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Cuisine Syrah and Shiraz Tasting – Where are the Stars?

By June 26, 2012No Comments

You can’t take anything away from Warren Gibson and Lorraine Leheny being awarded first and second place in the N.Z. Syrah tasting in the latest Cuisine magazine, Issue No. 153, July 2012. The Bilancia label and its big ‘La Collina’ sibling have a fabulous track record, and Warren has had a major hand in the superb Trinity Hill ‘Gimblett Gravels’ and ‘Homage’ Syrahs too. The result for Warren and Lorraine is truly well-deserved.

However, looking through the list of the best rated wines, one can’t help but feel that most of the top names are missing, and that the numbers of top wines recognised is only a portion of what could be there. Where are the stars? Having just attended the Hot Red Hawke’s Bay 2012 Wine Expo, and recently returning from Waiheke Island, I know that there are far many more top examples of Syrah. There are some wonderful Syrah wines from the likes of C J Pask, Craggy Range, Elephant Hill, Esk Valley, Mills Reef, Sacred Hill, Te Mata, and Trinity Hill from Hawke’s Bay. And from Waiheke Island the likes of Hay Paddock, Man O’ War, Mudbrick, Obsidian and Passage Rock. Yet these do not show on the top rated list in Cuisine.

Syrah is arguably the most exciting emerging variety in this country. The magazine says 69 N.Z. Syrah wines were tasted, with only 14 wines being awarded 4 Stars or better. Unfortunately, that says it all. The number of wineries entering was not as high as it could have been to make the results more comprehensive. The issue is that entry is voluntary, so the question that Cuisine magazine must ask is: “How do we attract more wineries to enter their wine into the tastings?” And they must do so to ensure the magazine remains an essential read for wine lovers!

For the record, the ‘Top 5′ N.Z. Syrah wines were: Bilancia 2010, La Collina 2009, Villa Maria ‘Reserve’ 2009, Kim Crawford ‘Small Parcels – Victory’ Syrah 2010, these awarded 5-Stars, and the Church Road 2009, awarded Four and one-half Stars.
A Whole Lot More to Australian Shiraz
The problem that shows in the N.Z. Syrah tasting is also evident in the Cuisine tasting of Australian Shiraz in this same issue. There’s a whole host of Australian Shiraz wines out there, and looking at the list of ‘Top 10′, they all seem creditable names. However, anyone with even a little experience of Australian red wines knows there a whole lot more to Australian Shiraz than the likes of Wyndham ‘Bin 555′, Jacob’s Creek ‘Reserve’ and Grant Burge ‘Miamba’. Again, not taking anything away from the good quality of these wines, there are many, many more Aussie Shiraz with fantastic pedigree and much greater aspirations! There were 76 wines entered for judging, of which 27 were rated 4-Star or better. There’s a bigger world of good Aussie Shiraz available than this number. The question for Cuisine to ask themselves again is: “Why isn’t there a fuller range of high quality Australian Shiraz wines entered into our tastings?”
For the record, the 5-Star Australian Shirazes were: Shingleback 2009, Wyndham ‘George Wyndham Founder’s Reserve’ 2008. Wyndham ‘Bin 555′, Yalumba Eden Valley Shiraz+Viognier 2008 and Shingleback ‘D Block’ 2009.
Predilection for Drinkability
The other result that is striking is that most of the wines suffer from the predilection of judging panels for accessible and harmonious, drinkable wines. This is partly due to the desire of judges to work against the effects of tasting large numbers of wines where excess tannin and oak are seen as detractors to fruit expression and balance. Judges look for fruit, harmony and accessibility, as well as current pleasure. This in itself is no bad thing, and indeed a very good aim, as readers who buy these wines need to be satisfied with them straight away. However, what about the wines with more serious demeanour and structure that will improve with development?

I’d venture to say that most wine interested consumers understand, or at least want to understand the concept of potential and would prefer to also have advice and recommendations for wines with the ability to keep and improve, in addition to those that show and drink well now. Maybe if the Cuisine tastings took this aspect on board, it may be one way to improve the numbers of wines entered into their judgings and make the results more meaningful. www.cuisine.co.nz

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