#newwinethisweek Week 45 – Syrah, Northern Rhône
We’ve spent lots of time on #newwinethisweek discovering and trying new grape varieties and exploring new and exciting corners of the vinous world. But sometimes you good to go for what you know; for what you trust; for what you love. In week 38 we enjoyed the delicious Grenache-based offerings from the Southern Rhône, and back in week 35 we chewed on the power of Aussie Shiraz… so this week, let’s take a bit from each of those weeks and head to the Northern Rhône and appreciate some magnificent Syrah.
In Australia, what you see on the label is what you get in the bottle; although they may call it something different… Shiraz in Oz, Syrah most place else. The French don’t like to make it so easy. They expect us to know that red wines from Burgundy are made from Pinot Noir, an assemblage of Cabernets Sauvignon, Franc, and Merlot from Bordeaux. Not only do they expect us to know that red wines from the northern section of the Rhône valley will be dominated by the Syrah grape, but also expect us to recognise the appellations of the region… as there is no law stating that Rhône needs to appear on the label anywhere!
Historically, the best reds in the region have come from the steep and famous vineyards of Cote Rotie and Hermitage. You will get little change from £50 if you are looking for these names on the label, but some of my very favourite wines have come from these magnificent and remarkable vineyards. The wines from Cote Rotie (which can be translated as “the roasted slope” due to the long hours of sunlight the steep slopes receive) and Hermitage can be tough and unapproachable in youth, but given time to evolve they develop fruit flavours of plum, blackberry and blueberry, with added notes of black pepper, olive, violet, leather… and smoky bacon! Although most of the wines are made with 100% Syrah, a small amount of white grapes are permitted in the blend to add an extra touch of elegance (up to 20% Viognier in Cote Rotie, up to 15% Marsanne and/or Roussanne in Hermitage). In fact, it’s only in the appellation of Cornas, south of Hermitage, that the wines are mandatory to be 100% Syrah.
As well as some of the best red wines in the world, the northern Rhone is also home to some of the best value wines coming out of France. By best value I don’t mean the cheapest, but for between £8 and £15 in the supermarket or from your wine merchant, the wines of Crozes Hermitage and Saint-Joseph will give you a fantastic amount of drinking pleasure; always keep an eye out for these names on a restaurant wine list too. One of the big reasons for this value is the fantastic co-operative on the outskirts of Tain Hermitage, the Cave de Tain; many of the own label Crozes comes from here and the quality is consistently high year in, year out.
So there’s a bit of background, now it’s onto the fun stuff… time to get a steak on the griddle and enjoy a glass of wine heaven… and at a decent discount in some places!
Or if you really fancy pushing the boat out:
Don’t forget to come back and tell us what you think; please leave a score out of 10 and a review of what you drank in the comments box. Santé!