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Thursday Night Club - 22nd April - exploring the many faces of Syrah/Shiraz

I was pretty darn keen for tonight’s wine club as Syrah as it tends to be known in the old world, and shiraz in the new, is one of my favourite grapes. The two names for the same grape, which were historically more a geographical indicator, have become a stylistic one. In the Rhone Valley in France it is referred to as Syrah and it covers a wonderful spectrum of flavours from raspberry and black pepper to rich meaty notes, violets and spice. Elegance, finesse and a savoury element often mark out these wines. In the Barossa Valley in Australia however, you tend to find it referred to as Shiraz. It is marked by rich jammy fruit with a ripe array of plums, fig, blackberry and chocolate. Increasingly you are finding new world producers moving away from the word Shiraz and its connotations with big jammy fruit, to use the word Syrah to indicate a more peppery, often elegant style of wine.

From cheap and cheerful to expensive and age-worthy it is a far more forgiving grape than last week’s Pinot Noir challenge so I’m confident there will be plenty of smiling faces.

Delas Domaine des Tourettes Hermitage 2013, Rhone Valley, France. Starting in the traditional heartland for Syrah, and in one of their top appellations (its been a long week and I needed spoiling!) this wine has eased beautifully into a lovely drinking window. Intense spiced briar fruit and gamey meat on the nose is supported by subtle notes of graphite, worn leather and a hint of earthy beetroot. On the palate there is lovely freshness, savoury black fruit, liquorice, black pepper, clove and a gorgeous note of horse sweat (unless you are a rider you might not get that one, but trust me it’s a compliment!). Despite all this complexity the wine has a restrained elegance which makes it even more charming. £50 Millesima

Copper Kingdom Shiraz 2017, Barossa Valley, Australia. From the old world heartland to the new world heartland of the Barossa Valley! This is a lovely deep colour, very full bodied and fruity, it’s rich yet easy drinking. He tasted it before buying so can only credit himself with a job well done and he will happily buy this again. It is also great value from Majestic at £12.99 for a mix 6.

Koyle Cerro Basalto Alto Colchagua 2018, Chile. This is actually a Syrah blend echoing the grape varieties and style found in the Southern Rhone. A blend of Mouvedre, Garnacha, Carignan and Syrah, it has a deep colour and a lovely flavour profile of big purple and black fruit, spice and great length. It’s clearly a wine that could age longer in the cellar if you had the patience for it, and he’d certainly like to see how it develops. An old world style wine from a new world country. The Wine Society £17.50

Yves Cuilleron Cote-Rotie Lieu-dit ‘Bonnivieres’ 2017, Rhone Valley, France. Back to the northern Rhone for this super premium appellation. Though they are legally allowed to add a splash of Viognier to the blend, this is 100% Syrah. It shows big bold aromatics and black fruit on entry, but as it opens it begins to show more of the red fruit and violet notes. Powerful, impressive, concentrated and fresh but very young to be approaching now. Would love to see how it is looking in 10-20 years. Fortnum & Mason £72

Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Shiraz 2017, Clare Valley, Australia. This is an excellent example of what altitude can do in a hot country to add freshness and elegance to the wine! From hugely respected producer Jim Barry this Shiraz is deep in colour and shows a lovely firm structure and yet the tannins are super fine and approachable. The fruit is rounded and silky with a hint of eucalypt. Delicious, classy and great value. Majestic £10.99 for a mix 6

Hold onto your seats folks, because this Shiraz comes in a can! The Curator Red 2020 by AA Badenhorst, Swartland, South Africa. 250ml of high quality happiness. It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Cinsault and Grenache. It is youthful with lots of black fruit, brambles and spice, fresh, dry and delicious. Perfect for taking wild camping, or on picnics. As it comes in a white and a rosé you could also have a can of rosé as an aperitif, the white with a starter and red with your main. 3 wine experiences and zero wastage. Adi Badenhorst is once again at the head of innovation and injecting both his mischief and his high quality wines into the scene. The can reads ‘drink with attractive friends, or cellar until you have interesting or attractive friends!’ £4.25 per can (£13.50 for the equivalent of a bottle) from Vinoteca

‘Sof’ Campo di Sasso Rosé 2020, Maremma, Tuscany, Italy. Showing off how versatile Syrah can be, this is a Rosé and is a 50:50 blend of Syrah and Cabernet Franc. With this wine the Marchese Lodovico Antinori is paying tribute to his daughter Sophia but creating a dry Tuscan Rosé. A lovely pale colour and a creamy texture but sadly the palate is somewhat disjointed with a hard cranberry-like acidity and grippy tannins. Perhaps it will settle into itself with some age, but at the moment it is a rather clumsy effort that doesn’t quite stack up against the competition at this price point. £25 Hic Wine Merchants.

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2018, Barossa, Australia. On first opening this well known classic showed green fig and a strangely confected note, but given an hour in the glass it has blossomed into the wine you would expect from Penfolds; rich black fruit, vanilla and chocolate with a hint of tobacco. An impressive wine that would benefit from a few more years in bottle Cadman Fine Wines £30

Tardieu-Laurent Vieilles Vignes Crozes-Hermitage 2017, Rhone Valley, France. They had the previous vintage and really enjoyed it, finding it the perfect wine to serve to people who are unsure about old world or French wines. Really attractive black raspberry, violets and a hint of menthol. Though a good wine, this vintage feels a touch more muted than the last, lacking some of the exuberant freshness they had so enjoyed. Quite pricey for the quality at 34 swiss francs. (£24.50 Corney & Barrow, UK)

Blank Bottle Little William Syrah 2019, South Africa. Despite South Africa being associated with warm climate, this Syrah is from grapes grown up on the Ceres plateau at 800m above sea level. As such it definitely falls into the ‘Syrah’ rather than ‘Shiraz’ camp; light, fresh and mouth-watering it is approachable from the get-go with attractive, elegant black fruit and spice. Well worth the money. £27 Philglas & Swiggot

IVO Varbanov ‘Merlin’ 2015 Syrah, Bulgaria. Concert pianist turned winemaker, let’s hope he didn’t give up the day job. At 15% abv it is overly ripe and clumsy. There are high levels of Brett (spoilage yeast Brettanomyces) which imparts a dirty, farm yard character to the wine. Sadly there is little to recommend this wine. The Wine Library £23.50

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