According to Eric Asimov, wine writer for the New York Times, “American don’t buy a lot of syrah: Too many of the wines seem generic, a blend of fruit and oak that may be vaguely pleasant but could come from anywhere and be made of any grape.”
Syrah has a long documented history in France’s Rhône Valley and continues to be the main grape of the northern Rhône It is associated with classic wines that made Syrah famous such as Hermitage, Cornas and Côte-Rôtie.
Syrah’s classic northern Rhône aromas and flavors are olives and herbs, bacon and minerals, flowers and spices, blood and earth. This grape tends to lose its character at higher ripeness levels and the aromas and flavors that make syrah beguiling, beautiful and feral can be lost, leaving wine lovers with a more generic, fruity experience.
The search for affordable Syrahs that show more earth than fruit, more savor and spice than sweetness lead us to the following five wines. All taste great, and all feel great on the wallet.
- Mcmanis Family Vineyards Syrah 2011 This big rich California wine has dense, big jammy fruit aromas of raspberries, plums and sweet vanilla. Succulent blackberry and cassis flavors lead to a toasty vanilla oak midpalate with hints if clove, cinnamon and zesty minerals. The lingering fruit finish hints of cocoa and licorice. It has a tight finish with modest tannins. This wine pairs well with lighter fare or spicy food. A good budget wine for buyers looking for value and consistency. Around $10.
- Alexander Valley Vineyards Syrah 2007: This is a polished and approachable purple Syrah with layers of aromas and flavors. It is a blend of Syrah, with a traditional bit of Viognier and Grenache. The Grenache adds depth with notes of wild strawberries, while Viognier brightens the color and contributes floral notes and softens the tannins. The wine exudes aromas of plum, black cherry, blueberry, blackberry and violet nuances, all framed by spice, white pepper with hints of stones, minerals and a touch of vanilla oak. Flavors of blackberry jam, black cherry and vanilla are unveiled as you sip this wine and those notes stay in all the way through the lengthy finish. You’ll enjoy the firm well-integrated tannins. Around $15.
- Elderton Shiraz 2010. This rich full-bodied classic is from one of Australia’s great Barossa valley Shiraz producers, and it’s brimming with ripe juicy plum and chocolate flavors—think Black Forest cake. The aromas echo black forest fruits, deep rich earth, chocolate, and vanilla. Flavors of blackberry, chocolate, and spice follow the nose. The wine is medium-bodied, lively and fresh, engagingly delicious. A very good value. Around $20.
- Domaine Terlato & Chapoutier Shiraz – Viognier 2010. This is one delicious spicy Shiraz that’s just loaded with ripe fruit. Coming from the vineyards of Central Victoria, Austraila, this wine contains aromas of vibrant red plum, violet and fruit wood smoke. A bit of Viognier is added for aroma balance and brightness, as is often practiced in France’s most highly regarded appellation of the Northern Rhone Valley, Côte Rôtie. The flavors are spicy, blackberry minerals that lend themselves to a peppery smokiness in the long finish. It’s truly delicious. Around $22.
- Hope Estate Shiraz The Ripper 2009. The ‘Ripper’ Shiraz is grown at Hope Estate’s 28 hectare vineyard at Donnybrook in the Geographe region of Western Australia. ”The Ripper Shiraz has notes of crushed blackberry, cherry and mulberry over cedar, dried Provence herbs, lavender and a hint of mint—eucalyptus, perhaps? Full-bodied, ripe, rich, fruit-forward and concentrated, the blueberry, blackberry and spice flavors blend with vanilla oakiness and are supported by definitive tannins and refreshing acidity. The finish offers long lasting notes of toast and cedar. Around $17.
Easily found throughout the Jersey Shore area, each one is perfect for a cold snowy day in front of a warm fire.
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