Close Menu

Barossa star hails Chile’s ‘exciting’ Syrah scope

Chile is “only just scratching the surface” with Syrah, suggests former Penfolds Grange winemaker John Duval, as he outlined some potential routes forward for the country with this variety.

John Duval

While Chile’s main calling card, especially at the top end, remains Cabernet Sauvignon – the backbone of Duval’s Enclave project with Ventisquero and a flagship explored in September’s issue of the drinks business – Duval confessed that his main passion lay elsewhere.

“I have to say my first love is Syrah, but in Chile they’re only just scratching the surface,” he remarked. “Syrah shows terroir more than Cabernet, which tends to have a Cabernet thumb print. The expressions of Syrah in terms of climate are poles apart.”

Linking this characteristic to the evolution of Syrah in Chile, Duval observed: “What we’re seeing in Chile is people experimenting with different styles of Syrah in places like Elqui or Colchagua and I think they’re all quite exciting.”

For Ventisquero, the Apalta sub-region of Colchagua is currently the source of its most upmarket Syrah expression, Pangea, which carries an RRP of £28.95.

However Duval also highlighted Ventisquero’s Vertice expression, a £23.95 blend of Carmenere and Syrah, as a combination that showed great promise in a Chilean twist on Australia’s popular Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz partnership.

“In Australia we’ve had a lot of experience with Cabernet/Shiraz and Shiraz/Cabernet blends,” he remarked, noting the role of Shiraz in softening the structure provided by Cabernet Sauvignon.

With Carmenere a half sister of Cabernet Sauvignon through their shared Cabernet Franc parent, Duval suggested that the former grape, which has become so closely associated with Chile, represented a sensible substitute for Cabernet in a blend with Shiraz.

“Yes there’s different fruit expression in Cabernet and Carmenere but I think Syrah still works very happily as a partner with Carmenere,” he maintained.

Despite this belief, Duval suggested that, for the moment at least, there was little sign of Carmenere catching on in Australia. “There’s a grower in Clare and I can’t see why it wouldn’t work in Barossa,” he remarked. “The conditions for flowering and fruit set tick the box and there are areas that are warm enough.”

However, Duval played down the likelihood of bringing his own Carmenere expertise back home to the Barossa, where he runs his own venture, John Duval Wines. “It comes down to patience,” he remarked. “I’ve elected not to plant any new vineyards myself.”

It looks like you're in Asia, would you like to be redirected to the Drinks Business Asia edition?

Yes, take me to the Asia edition No