Monday, June 24, 2013

Syrah/Shiraz Wine Tasting Event

* If you would like me to run a structured wine tasting for you and your friends, leave me a message. (Golden Horseshoe, GTA, and Muskoka).

About a year ago I started my WSET level 2 course during the month of July. While attending this course, friends of my parents approached me and were interested in having me run a sit down wine tasting event at their house. I was really excited when they asked me and looked forward to booking a date. Due to busy schedules and conflicting dates, it took a while for us to solidify a date. Thankfully during the month of May we came to the conclusion that June 22, 2013 would work! Once we had the date set in stone, it was time to go to work!

In the past I have been to many structured wine tasting events. I knew what tools and knowledge is needed to run a fun and educational tasting. What I did not know was what theme to do? Or should I bother with a theme? Through much debate in my head I ended up choosing to do a tasting around Syrah/Shiraz from different places.

I felt very confident with this theme because two years ago I visited the Mecca of Syrah in Tain-l’Hermitage, in the Northern Rhone. As well, I drink this grape on a regular basis and understand the different expressions that can be shown. This thick sink, dark grape can be both elegant and powerful. In the past this grape has been know to be a bit over the top (Aussie Shiraz), but thankfully producers are starting to calm down that style and are emulate the Northern Rhone style.

My next step was to find the wines that I would want to showcase. A very enjoyable stage as I get great satisfaction in the “hunt”. I also needed to set a budget for each wine ($25-$30).This allowed me to specify my search even more. So, what to choose??? A Syrah from the N. Rhone is a given. Crozes-Hermitage or Saint Joseph would work under my budget. I also wanted to showcase a Shiraz from Barossa, but didn’t want to have a jammy, candy-land wine. Extensive research was needed in order to refine my search. The final 5 were as followed (Shown in order of tasting):

Delas Freres Crozes-Hermitage Domaine des Grands Chemins 2010 (N.Rhone, France)
- Northern Rhone representation. ($31)

Terlato & Chapoutier Shiraz/Viognier 2011 (Victoria, Australia)
- Showing how Syrah/Shiraz can be blended with white Rhone varietals. As well this wine shows how drastically different it can be from a Barossa Shiraz. ($25)

Cusumano Syrah 2012 (Sicily, Italy)
- This was the “value” pick of then bunch. I wanted to show that good, tasty wine can be found under the $15 range. People were pleasantly surprised with this wine. I cannot take full credit of finding this valued gem, as I constantly checked Steve Thurlow’s  Top 50 wine value picks. Which can be viewed here  ($11)

Reininger Syrah 2007 (Walla Walla, Washington)
- I really wanted to find an American Syrah. I was happy to have found this Washington state Syrah because I really enjoy wines from the Pacific North West. I was also considering a Niagara Syrah, but was not able to find one that would suffice. ($31)

Spinifex Bete Noir 2010 (Barossa/Eden Valley, Australia)
- This was the big Aussie that I was looking for. This was a very bold wine that was not too over the top. ($35)

Now that the wines were bought and put away in the cellar until show time, it was time to think about the finer details. Leading up to the tasting I made the decision to rent ISO tasting glasses for the event. I felt renting glasses would be an easier clean up. I would definitely rent again.

A couple days before the tasting I thought that it would be very educational and fun to have a platter of Syrah/Shiraz aromas/flavour profiles for the group to experience. The group really enjoyed honing their nose and palate. I had the following aroma/flavour profiles out for my group:

- Mixed Berries (Raspberries, Blackberries, Blueberries)
- Black Pepper
- Cloves
- Rosemary
- Tobacco (cigar)
- Bacon
- Orange zest
- Dark Chocolate

The group of ten had a wonderful time and learned a lot form this unknown grape. Many of them have had/herd of Shiraz, but a majority have never tasted Syrah before. Great questions were asked and I believe I changed some people’s views on this thick skinned grape. At the end I had the group rate their wines to see what the WOTN (Wine Of The Night) was. Their rankings and my own rankings/tasting notes can be found below.

Delas Freres Crozes-Hermitage Domaine des Grands Chemins 2010
(N.Rhone, France)
A great old world Syrah. It's not going to please new world fans, but I really liked it. Dark colour. Aromas of black fruit, orange zest, olive, pepper, and leather. Very enjoyable mouthfeel. Dark fruit, pepper, and earth dominates the palate. Enjoyable now, but will reward 5-7 years in the cellar. My #1, Groups #4. 91 Points

Terlato & Chapoutier Shiraz/Viognier 2011 (Victoria, Australia)
Lighter in colour than the rest of the Syrah/Shiraz tasted, due to cooler climate of Victoria. The 5% Viognier really helps the aromas (really nice floral). Other aromas of raspberries, blueberries, pepper, meat. Great mouth feel. Not a burly Shiraz. Dark fruit on the finish. A great summer time Shiraz. My #3, Groups #3. 
90 Points

Cusumano Syrah 2012 (Sicily, Italy)
Great value Syrah. Aromas of light red fruit, pepper, and orange zest. Nice palate of red fruit. Nothing amazing, but a good wine for the price ($11). Surprisingly, this was my mom’s favourite. She normally does not favour the value wines!  My #5, Groups #5.
86 Points

Reininger Syrah 2007 (Walla Walla, Washington)
A blend of 3 vineyards ( Ash Hollow, Pepper Bridge & Seven Hills). Dark purple in colour. This wine gave off aromas of blueberries, smoke, pomegranate, and pepper. Rich mouth feel. The dark fruit dominate the palate. Alcohol is prevalent on the finish, which was off putting. I found the single vineyard 2006 Ash Hollow Syrah more enjoyable. I tried this last fall. My #4, Groups #2. 88 Points

Spinifex Bete Noir 2010 (Barossa/Eden Valley, Australia)
Rich dark purple. Aromas of blueberries, pepper, and cloves. Very powerful on the palate. Dark fruit dominates the pepper and other secondary flavors. Great length. This is a new breed of refined Australian Shiraz. WOTN for the group. I am very happy with the progress happening with regards to Australian Shiraz. My #2, Groups #1. Very close between this and the Delas. 91 Points

I would like to thank Roland and Carol for allowing me to run this tasting. I had a blast and I hope to do it again soon!

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