Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Meet Syrah - The CEO

He was the senior class president, always impeccably dressed to stand out from the rest of the high school crowd. He’s into older women and they love him too. Never needing any ostentation to impress, he has instead a way of commanding your attention and respect with a deep, booming voice and eloquent, well-chosen statements. As CEO of a major corporation, he puts those skills to good use. It was either that or politics – he would have found success there too, no doubt. Shiraz for president!

As Syrah, this thick skinned grape lives a happy life in France’s Rhône Valley, situated toward the south, working solo in the Northern Rhône (sometimes blended with a bit of the Viognier that resides in the same vineyard). From Côtes Rotie in the north to Cornas in the south, he’s the main event. In the Sourthern Rhône Syrah’s in lots of great company with Grenache, Mouvedre, Cinsault, et al. The region’s signature wine, Châteauneuf du Pape, can legally contain up to 13 different listed red varieties, all together or in any combination. Syrah is almost always in the mix and is usually detectable in the blend, the head fruit in charge. Take the Rhône all the way down to the Mediterranean and you will find Syrah still reigns in many quarters – the people’s choice!

As Shiraz, Australia has built a reputation on his shoulders, from the very cheap, animal-adorned party juice to the very rare and collectible music-in-a-glass. Like the Rhône, Australia has lots of hot sunny climes for Shiraz to thrive under – thick skinned grapes can stand more heat to develop more sugar and offer greater pigment and tannin for the making of very full bodied wine.

It’s the perfect wine for the typical American palate: think grape Blow Pops, Bazooka Joe, Sour Power, Swedish Fish and all kinds of fast food. Did I forget to mention chocolate? This is where Syrah goes in a different direction in flavor profile – not for the Snickers bar set. If Syrah were chocolate, it would be 70% Dark and Swiss or Belgian. Nonetheless, Syrah is very approachable, just be ready for your mouth to be taken over for a little while by a commanding presence.

Because it is so high in tannin and relatively low in acidity, Syrah not the greatest food wine – a glass can be a meal in itself! Nonetheless, your city’s best burger with the works and a side of fries would be a great mate for a glass of Syrah. Along the same lines, a good steak and a baked potato would work well. In fact, I always recommend Syrah wines for Thanksgiving, because that’s the ultimate flavor frenzy and this wine can handle it all! (Caution: Syrah may also help your turkey to cause all around drowsiness and you may find the football game watching you, but you’ll give thanks nonetheless!)

Your Homework
Your homework for this week and weekend is to try 3 Syrahs. Ask your favorite retailer or browse your favorite wine website for something from the Northern Rhône – St Joseph wines are the most accessible in profile and in price, but feel free to splurge on anything from Cornas or Crozes Hermitage splurge big on the venerable Hermitage itself. You will easily find Australian Shiraz in any wine shop or liquor store you enter. Try a cheap one that you can get under $10.00, and then find one over $15.00, just so you can clearly see the quality difference. My favorite wine region in Australia for Shiraz is McLaren Vale for that over $15 bottle. For extra credit, find a Syrah from California. You will impress your wine retailer with your knowledge of the name Rhône Rangers. It may very well serve as your password to gain access to some goodies from Paso Robles winemakers dedicated to Rhône Valley grape varieties – this could be lots of fun! Do Tweet your notes to @wineLIFE_ #SyrahHW. Tell us which one was your favorite (please include the wine’s name, vintage and region), how much you paid for it and its best qualities. You can also post notes on the wineLIFE Facebook wall. That’s delicious!

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