Top syrah wine picks from New Zealand and abroad

by Michael Cooper / 25 May, 2018
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Syrah, one of the great grapes of the Rhône Valley, is at home Downunder and these wines prove it.

Floral and peppery in cool winegrowing regions, but rich in raisin and chocolate characters in hotter zones, syrah is the star red-wine variety of France’s Rhône Valley, where it yields majestic, ageworthy reds. The great grape of Hermitage is also proving its pedigree in warmer parts of the North Island, especially Hawke’s Bay.

Syrah – commonly called shiraz in Australia – was well known in New Zealand’s vineyards a century ago, but later fell out of favour because of its uneven ripening. Now it’s back, yielding vibrant, fruity wines, full of drink-young charm, and dense, complex reds perfect for cellaring.

Alpha Domus The Pilot Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2016 ••••

For sheer drinkability, this is hard to beat. Deep ruby, it is full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol) and supple, with very good depth of ripe, plummy, spicy flavours, savoury notes adding interest, and some ageing potential. $20

Ash Ridge Vintner’s Reserve Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2015 •••••

This very stylish red was grown in the Bridge Pa Triangle. Full-coloured, it is mouthfilling (13% alc/vol), with deep plum/spice flavours, hints of liquorice and dark chocolate, savoury notes adding complexity, and a lasting finish. $50

Babich Winemakers’ Reserve Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2015 ••••½

This dark, concentrated, firmly structured red is from the Bridge Pa Triangle. Full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol), it has a fragrant bouquet of violets, oak complexity and rich plum, blackcurrant, spice and slight liquorice flavours. $35

Boom Boom! Washington State Syrah 2015 ••••

Less overtly spicy than many New Zealand syrahs, this attractive red from the Pacific Northwest is fragrant and full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol). It has generous, plummy, slightly spicy and nutty flavours, showing good complexity and harmony. $20-$25

Brookfields Hillside Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2015 •••••

This distinguished red is from a sheltered, north-facing slope, described by winemaker Peter Robertson as “surreal – a chosen site”. It is deeply coloured, fragrant and sturdy (14% alc/vol), with blackcurrant, spice, plum and black-pepper flavours, a hint of liquorice, and lovely density and smoothness. $45

Church Road Grand Reserve Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2015 •••••

Full of potential, this rich, sturdy (14% alc/vol) red was grown in the Bridge Pa Triangle and the Gimblett Gravels. Powerful yet elegant, it has dense, youthful, plum and black-pepper flavours, a good tannin backbone and a highly fragrant, spicy bouquet. $44

Clearview Cape Kidnappers Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2016 ••••

Delicious young, this Te Awanga red is floral, mouthfilling (13% alc/vol), vibrantly fruity and supple, with a strong surge of ripe plum and black-pepper flavours. $27

Coco di Mama Syrah 2016 ••••

Looking for something different? This smooth and lively Sicilian red is deliciously drinkable, with mouthfilling body (13.5% alc/vol) and loads of ripe, plummy, spicy flavour. $25

Coopers Creek SV Chalk Ridge Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2015 ••••½

This classy, single-vineyard red offers fine value. Floral and deeply coloured, it has rich, plummy, spicy, peppery, distinctly varietal flavours and a long, finely textured finish. Full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol), it’s likely to be at its best from 2019 on. $28

De La Terre Reserve Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2015 •••••

Already delicious, this very graceful red was grown at Havelock North. Mouthfilling (13% alc/vol), it is fresh and sweet-fruited, with deep, plummy, berryish flavours, a subtle seasoning of oak and a seductively smooth finish. $45

Elephant Hill Airavata Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2014 •••••

Showing notable density, this blend of Gimblett Gravels and Te Awanga fruit is dark and full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol). It has fresh, highly concentrated flavours of blackcurrants, plums and spices, a hint of liquorice, slightly earthy notes adding complexity, fine-grained tannins and a lasting finish. $120

Esk Valley Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2015 ••••½

This great-value red is already delicious. Dark and fragrant, it is full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol), with vibrant plum and black-pepper flavours, showing excellent ripeness and richness and a long, well-rounded finish. $25

I Am George Shiraz 2016 ••••½

This powerful South Australian red is billed as “bold and robust”. A dark, strapping (14.6% alc/vol) but not heavy wine, it has fresh blackcurrant, plum and spice flavours. A deliciously smooth, rich wine. $23

Luna Blue Rock Martinborough Syrah 2016 ••••½

This elegant, cool-climate style was grown on a steep, north-facing slope. Still purple-flushed, it is full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol), vibrantly fruity and supple, with fresh acidity woven through its intense, plummy flavours. $50

Mission Jewelstone Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2015 •••••

This distinguished Gimblett Gravels red is fragrant, dark and sturdy (14% alc/vol). Notably concentrated, with ripe blackcurrant, plum, spice and black-pepper flavours, seasoned with toasty oak, it’s already drinking well. $45

Redmetal Vineyards Basket Press Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2015 ••••½

This delicious red from the Bridge Pa Triangle is dark and weighty (14.5% alc/vol), with concentrated, vibrant, well-ripened plum and black-pepper flavours, seasoned with nutty oak, and a rich, smooth finish. $37

Sacred Hill Deerstalkers Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2015 •••••

From the Gimblett Gravels, this deeply coloured red has an invitingly perfumed, peppery bouquet. It is full-bodied (13% alc/vol), with fresh, concentrated flavours of plums, spices and nuts and a persistent, well-rounded finish. $60

Smith & Sheth Cru Omahu Syrah 2014 •••••

Still unfolding, this Gimblett Gravels red is fragrant and sturdy (13.6% alc/vol), with deliciously concentrated, ripe, plummy, gently spicy flavours, a hint of liquorice, and a very harmonious, lasting finish. $60

Soho Valentina Waiheke Island Syrah 2015 ••••½

Estate-grown at Onetangi, this is a dark, weighty red. Fragrant and full-bodied (14% alc/vol), it has rich, strongly varietal blackberry, plum and spice flavours, showing good complexity, and a lingering finish. $38

Stonecroft Crofters Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2017 ••••

Bargain-priced, this organic red has benefited from a decision not to produce Stonecroft’s top syrah labels in 2017. Medium-bodied (12.5% alc/vol), it has surprising depth of ripe, plummy, peppery flavours, showing some savoury complexity, and loads of charm. $22

Taylor’s Clare Valley Shiraz 2016 ••••

Offering great value, this dark, sturdy (14% alc/vol) wine offers excellent depth of vibrant blackcurrant, plum and liquorice flavours, gently seasoned with oak, and a well-rounded, spicy finish. $16

Terrace Edge Waipara Valley Syrah 2016 ••••

Grown on what the wine-maker calls a “45-degree, north-facing roasted slope”, this is a fragrant, sturdy (14.5% alc/vol), generous wine, with strong, spicy flavours, hints of herbs, liquorice and nuts, and lots of drink-young appeal. $32

Tyrrell’s Hunter Valley Shiraz 2014 ••••

From New South Wales, this fragrant, full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol) red has well-ripened, plummy, spicy flavours, with earthy, savoury notes adding complexity, and loads of current-drinking appeal. $26

Vidal Reserve Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2015 ••••½

This estate-grown red is dark, floral, fresh and full-bodied (13% alc/vol), with excellent depth of blackcurrant, plum and black-pepper flavours, good tannin backbone and a lengthy, spicy finish. $25

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2015 ••••½

Grown almost entirely in the Gimblett Gravels, this boldly coloured red is full-bodied (13% alc/vol) and supple, with generous, ripe, plummy, spicy flavours, finely integrated oak and an inviting, peppery fragrance. $26

Yalumba The Y Series South Australia Shiraz/Viognier 2015 •••½

This happy blend of two Rhône Valley grapes yields a substantial red (14.5% alc/vol) with plenty of ripe, plummy, spicy, slightly nutty flavour and a seductively smooth finish. Bargain-priced. $15

This article was first published in the May 19, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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