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Syrah Masters 2017: the results in full

While it may be less popular than other red grape varieties, Syrah, or Shiraz, is made by producers who really have a passion for the wine type, as the expressions in our annual Syrah Masters prove. By Patrick Schmitt MW


Of all the major red grapes, Syrah must be the hardest to classify. Not only does if have two names – Syrah and Shiraz – but each reflects a different personality. This is a variety that can produce restrained and delicate wines, or, depending on climate and treatment, something rich and powerful.

In terms of pure quality too, it can display different extremes, yielding something simple and inexpensive, or fine and pricey – indeed, it can make the greatest varietal reds in the world after Pinot. Purely in terms of image, however, Syrah doesn’t have the pulling power of Pinot.

While people may love the wines of the northern Rhône, and crave the complexities of Hermitage, they don’t tend to eulogise about Syrah itself – which is, of course, the base grape of these great French wine regions. As for Shiraz, this is associated with the juicy generosity of Aussie reds, but people forget such ripeness can be reached in other places, from California to Tuscany.

And they also sometimes fail to remember that Syrah can make elegant wines outside of its European heartland of the Rhône, something proven by the increasing number of refreshing examples from New Zealand – particularly Hawke’s Bay – and coastal Chile, above all Leyda and Limarí.

About the competition

In a crowded wine-competition arena, the drinks business Global Syrah masters stands out for its assessment of wines purely by grape variety rather than by region. Divided only by price bracket and, for ease of judging, style too, the blind tasting format allowed wines to be assessed without prejudice about their country of origin. The best wines were awarded medals that ranged from Bronze through to Gold, as well as Master, the ultimate accolade, given only to exceptional wines in the tasting. The wines were judged by a cherrypicked group of Masters of Wine and Master Sommeliers on 20 July at Bumpkin in London’s South Kensington

Its many faces, of course, make it interesting to blind taste. Where does it excel, which styles emanate from which areas, and what are the overarching winemaking trends with this grape? All were questions answered by our Syrah Masters 2017. Initially though, one thing that is clear from this year’s competition is the sheer quality of Syrah being produced today. Indeed, there isn’t a Global Masters with better results – it yielded the highest number of Golds and Masters in the series so far.

That may be connected to the complexities of commercialising Syrah. In essence, it is only produced by people who love the grape, and in places where it performs brilliantly, quite simply because, at the moment, it’s not particularly easy to sell.

It should be said that there were wines in this year’s Syrah Masters that failed to gain top medals. Sometimes that was because there was a green pepper and olive character that verged on the bitter, no doubt because the grapes were picked a little too early. At other times it was because of a sulphurous whiff that didn’t clear with swirling – Syrah is a grape that is prone to producing sulphur dioxide either during or after fermentation. And then there were wines with raisined flavours and elevated alcohol levels, examples where it was clear the berries were exposed to excessive sun, or the bunches were harvested too late.

WINES WITH BALANCE
Also, a few wines had seen too much new oak, masking the inherent characters of the variety with barrel-sourced flavours, particularly vanillin. But such negatives were rare. In the main, the judges witnessed wines with balance, albeit in different styles, which in turn were reflective of a range of source areas.

Not only that, but they also enjoyed the characters of sensitively handled Syrah, from its black pepper, black cherry and blackberry flavours, to its firm tannins, intense colour, and bright acidity. As for where Syrah excels, the results confirm what the professionals doubtless expect: the best wines were from the Northern Rhône, the Barossa, and the aforementioned areas of New Zealand and Chile.

The surprises were the quality of wines possible with this grape in parts of South Africa, Italy and Portugal, with a Gold-medal-winning example from the Alentejo.

THE SWEET SPOT
Considering the price bands, Syrah can make good wines at low cost, but it seems there is a sweet spot for this grape at £15-£20, with two Masters achieved at what is a relatively low price for an outstanding wine. Because of the high number of top scoring samples, mentioning all the Gold and Master winners in this article would risk producing little more than a list.

Nevertheless, certain names are worth picking out. In particular Wakefield Wines for their juicy but refreshing range of high-quality wines at price points from around £10 up to almost £50. Also, the skill of Penfolds with Syrah shone in this blind tasting, particularly its St Henri Shiraz, which, without the sweetness of ageing in new oak barriques, provides a pure expression of great Australian Shiraz in all its juicy, spicy and textured glory.

Langmeil too, showed the wonders of Australian Shiraz from the Barossa, as did Château Tanunda, Kalleskie and Yalumba, while Yangarra highlighted the brilliance of the same grape grown in the McLaren Vale, and McGuigan the complexity of Shiraz from the Hunter Valley.

Jacob’s Creek too proved its ability to craft lovely Shiraz at accessible price points when blended across south Australia, particularly this brand’s innovative ‘double barrel’ range, which sees its wines finished in aged whiskey barrels. Beyond Australia, New Zealand wowed with several examples of Hawkes Bay Syrah, particularly from Church Road and Elephant Hill, while South Africa impressed with its examples from Saronsberg in Tulbagh and Cloof in Darling.

More surprising was the great Syrah blend from Monte Da Ravasqueira in the Alentejo and a varietal example from Planeta in Sicily. In short, the Global Syrah Masters highlighted the best places for this grape, the top producers, as well as the quality available in the market. It also showed that the more you pay, the better the wine.

This may sound like an obvious point, but with some grapes in the Global Masters, this isn’t the case. In other words, Syrah is a safe bet at all prices, but a particularly savvy choice for fine wine lovers.

The judges (left-right)
Patrick Schmitt MW, the drinks business; Emma Symington MW, Wine Australia; Patricia Stefanowicz MW, consultant; Clément Robert MS, 28-50 Wine Workshop & Kitchen; Matthieu Longuère MS, Le Cordon Bleu; Ana Sapungiu MW, Oddbins; Tobias Gorn, Boisdale; Beverly Tabbron MW, Hallgarten Druitt; Clive Barlow MW, consultant

Over the following pages are the results in full from this year’s Syrah Masters, along with comments from the judges.

Sparkling Syrah

Company Wine Vintage Region Country Medal
£10-£15
Mr Riggs Battle Axe NV McLaren Vale Australia Bronze

Unoaked 100% Syrah

Company Wine Vintage Region Country Medal
£10-£15
Mr Riggs The Gaffer 2015 McLaren Vale Australia Bronze
Mr Riggs The Truant 2015 McLaren Vale Australia Silver
Agnew Wines Jackman’s Landing Shiraz 2015 Gundagai Australia Bronze
£15-£20
Mr Riggs Piebald 2015 Adelaide Hills Australia Silver
£30-£50
Mr Riggs Scarce Earth Shiraz 2014 McLaren Vale Australia Gold

Oaked 100% Syrah

Company Wine Vintage Region Country Medal
Under £10
Blaxland Vineyards Tanunda Hill Shiraz 2016 Barossa Valley Australia Gold
Blaxland Vineyards Tanunda Hill Shiraz 2014 Barossa Valley Australia Silver
Blaxland Vineyards Stone Cottage Shiraz 2016 Barossa Valley Australia Silver
Blaxland Vineyards Duck Duck Goose Shiraz 2016 Barossa Valley Australia Silver
A&A Vineyard & Winery ALYAN Shiraz Reserve 2015 Central Valley Chile Silver
Australian Vintage Nepenthe Altitude Shiraz 2015 Adelaide Hills Australia Silver
Blaxland Vineyards Edwards Road Shiraz 2016 Barossa Valley Australia Silver
Viña Maycas del Limari Maycas Sumaq 2015 Limari Valley Chile Bronze
Kavaklidere Saraplari Egeo Syrah 2013 Aegean Turkey Bronze
Wildekrans Wine Estate Wildekrans Estate Shiraz 2014 Bot River South Africa Bronze
Blaxland Vineyards Barton Steer Shiraz 2016 Limestone Coast Australia Bronze
£10-£15
Wakefield/Taylors Wines Reserve Parcel Shiraz 2015 Clare Valley Australia Gold
Cave de Tain Saint-Joseph Grand Classique 2012 Northern Rhone France Gold
Luis Felipe Edwards Marea Syrah 2014 Leyda Chile Gold
Bird In Hand Two in the Bush 2015 Adelaide Hills Australia Gold
Australian Vintage McGuigan Shortlist Shiraz 2015 Barossa Valley Australia Gold
De Bortoli Windy Peak Heathcote Shiraz 2016 Heathcote Australia Silver
Kavaklidere Saraplari Pendore Syrah 2012 Aegean Turkey Silver
Australian Vintage McGuigan Shortlist Shiraz 2014 Barossa Valley Australia Silver
Wakefield/Taylors Wines Eighty Acres Shiraz 2015 South Australia Australia Bronze
Wakefield/Taylors Wines Wakefield/Taylors Shiraz 2016 Clare Valley Australia Bronze
£15-£20
Noble Hill Noble Hill Syrah 2013 Simonsberg South Africa Master
Langmeil Winery Langmeil Valley Floor Shiraz 2014 Barossa Australia Master
Yealands Wine Group Crossroads Winemakers Collection Syrah 2014 Hawkes Bay New Zealand Gold
Wildekrans Wine Estate Shiraz Barrel Select Reserve 2015 Bot River South Africa Gold
Rod McDonald Wines Te Awanga Estate Syrah 2013 Hawkes Bay New Zealand Gold
Thorn-Clarke Wines Shotfire Shiraz 2015 Barossa Valley Australia Gold
Gemtree Wines Uncut Shiraz 2015 McLaren Vale Australia Gold
Haut Espoir Haut Espoir Shiraz 2011 Franschoek South Africa Silver
Matetic Corralillo Syrah 2014 San Antonio Valley Chile Silver
Australian Vintage Nepenthe Gate Block Shiraz 2014 Adelaide Hills Australia Silver
Berton Vineyards  Reserve Barossa Shiraz 2015 Eden Valley Australia Silver
North East Vintners Billy Button 2015 Alpine Valleys Australia Silver
McPherson Wines Don’t Tell Gary 2015 Strathbogie Ranges Australia Silver
Masciarelli Syrah Colline Pescaresi IGT Marina Cvetic 2014 Abruzzo Italy Silver
Australian Vintage Nepenthe Gate Block Shiraz 2015 Adelaide Hills Australia Silver
£15-£20
Monte Da Ravasqueira Syrah 2016 Alentejano Portugal Silver
Pirathon Wines Pirathon Shiraz 2015 Barossa Valley Australia Silver
Australian Vintage Tempus Two Copper Hunter Valley Shiraz 2016 Hunter Valley Australia Silver
Rod McDonald Wines Quarter Acre Syrah 2014 Hawkes Bay New Zealand Silver
Langmeil Winery Blockbuster Shiraz 2016 South Australia Australia Silver
Marques de la Concordia Hacienda Zorita Natural Reserve Syrah 2014 Castilla y Leon Spain Bronze
De Bortoli Yarra Valley Single Vineyard Section 8 Syrah 2013 Yarra Valley Australia Bronze
Langmeil Winery Long Mile Shiraz 2016 Barossa Valley Australia Bronze
Paul Jaboulet Aîné Crozes Hermitage ‘Les Jalets’ 2015 Rhône France Bronze
Viña Errazuriz Aconcagua Costa Syrah 2014 Valle Aconcagua Chile Bronze
West Cape Howe West Cape Howe Shiraz 2015 Mount Barker Australia Bronze
Wildekrans Wine Estate Shiraz Barrel Select Reserve 2014 Bot River South Africa Bronze
Langmeil Winery Valley Floor Shiraz 2014 Barossa Valley Australia Bronze
£20-£30
Saronsberg Cellars Saronsberg Shiraz 2015 Tulbagh South Africa Master
Langmeil Winery Langmeil Orphan Bank Shiraz 2014 Barossa Australia Master
Planeta Syrah Maroccoli 2011 Sicily Italy Gold
Falcon Ridge Estate Estate Syrah 2015 Nelson New Zealand Gold
Jackson Family Wines Yangarra Estate Vineyards Shiraz 2014 McLaren Vale Australia Gold
Australian Vintage McGuigan Handmade Shiraz 2014 Langhorne Creek Australia Gold
Wakefield/Taylors Wines Jaraman Shiraz 2015 Clare Valley Australia Gold
Gemtree Wines Ernest Allan Shiraz 2015 McLaren Vale Australia Gold
Pernod Ricard Winemakers Church Road Grand Reserve Syrah 2015 Hawkes Bay New Zealand Gold
Elephant Hill Elephant Hill Syrah 2015 Hawkes Bay New Zealand Gold
Nick Haselgrove Wines James Haselgrove Futures 2014 McLaren Vale Australia Gold
Pascual Toso Alta Syrah 2016 Mendoza Argentina Gold
Tenimenti d’Alessandro Il Bosco 2013 Tuscany Italy Gold
Laudario Cortona 2012 Tuscany Italy Silver
Cloof Wine Estate Cloof Crucible Shiraz 2014 Darling South Africa Silver
Jackson Family Wines Cambria Tepusquet Vineyard Syrah 2013 Santa Maria US Silver
Bird in Hand Bird in Hand Shiraz 2015 Adelaide Hills Australia Silver
Penfolds Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz 2014 Coonawarra Australia Silver
Cave Saint-Desirat Saint-Joseph Coeur de Rochevine 2013 Northern Rhone France Silver
Frederic Robinson West Cape Howe Two Steps Shiraz 2014 Mount Barker Australia Silver
Australian Vintage McGuigan Handmade Shiraz 2013 Langhorne Creek Australia Silver
Wakefield/Taylors Wines Special Release Shiraz 2015 Clare Valley Australia Silver
Yealands Wine Group Crossroads Talisman Syrah 2014 Hawkes Bay New Zealand Silver
Tokara Reserve Collection Syrah 2013 Stellenbosch South Africa Silver
Richard Kershaw Wines Elgin Syrah Clonal Selection 2014 Western Cape South Africa Bronze
Penfolds Kalimma Bin 28 Shiraz 2014 South Australia Australia Bronze
Terre à Terre Crayeres Vineyard Shiraz 2015 Wrattonbury Australia Bronze
Australian Vintage McGuigan Personal Reserve Bainton Vineyard Shiraz 2014 Hunter Valley Australia Bronze
Simonsig Estate Syrah Merindol 2010 Stellenbosch South Africa Bronze
£30-£50
Wakefield/Taylors Wines St Andrews Shiraz 2015 Clare Valley Australia Master
Elephant Hill Elephant Hill Reserve Syrah 2014 Hawkes Bay New Zealand Gold
Negociants UK Paradox Barossa Shiraz 2015 Barossa Valley Australia Gold
Mr Riggs Wine Co McLaren Vale Shiraz 2014 McLaren Vale Australia Gold
Gemtree Wines Obsidian Shiraz 2015 McLaren Vale Australia Gold
Nick Haselgrove Wines The Old Faithful 2013 Cafe Block 2013 McLaren Vale Australia Gold
Australian Vintage McGuigan Farms Shiraz 2013 Barossa Valley Australia Gold
North East Vintners Shy Susan Shiraz 2015 Tasmania Australia Gold
Frescobaldi Ammiraglia 2013 Maremma Italy Gold
Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aûné Hermitage ‘La Petite Chapelle’ 2012 Rhône France Silver
Langmeil Winery McGuigan Orphan Bank Shiraz 2015 Barossa Valley Australia Silver
Australian Vintage McGuigan Farms Shiraz 2014 Barossa Valley Australia Silver
Domaine Jean-René Germanier CAYAS Syrah du Valais reserve 2014 Valais-Veloiz Switzerland Silver
Michael Hall Wines Syrah Flaxman’s Valley 2015 Eden Valley Australia Silver
Feudo Maccari Maharis 2015 Sicily Italy Bronze
Rod McDonald Wines Rod McDonald Wines Trademark Syrah 2011 Hawkes Bay New Zealand Bronze
£50+
Penfolds St. Henri Shiraz 2013 South Australia Australia Master
Kalleske Johann Georg Shiraz 2015 Barossa Valley Australia Master
Chateau Tanunda 50 Year Old Vines Shiraz 2014 Barossa Australia Master
Sons of Eden Remus Eden Valley Shiraz 2014 Eden Valley Australia Master
Penfolds RWT Barossa Valley Shiraz 2014 Barossa Valley Australia Gold
Levantine Hill Estate Levantine Hill Estate Melissa’s Paddock 2015 Yarra Valley Australia Gold
Jackson Family Wines Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard Brooks Road Shiraz 2014 McLaren Vale Australia Gold
Chateau Tanunda Chateau Tanunda 100 Year Old Vines Shiraz 2014 Barossa Australia Gold
Jackson Family Wines Yangarra Estate Vineyard Whole Bunch Shiraz 2014 McLaren Vale Australia Gold
Langmeil Winery Pure Eden Shiraz 2015 Eden Valley Australia Gold
Levantine Hill Estate Levantine Hill Estate Syrah 2014 Yarra Valley Australia Gold
Jackson Family Wines Yangarra Estate Vineyards Ironheart Shiraz 2014 McLaren Vale Australia Gold
Bird in Hand Bird in Hand Nest Egg Shiraz 2014 Adelaide Hills Australia Gold
Kalleske Eduard Shiraz 2015 Barossa Valley Australia Gold
Langmeil Winery Langmeil Pure Eden Shiraz 2013 Barossa Australia Gold
Bird in Hand Bird in Hand MAC Shiraz 2013 Adelaide Hills Australia Gold
Penfolds Magill Estate Shiraz 2014 South Australia Australia Silver
Langmeil Winery The Freedom 1843 2015 Barossa Valley Australia Silver
Wakefield/Taylors Wines The Pioneer Shiraz 2014 Clare Valley Australia Silver
Australian Vintage Tempus Two Pewter UNO Hunter Valley Shiraz 2014 Hunter Valley Australia Silver
Penfolds Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz 2014 Barossa Valley Australia Silver
Yalumba The Octavius Old Vine Shiraz 2013 Barossa Valley Australia Silver
Tenimenti d’Alessandro Migliara 2012 Tuscany Italy Silver

Oaked Syrah Blend

Company Wine Vintage Region Country Medal
Under £10
Sur Valles Wine Group Patagón Grand Reserva Syrah 2015 Curicó Valley Chile Silver
Sur Valles Wine Group Toro de Piedra Gran Reserva Syrah 2014 Curicó Valley Chile Silver
Iconic Wines Hope 2016 SE Australia Australia Bronze
Growers Wine Group Barossa Valley Shiraz 2016 Barossa Australia Bronze
Sur Valles Wine Group Santa Alba Grand Reserve Syrah Cabernet 2014 Curicó Valley Chile Bronze
£10 – £15
Cloof Wine Estate Cloof Syrah 2013 Darling South Africa Gold
Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel Matured Shiraz Fourth Vintage NV Australia Australia Gold
Jacob’s Creek Reserve Barossa Shiraz 2015 Barossa Australia Silver
Invivo Wines Graham Norton’s Own Shiraz 2015 South Australia Australia Silver
Viña Chocalan Origen Syrah Gran Reserva 2015 Maipo Valley Chile Silver
Viña Concha y Toro Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Syrah 2015 Valle del Maule Chile Silver
La Motte Wine Estate La Motte Syrah 2014 Western Cape South Africa Bronze
Viña Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Syrah 2015 Valle del Maipo Chile Bronze
De Bortoli Wines Villages Shiraz Grenache 2016 Heathcote Australia Bronze
£15-£20
Church Road McDonald Series Syrah 2014 Hawkes Bay New Zealand Gold
Kalleske Moppa Shiraz 2016 Barossa Valley Australia Silver
Langmeil Winery Hangin’ Snakes Shiraz Viognier 2015 Barossa Valley Australia Silver
La Motte Wine Estate Pierneet Syrah Viognier 2015 Western Cape South Africa Bronze
Chronic Cellars Chronic Cellars Sofa King Bueno 2015 California US Bronze
De Bortoli Wines Yarra Valley Estate Grown Shiraz 2014 Yarra Valley Australia Bronze
£20-£30
Monte Da Ravasqueira Syrah + Viognier 2013 Alentejano Portugal Gold
Berton Vineyards The Bonsai 2013 Eden Valley Australia Silver
£30-£50
Saronsberg Cellars Saronsberg Full Circle 2015 Tulbagh South Africa Master
Viña Cono Sur 20 Barrels Limited Edition Syrah 2015 Limari Valley Chile Silver
£50+
Chateau Tanunda Chateau Tanunda Grand Barossa Shiraz 2015 Barossa Australia Gold

What did the judges think?

Patricia Stefanowicz MW

As always, judging the Syrah Masters is a highlight of the year and the 2017 edition was no exception. The overall quality of the wines from inexpensive to stratospherically expensive was remarkably high. There were very few wines that one would ‘chuck into a flower pot’, a confirmation of the distinctive black-and-red fruits and black pepper attributes of this marvellous grape variety.

The excitement in 2017 were the Australian Shiraz wines. It is superb that the Aussies are keeping all that lovely blueberry, blackfruit and black pepper, but toning down the high alcohol and the American vanilla and chocolate oak. Elegance seems to be on the rise with delicious freshness and supple tannins in exquisite balance with concentrated flavour. Alcohol levels also seem to be a little lower and in balance with fruit, oak and structure. Yummy, whether Barossa, Mclaren Vale or elsewhere in Australia.

If there were a minor disappointment, it was the almost overly herbal/green features in many wines from Chile, where producers really must find an appropriate terroir with the attributes that produce excellent Syrah grapes. Too, it was a shame we didn’t see more wines from the Rhône or south of France, because the few we tried were very drinkable and would be flexible with many different foods.

There were fewer South African wines with the burnt and charred meat characteristics of yesteryear, and the best examples from South Africa appeared delightful and well-balanced.

One surprise was a super Syrah from Turkey, at a price most wine-lovers can afford. There were also a couple of excellent examples from northern Spain, where the climate and soils seem to suit Syrah.

What did the judges think? (continued)

Clive Barlow MW

There were a number of points to draw from the Syrah Masters.

At every price point there were good wines to be had. Value was to be found with medal wines in the below £10 and £10 to £15 brackets. You can get a lot of wine for your £ sterling.

Most wines delivered in terms of concentration of fruit and structure. It would appear that the growers of the grapes cared that dilution should not be an issue and that ripeness was waited for.

Syrah responds to climate and expresses its origins well. The imprint of origin shone through. Whilst, in some instances, this character can be due to wine making, the wines showed climate characters. Personally I enjoyed the cracked black pepper and dark fruits of Hawkes Bay, with ripe tannins and depth as a meeting point of cool climate and hot climate styles.

Syrah, in the form of Shiraz, does ‘powerful’ terrifically well. Plenty of extract, intense concentration and high alcohols can still be in balance and a number of the wines were turbo-charged beauties. These styles are not ‘drinking wines’ but they are statements of intensity.

A few countries performed better than others; Australia was solid gold and its regionality came through, New Zealand, especially Hawkes Bay, is showing promise, a number of South African wines had terrific depth and harmony. Disappointment came from Chile with a few angular efforts. And Portugal surprised with quality and interest.

Many of the expensive wines, especially the Australian examples, were very young. The wines showed very well but it would be fascinating to see them in 10 years time.

It must be said that not everyone on the panel enjoyed the big hitting wines but all appreciated them. It is possibly true to say that cultural tastes and perceptions of usage, on-trade versus off-trade, affected the individual scores.

Overall there was a sense that the more you paid the more you got. As we know, this is not always the case with some grape varieties. Those varieties which are in fashion achieve higher prices without necessarily delivering the quality.  Perhaps Syrah is one of those dark horse varieties, always the bridesmaid never the bride, etc. Therefore one could argue that it is an under-priced variety, with the qualification that there are a number of producers and regions which can demand higher prices for market reasons.

What did the judges think? (continued)

Matthieu Longuère MS

We did not taste that many French Syrah but mostly Shiraz. There seems to be a shift toward more elegant wines than even only two years ago. Of course, you still have impressive blockbusters but freshness seems to be now back on the agenda. It seems to me that these wines are starting to be suitable for more than the obvious steakhouse fare and can be enjoyed with more refined dishes.

While some of the top end wines were the most extracted and concentrated, it was a prices between £20 and £30 where the most characterful wines with real personality were positioned.

In particular, I liked the variety of styles across the mid-priced range, and the fact that there were not that many overdone wines.

If there were things I didn’t like, it was a few wines that seemed as though they had been to the gym – they were over-extracted to the point that they lost their varietal character and any potential sense of place.

What surprised me was the general quality level of the South African Shiraz, which was really high. They do retain their acidity very well and gone are the days when ‘tar’ was the dominating flavour.

The two Syrah from Alentejo were just outstanding and really elegant. I don’t usually want to drink a non-indigenous grape variety when I chose a Portuguese wines but Syrah can definitely deliver there.

What did the judges think? (continued)

Beverly Tabbron MW

I suppose the Syrah Masters reinforced my personal preference for a fuller bodied and richer style of Syrah whether from the new world or France.

I struggled with the more restrained style such as those wines from cooler areas such as Hunter Valley for example, which were paler in colour and lacked some of the depth of some of the other wines.

That’s the good thing about tasting in a panel as you get a good consensus of different palates resulting in a fair judgement of style and quality.

I thought that the quality was good to very good across the board; at least in our group and being able to give six Master awards is a good demonstration of this grape’s quality.

What did the judges think? (continued)

Emma Symington MW

The Syrah Masters confirmed that Syrah is a world class variety, capable of making excellent wines in a large number of different countries and regions and at all prices from the everyday to the ultra premium.

It also confirmed for me that there is no such thing as Australian Shiraz. This tasting really showed the huge diversity in styles of Shiraz/Syrah coming from numerous diverse regions in this vast country and underlined the high quality levels at all price points.

The Syrahs from Hakes Bay stood out for their pure black fruit profile and intense black pepper notes. A singular style that really marks out this region.

What was a surprise was the overall high quality of the wines, resulting in a lot of high scores. There were very few wines that disappointed us – and conversely a lot of wines that really over delivered at their price point. It is clear from this tasting that Syrah is one variety where consumers really can get value for money and drink some truly delicious wines.

What did the judges think? (continued)

Clement Robert MS

I thought that the overall quality of the wines shown in the Syrah Masters was very high; we awarded an impressive number of gold medals.

There was a majority of Australian wines, and the results demonstrate the amazing quality of Australian Shiraz at the moment.

I like Syrah a lot but I often find the wines very austere and reduced when there are young but none of the wines tasted today were showing those characteristics even in the entry level category – there were all open with a generous bouquet.

In particular, the category £15-£20 really delivered. I always think that above £15 every wine should be very good with a high level of complexity and today the Syrah delivered just that.

It was a shame that there weren’t more wines from the northern Rhône, which is always seen as the reference
.

I was surprise by the quality of some of the top South African Syrahs we tasted; it shows that the effort in South Afrcica to produce quality Syrah is paying off.

What did the judges think? (continued)

Tobias Gorn

The Syrah Masters confirmed that Syrah is indeed a worthy variety and, because it is not the most fashionable variety or easiest to cultivate and vinify, it usually carries some extra determination and passion as a choice itself. We had some great examples of excellent wines throughout the different price categories.

To be honest I had a sense that Syrah/Shiraz were getting harvested a tad too late with maybe a touch too much focus on sugar ripeness instead of phenolic ripeness.

However, the samples we had were rather balanced and showed a great shift away from that extra-heavy weight attitude to making wines with some more structure and finesse. I’m also happy to see less Brettanomyces and more clean fruit.

The potential complexity, intensity and vivacious array of flavours behind Syrah is no news however it needs good growing conditions and accurate wine making to create truly fine wines. I loved some of the more aged examples submitted this year. It is perhaps the way forward for the higher tier, more premium entries.

If I had one criticism, it would be the issue of reduction, and how to deal with it. Locking such a great wine in a screwcap bottle sometimes isn’t the easiest task. Syrah is known to be prone to reduction and we had some superb wines getting almost ruined by a bit of reduction.

Sounds strange but educating customers or putting a ‘please decant me’ sign could help. To be fair, luckily many samples cleaned up when we revisited them but would the average punter do the same?  

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