,  in the middle for weight.  Bouquet is reticent initially,  opening to fragrant raspberry fruits,  a touch of euc,  relatively simple.  Palate fills out the raspberry to some mulberry,  oak and acid a little noticeable,  almost a stalky hint integrating with the euc.  This too is straightforward tending-hard shiraz,  rather than syrah,  to cellar 3 – 5 years.  GK 01/10

2007  Matetic Vineyards Syrah EQ   16 +  ()
San Antonio Valley,  Maule district,  Chile:  14.5%;  $43   [ cork;  price is simple conversion from US$30;  Sy 100%,  cropped at c. 2 t/ac from granite-derived soils in Rosario sub-Valley,  220 km SSW Santiago;  an idea of the viticultural climate is gained from the harvest time in the second week of May,  annual rainfall 485 mm;  some cold-soak,  inoculated ferments in open vessels;  MLF and c.12 months in French oak,  some new;  pH 3.67,  RS 1.6 g/L,  certified organic;  www.mateticvineyards.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  one of the densest wines of the day,  and tending unnaturally young in appearance.  Bouquet on this wine too immediately speaks of winemaking difficulties as much as the densely ripe,  darkly plummy fruit.  As the colour suggests with its purple cast in the carmine,  the wine is tending rubbery / reductive,  there is a little brett complexity,  and the bouquet is fairly spirity.  Palate is saturated blackest plum,  some new oak,  all reasonably fine-grain and without too much hardness on the sulphide note.  Both in terms of fruit ripeness and reduction,  the floral component of syrah cannot be expected here,  but the wine is reasonably varietal all the same.  It should assimilate its lesser characters in 5 – 10 years and speak more eloquently for its homeland then – and perhaps merit re-ranking.  Cellar 10 – 20 years.  GK 01/10

2008  Man O'War Syrah Dreadnought Reserve   16  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $45   [ screwcap;  Sy 100%,  hand-harvested from hillsides sites @ c. 1.5 t/ac,  100% de-stemmed,  3 days ambient-soak,  wild yeast supplemented by cultured,  up to 21 days cuvaison;  MLF and 15 months in barrel,  French oak 15% new,  American 5% new,  balance mostly French older;  dry,  sterile-filtered to bottle;  1666 cases;  www.manowarvineyards.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  one of the lighter wines.  This wine is all about house style,  and less about syrah.  The dominant component on bouquet is the bacon of 4-ethylguaiacol,  the second phase of brett by-products.  One has to work at the wine to extract quite bright red fruits with white more than black pepper complexity,  but the brett kills any florals that might have been in the fruit at picking.  Acid balance is on the fresh side,  and fruit ripeness and richness are less than the even more spoilt 2007 of this label.  As always,  overseas visitors tend to be less focussed on the analysis of the wine,  and more interested in the total style achieved.  Both vintages have been highly praised by United Kingdom-domiciled writers,  who cannot see the brett,  and just enjoy the wonderfully savoury wine.  This is a measure of frustration in this,  in that the UK approach does not in fact encourage the proprietors to optimise their winemaking,  and thus fully develop a potentially outstanding site.  

Scoring is a bit arbitrary,  therefore,  see brief discussion in text Intro,  and also in more detail in the review for the 2007 of this wine (30 Jun 2009,  this site),  and the report on the Pinot Noir 2007 Conference,  text heading BRETTANOMYCES (26 Feb 2007,  this site).  A further point of interest arises where wines such as this one are sterile-filtered before bottling.  They are therefore stable in bottle,  the brett will not increase and degrade the wine further to a mousey status (as is sometimes seen with Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines),  and consumers can enjoy the savoury brett complexity to their heart's content.  There is scope for a Conference on this topic alone !  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 01/10

2006  Isola e Olena Syrah Collezione di Marchi IGT   15 ½ +  ()
Tuscany IGT,  Italy:  14%;  $60   [ cork;  price is simple conversion from US$42;  Sy 100%;  the vineyard is 350 – 450 m altitude,  on schist-derived soils,  first syrah grafted in 1984,  more planted in 1987;  12 – 15 months in oak,  c.15 – 25% new,  both French and American;  held for 2 years before release;  for a winery of such profile,  the dearth of web information (as opposed to ingratiating comment) is extraordinary;  no website found. ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  midway in depth.  Bouquet is muted,  vaguely plums,  a suggestion of volatile plant oils,  brett,  and new oak,  all hard to come to grips with.  Palate is not as rich as some (noting there are some very rich wines among the syrahs),  but still shows good red and black fruits on fine-grained natural acid,  though with a certain hardness.  The organisers later advised the wine was clearly reductive on opening,  and had been double decanted.  The wine still said enough to show that Italian syrah,  when better handled,  would pose a real challenge to Northern Rhone syrahs,  as one would expect given the evolution of other non-Italian but classic European wine styles in Italy and Tuscany particularly in the last three decades.  Should marry up in cellar over 10 – 15 years,  but will need splashy decanting.  GK 01/10

1999  Patrick Jasmin Cote Rotie   15  ()
Cote Rotie,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  12.5%;  $129   [ cork;  price is simple conversion from US$90;  Sy 95 – 96%,  4 – 5 viognier;  hand-harvested,  100% de-stemmed,  3 weeks cuvaison;  variously 18 – 24 months in French,  Russian and some American oak,  half 225s,  half 600s,  perhaps 20% new;  no luxury cuvee,  c.1900 cases;  1999 was an unusually ripe dry year in Cote Rotie,  with many exceptional wines produced;  Patrick Jasmin as quoted by Livingstone-Learmonth,  2005:  … the last thing I want to do is make technical wines;  L-L on the 1999:  Warm strawberry aromas, balanced, potential complexity; chocolate / prune style flavour, lot of warmth. Plenty of ripeness, touch burnt, leathery. Rich, full, heated finish. Top-notch. 2017 – 21. ***** (out of max. 6);  WA / Parker, 2001: [ barrel sample ]... may be the greatest Jasmin offering since the prodigious 1978. The nose gushes violets, black raspberries, black currants, and minerals. Deep, with terrific fruit intensity, medium to full body, stunning precision, and gorgeous purity ... 2002-2018. (91-94);  no website found ]
Older ruby,  one of the lightest.  Bouquet is out on a limb in a winemaker's symposium,  being very fragrant in both its Cote Rotie florality,  and its savoury browning brett component.  Palate is pro rata,  lovely Cote Rotie ripeness with cassis clearly above the leafy level,  but the berry now prematurely fading to savoury and mellow old-fashioned 'earthy' wine with horsey and coffee touches from serious brett.  Good drinking,  but inappropriate to this more technical context.  Not worth cellaring unless the style appeals irrespective,  fully mature.  GK 01/10

2007  Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage   14  ()
Crozes-Hermitage,  Northern Rhone Valley,  New Zealand:  13%;  $43   [ cork;  price is simple conversion from US$30;  Sy 100%;  20 – 30% or more whole-bunch,  wild-yeast fermentations,  cuvaison a few days over 21 if count cold-soak;  95+% matured in 1 – 6 year oak c.12 months;  the reviews in Wine Advocate provide a useful warning about wine-writers:  WA / Perrotti-Brown, 2010:  Very peppery aromas with a nice core of blackberries, warm cassis, liquorice and cumin. Crisp acid and a medium+ level of fine tannins. Great balance. Long finish. Lovely Syrah. 89.  WA / Parker, 2009:  The green, peppery 2007 Crozes-Hermitage should perform better from bottle than the barrel samples I tasted.  83 - 85;  no website found ]
Ruby and velvet.  Bouquet is tending strong,  with a leafy / stalky edge in fragrant berry,  not much oak,  a touch of almond,  fairly plain.  Palate confirms the doubts,  the wine almost a caricature of Crozes-Hermitage,  reasonable berry but tending sour,  stalky,  and acid,  clearly under-ripe,  and not quite clean.  It is wines like this that make thoughtful Kiwi commentators so incensed,  when some British wine writers continue to compare New Zealand syrah with Crozes-Hermitage.  The comparison is simply inappropriate,  unless we are talking about wines of the calibre of good years of Les Varonniers.  There was some astonishment evident when one of the UK wine-writers at the discussion stage described the wine as:  delicious, great wine.  Not worth cellaring,  or showing in this Symposium.  GK 01/10