Whether you call it Syrah or Shiraz, this grape is gaining in popularity and has done well for itself around the world. Not bad for a little vine named after a city in Persia. Here I present three Syrah blends from three different continents.
First up is a Sonoma/Central Coast blend from California, the 2005 Stephen Vincent Crimson. $10, 14.3% abv. 75% Syrah and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. Odd mix, closed even after a day in the fridge. The two varietals fight for position on the nose and palate, making each sip interesting. Not a bad little red in terms of a casual quaff--I had a glass here and there with leftovers for a couple of days. After breathing plum and cherry flavors were present. Note that this label is set in Shelley. That font is as popular for wine labels as Trajan is for movie posters.
Taking a detour down south, we've got the 2005 Big Tattoo Red from Colchagua, Chile. $10, 13.8% abv, 50% Syrah/50% Cabernet Sauvignon. The bottle had a little pink ribbon tied around the neck, and I thought it was a local promotion for breast cancer, but it turns out that the two brothers (one winemaker, one tattoo artist) donate 50¢ from every bottle sold to breast cancer research in honor of their late mother.
This South American wine is not the fruit-forward blend that increasingly dominates the sub $20 market. Instead, this has a nose full of herbs and grasses, a touch of asparagus and a slightly bitter finish, like good salad greens. I found a good pairing to be a dish of strawberry ice cream, where the sweet and bitter got to work with each other on the palate.
With our final entry we sail west to Paringa, South Australia for the 2007 Angove's Nine Vines Shiraz Viognier. $14, 14.5% abv. 94% Syrah, 6% Viognier. I love this combination of grapes, which is pretty expensive coming from Côte-Rôtie. But others around the world have started playing around with the blend, often with delicious results.
Please let this one breathe before drinking; the alcohol and aroma of black grape skins need time to blow off. At first, the Shiraz is overwhelming but with some time it mellows and you can appreciate the more subtle properties. It's got a rare beef and bold dark fruit nose to it, but is softer on the palate. There's just a touch of those lovely Viognier flowers present. I'd still like to see more Viognier in it, but this is definitely serviceable. Served with a grilled burger and traditional BBQ accompaniments. Citizen Kane on the DVD player, the dog at my feet, life is good.