Posts Tagged ‘shiraz’

Rhone: syrah or shiraz

The red syrah grape dominates the north Rhone Valley, where Uncorked’s travellers often visit for a first occasion.

In Australia the same grape, known as shiraz, is the country’s most widely planted.

Well let’s not worry about that too much because Northern Rhone drinkers are enjoying syrah and styles completely apart from the domestic Australian drop. The reason is called terroir.

There is a clear definition of where to look for it.

Just drive south on the crowded A7 autoroute until reaching Ampuis, then turn your head right. There you’ll view the steep stone-terraced, single stake vines, growing in granite and clay across the river on the slopes of Cote Rotie (translated as hot hillside).

Large billboards displaying brands such as Guigal or Chapoutier or Vidal-Fleury are very stark advertisements.

The geography tells it all, yet the Rotie’s are on the elegant end for Rhone syrah.

There is much talk about Rotie reds containing viognier. They do, but that’s only the old vineyards where this white is interplanted with its red counterpart. Modern re-planted vineyards, say under 40 years, are now all staked with syrah vines.


Further down the A4, about 100 km at Tain l’Hermitage, this time on the near river side is the Hill of Hermitage, again terraced but planted to syrah with white marsanne, and a little, though rarely found, white roussanne.

Jaboulet Chevalier de Sterimberg Blanc

Jaboulet Aine Le Chevalier de Sterimberg Blanc 2011 (marsanne)

Sitting up on the Hermitage Hill (just 132 ha of green) is the Chapel of Chevalier de Sterimberg, a knight who led Holy Land crusades, now owned by Paul Jaboulet Aine (tasting Hermitage Blanc and La Petite Chapelle 2011).

Alongside are most extensive holdings of M Chapoutier, who once made just two wines by blending, but now since 1997 keeps each vineyard separate, white and red. It is a memorable Selections Parcellaires now renamed Fac & Spera collection (tasting Sizeranne 2012).

Across the river Delas Freres at Tournon who are situated in the larger Saint Joseph Appellation, draw grapes from  Domaine des Tourettes (tasting Hermitage 2012). The more northern-based Guigal have plantings also. The M Chapoutier range are diverse, exciting, mouth-smacking and very collectible.

Delas single vineyard Hermitage 2013 (syrah)

Delas single vineyard Domaine des Tourettes Hermitage 2013 (syrah)

At Sizeranne which is biodynamic, the syrah is meaty, yet drawn on tannin, though svelte on the finish. Aussie warm area shiraz is punchy, syrupy, sweeter-alcohol; these Hermitage wines are more linear, lighter body, 13% alcohol, taut and gently rich, though flavoured and subtle. Opposites to the domestic Oz palate shape and different.


Chapoutier Monier de la Sizeranne vineyard Hermitage 2012 (syrah)

Now for Cote-Rotie; the spiritual home of the Guigal family and the many wines produced, varying vine age, selectivity, rarity, price escalation and taste diversity.

The culmination being the three LaLaLa’s (Turque, Landonne, Mouline), which host Stephane Crozet says with a wry smile “sell out each year within the week”.

He served the white Cote-Rotie; (tasted ExVoto Blanc 2012), a swirling marsanne 95% roussanne 5% tied up with a defining long oak treatment, Cote-Rotie Brune and Blonde, two vineyards combined (tasted Cote Rotie 2010), the special Chateau Ampuis where the family oak factory is housed (tasted Chateau Ampuis 2011) then one of the revered single vineyards which can contain up to 12% viognier, depending on the season (tasted La Mouline 2012).

Guigal Cote-Rotie

Guigal Cote-Rotie Brune and Blonde vineyards 2011 (syrah)

Apart from Guigal’s dominance, for an absent owner, Chateauneuf-du-Pape maker Brunel de la Gardine makes excellent Rotie (tasted Cote Rotie 2013). And Jaboulet provided a neat Domaine des Picuelles (tasted Cote-Rotie 2012), all elegance. The Delas single vineyard Seigneur de Maugiron was excellent in silkiness, never confusing, just delicious in its line (tasted Cote-Rotie 2013).

And the only old and funky (looking like old Barossa also) was a Delas single vineyard, a rarer Cote-Rotie (tasting La Landonne 2006).

Why is Cote Rotie an amazingly elegant wine? I guess you can resolve to attend a visit such as this to see for yourselves; compare wine by wine, Hermitage versus Cote Rotie; the elegant and concentrated syrah versus equally concentrated yet silky finish.

Still syrah, still shiraz but never Aussie. The latter is far more butch than the Frenchmen. See for yourself some time, step outside the world of sweet fruit to that of the savoury. Voila.

Uncorked and Cultivated’s wine tourists visited the Northern Rhone makers Guigal, Chapoutier, Jaboulet and Delas during June 2016.

Macaw Creek: trusted Aussie winemaker, lofty drinks

The country north of South Australia’s capital Adelaide always reminds me of a stark landscape. Nothing is lush, just dry, and where the eucalypts struggle to grow bigger and the saltbush barely fattens a sheep. And kangaroos scarce. Near the sleepy town of Riverton in the Mount Lofty Ranges, 80 kilometres from Adelaide we find the vineyard of Macaw Creek owned by career winemaker Rodney Hooper.

Tough and dry is an excellent outlook for growing signature Australian shiraz and cabernet, and after all, another heroic red wine producing region to the north, the Clare Valley does likewise. This means the wines are substantial, and in their favour, grape growers have such lean rainfall events that growing their crops organically is quite an easy task (with control though).

If you ever wish to assess how a winemaker is tracking then never head for the newest release; yes they will look fresh and bursting with grape pip exuberance, but that is expected because in every older bottle there was once a good young bottle.

MACAW CREEK Reserve Shiraz Cabernet 2008 AUD 28 14.5% alc 90.Very serious smelling wine; deep colour and lots of aging in motion, some youth but the licorice tells you shiraz is present and lots of it! Look out for the sweet aromas from time in bottle, red fruits, berry jam, oak barrel sweet nuance and many other nose-endearing bits that attract drinkers wishing for full flavour. The shiraz dominates-well really! In the warm summer and Gilbert Valley autumn when these grapes will have developed their power, so the shiraz richness has just stretched out over the cabernet dryness; makes the wine very full. Drink while you eat bbq rib eye or share a tomahawk steak, bone-in, just for extra flavour; as the wine will match it. Also known as a Great Australian red.

MACAW CREEK Cabernet Shiraz 2009 AUD 16 13% alc 95. A hero’s drink because this has charm, and has aged even better than its older cousin, Shiraz Cabernet. The wine has all the aromas running together, so one complete unit; earthy, mocha, spice, choc-chip, more spiced than jam-sweet, very intriguing; a top wine; then the shiraz enrichens the mouth while the cabernet tannin tightens up the finish; one lovely drink with mixes of age flavours and supple texture; just runs down an empty mouth.

Macaw Creek Cabernet Shiraz 2009

Macaw Creek Cabernet Shiraz 2009

MACAW CREEK Cabernet Shiraz 2012 AUD 16 14.5% alc 94. The modern day star; just so attractive-purple, the juicy aromas are all out of the glass, hard to contain, just ripe shiraz and cabernet looking for appreciation; no charm just brute flavour, oak hardly apparent, full some, chunky, rich for years I think. Store a bit or visit Rodney’s cellar in Macaw Road in about five years (he will probably have some still). But at the current price it is a steal.

MACAW CREEK Organic Riesling 2014 AUD 15 12% alc 90. Never visit this part of South Australia (personally or with your mouse) without trying riesling. This comes from two organically-grown Clare vineyards; so it is the heart of Riesling country; light bodied, pale, low alcohol, fruity, long, angular acidity which is slaty and citric. Seek out some oysters or just pan fried whiting. Delicate wine for subtle food.

Macaw Creek Organic Riesling 2014

Macaw Creek Organic Riesling 2014

EM’S TABLE Organic Riesling 2014 AUD 15 12% alc 90. This is another Clare Valley cracker; pale colour, I never like it very coloured, so pale green, hints of straw designates good winemaking, and to top that off, lovely rose, white flowers and lemon/lime make this delectable. Light bodied, and little residue on its skins from organic viticulture. Drink with organic plums or nectarines to keep in sync.

EM’S TABLE Organic Preservative Free Shiraz 2010 AUD 18 13.5% 90. Made for those who have an allergic reaction to sulphur dioxide or for those who take an aversion to wine additives. This is additive free wine; cleverly made by Hooper to last by making a wine quite high in drinkable tannin (natural preservative) and bottled early to stem any oxidation from time outside a bottle. Also supported by closure under screw cap as natural cork would be hopeless. Taste; just like normal shiraz, rounded, quite funky now as a five-year-old wine, rich and juicy.


Tip of the Tongue: Music in the air with Symphony Hill

From the moment they set their sights on the high reaches of Ballandean’s granite rock country, Symphony Hill has occupied the real-life dreams of the Macpherson family ….. Read article

By Peter-Scudamore-Smith, Master of Wine
Published in Queensland Smart Farmer, Feb – March 2015

Sicily’s shiraz plantings eclipse Barossa wine making, Australia

A very recent revelation by a leading Australian wine writer pointed out that the plantings of syrah (shiraz) in Australia’s wine making Barossa Valley were less than those of Sicily. Well that sounds a bit dramatic, and it is. The Barossa holds the role of the soul for Aussie shiraz;  it was where Penfolds Grange grew up. And a good majority of the Barossa’s plantings are shiraz anyway. I would expect Sicily’s production to have more clout than a single, small Australian region- after all, when surveying the total area of European vines planted, the Gironde has around 124,000 ha, Sicily is second at around 108,000 ha. All of Australia just reaches 148,000 ha, and we wish it would shrink some more!

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