The best Syrahs from the 2020 Global Wine Masters
A more affordable rival to ‘king’ Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah should not be discounted when it comes to top-quality red wine, and there are an increasing number of countries making excellent expressions, writes Patrick Schmitt MW.
There was an element of surprise from the judges as we concluded this year’s Global Syrah Masters, and it concerned both the quality and style of entries – the wines were not only better than expected, but also more balanced.
This exposed an issue of image for this noble variety – it is not considered as great as say, king of grapes Cabernet Sauvignon, nor as refined stylistically. But, as the results of our 2020 competition showed, Syrah, even as a varietal wine, can yield something fine, and with finesse. Its hallmarks may differ from Cabernet, but it can attain the same high standard. And, thrillingly, it can take on a range of characteristics depending on where its grown, although it favours granitic soils and warm so-called Mediterranean climes, even though cooler-climate Syrah is in vogue.
In short, Syrah can, on its own, produce wines that are complete. At entry-level prices, it can be fresh, fruity and pleasing. Move up to something more expensive, and it can be juicy, spicy, and structured, carrying new oak influence with ease. And when it comes to fine wine territory, Syrah can be hedonistic, age-worthy, layered and refreshing. Plus, the sources of greatness are expanding beyond the two famous outposts of top Syrah, which are the northern Rhône, above all Hermitage, and south Australia, particularly the Barossa Valley.
So where did we find brilliance in 2020? It depends on the level you are considering, but one thing we picked up on this year is Syrah’s ability to deliver good wines at bargain prices – with two Gold medals awarded for wines under £10. One of these hailed from De Bortoli Wines in Australia – which, as a country well practised at making inexpensive Shiraz, should provide no shock – but the other was more astonishing, with a wonderfully bright, fleshy Syrah coming from Banat in Romania, made by the impressive Cramele Recas.
Over £10, however, and the number of Golds were numerous, and over £20 we had 10 Masters – these are only awarded to outstanding examples of their type. With so many standout wines, it’s best to see the producers and sources in the tables, but for me, there were a few wines worth mentioning in particular.
Among these were a couple from Chile, a country that I believe is brilliantly suited to Syrah, a view now supported by three Gold medals in this blind tasting against more conventional sources of this grape. One was the affordable, structured, gently pepper and blackcurrant-scented sample from Cono Sur, under its 20 Barrels brand, and using grapes from the northern coastal area of Limarí. high-level reds Another was also from Limarí, this time with a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. Made by Sutil, this is, in my view, one of Chile’s best value high-level reds, and a benchmark for sub-£20 Syrah.
A final exciting fine wine find is called Pangea, hailing from Colchagua, home to so much great Carmenère, and using Ventisquero’s vineyards in the Apalta sub-region, now a DO in its own right. This was a taut but powerful style of Syrah that was enticing now and, even though it was from the 2014 vintage, it clearly has many years ahead of it. Such quality is perhaps not amazing when one learns that John Duval is the winemaking consultant – the man who used to make Penfolds Grange.
Outside of Chile, Australia shone. Be it Adelaide, Barossa, Clare or McLaren Vale, we had Master-winning Syrahs, with notably good samples from, to deal with these regions in turn, Bird in Hand, Château Tanunda, Wakefield/Taylors and Hickinbotham.
Finally, a couple of further countries should be mentioned here. One of these is New Zealand, where Hawke’s Bay has proved a relatively new source of first-rate Syrah, in a pleasingly peppery mould, with Church Road and Elephant Hill two producers of note.
The other is Argentina, where it appears possible to produce great results, with masses of colour and spice, similar in that regard to Malbec, which, of course, the country is far better known for.
So, look through the results and take your pick to enjoy the established, and explore the newer sources of excellent Syrah, safe in the knowledge it’s been quality assessed in a blind tasting by professionals. Also, please bear in mind when considering fine wine options that there’s more on offer than Bordeaux blends when it comes to great, powerful, long-lived reds. Syrah is a reliable provider of serious wines. Not only that, but a good-value choice, even at its uppermost prices.
See the tables below, which feature all the medallists from this year’s competition.
Unoaked 100% Syrah
|Aldi Ireland||Exquisite Collection South Australia Shiraz||South Australia||Australia||2018||Silver|
|Aldi Ireland||Grapevine Shiraz||Jumilla||Spain||NV||Silver|
|Cramele Recas||Dragon Hills Syrah||Banat||Romania||2019||Silver|
Oaked 100% Syrah
|De Bortoli Wines||DB Winemaker Selection Shiraz||SE Australia||Australia||2019||Gold|
|Cramele Recas||Regno Recas Syrah||Banat||Romania||2019||Gold|
|De Bortoli Wines||Woodfired Shiraz||Heathcote||Australia||2018||Silver|
|Siegel Family Wines||Siegel Gran Reserva Syrah||Colchagua Valley||Chile||2017||Bronze|
|De Bortoli Wines||De Bortoli Regional Reserve Shiraz||Heathcote||Australia||2018||Bronze|
|Langmeil Winery||M&S Ebenezer & Seppeltsfield||Barossa Valley||Australia||2019||Gold|
|De Bortoli Wines||Deen Vat 8 Shiraz||Heathcote & Hilltops||Australia||2018||Gold|
|De Bortoli Wines||Rutherglen Estate Shiraz||Rutherglen||Australia||2018||Gold|
|Wakefield/Taylors Wines||Hotelier Shiraz||Clare Valley||Australia||2019||Silver|
|De Bortoli Wines||Regional Classic Gunagai Shiraz||Gundagai||Australia||2018||Silver|
|Concha y Toro||Marques de Casa Concha Syrah||Maipo Valley||Chile||2018||Silver|
|Valdivieso||Valley Selection||Colchagua V||Chile||2018||Silver|
|Viña Carmen||Carmen Gran Reserva Syrah||Colchagua V||Chile||2018||Silver|
|Cramele Recas||Selene Syrah||Banat||Romania||2019||Silver|
|Invivo & Co||Graham Norton’s Own Shiraz||South Australia||Australia||2017||Bronze|
|Gemtree Wines||Uncut Shiraz||McLaren Vale||Australia||2018||Gold|
|Cono Sur||20 Barrels Syrah||Limarí Valley||Chile||2018||Gold|
|Bosco del Merlo||Syrah Seduzione||Veneto||Italy||2017||Gold|
|Pyros Wines||Pyros Appellation Syrah||San Juan||Argentina||2018||Gold|
|Bird In Hand Wines||Two in the Bush Shiraz||Adelaide Hills||Australia||2018||Gold|
|Valdivieso||Single Vineyard||Limarí Valley||Chile||2018||Gold|
|Langmeil Winery||Long Mile Shiraz||Barossa||Australia||2019||Gold|
|Schild Estate Wines||Barossa Valley Shiraz||Barossa Valley||Australia||2018||Silver|
|Saronsberg Cellar||Saronsberg Provenance Shiraz||Western Cape||South Africa||2018||Silver|
|Viña Los Boldos||Château Los Boldos Vieilles Vignes||Cachapoal Valley||Chile||2018||Silver|
|Viña Ventisquero||Kalfu Sumpai||Leyda||Chile||2017||Silver|
|Alpha Estate||Syrah Single Vineyard Turtles||Florina||Greece||2017||Bronze|
|Saronsberg Cellar||Saronsberg Shiraz||Western Cape||South Africa||2018||Master|
|Langmeil Winery||Valley Floor Shiraz||Barossa Valley||Australia||2018||Master|
|Schild Estate Wines||Ben Schild Reserve Shiraz||Barossa Valley||Australia||2017||Gold|
|Wakefield/Taylors Wines||Aldi Special Release Shiraz||Clare Valley||Australia||2018||Gold|
|Wakefield/Taylors Wines||Heritage Shiraz||Clare Valley||Australia||2018||Gold|
|Pirathon Wines||Pirathon Blue||Barossa Valley||Australia||2018||Gold|
|RockBare||RockBare Shiraz||McLaren Vale||Australia||2017||Gold|
|Valdivieso||Caballo Loco Grand Cru Limarí||Limarí Valley||Chile||2015||Gold|
|Bird In Hand Wines||Bird in Hand Syrah||Adelaide Hills||Australia||2018||Gold|
|Bird In Hand Wines||Bird in Hand Shiraz||Adelaide Hills||Australia||2018||Silver|
|Te Awanga Estate||Quarter Acre||Hawke’s Bay||New Zealand||2018||Silver|
|Château Tanunda||50 Year Old Vines Shiraz||Barossa Valley||Australia||2017||Master|
|Gemtree Wines||Ernest Allan Shiraz||McLaren Vale||Australia||2018||Gold|
|Pirathon Wines||Pirathon Silver||Barossa Valley||Australia||2018||Gold|
|Elephant Hill||Stone Syrah||Hawke’s Bay||New Zealand||2018||Gold|
|Jackson Family Wines||Yangarra Estate Shiraz||McLaren Vale||Australia||2017||Gold|
|Gatt Wines||Gatt Wines||Barossa Valley||Australia||2015||Gold|
|Langmeil Winery||Orphan Bank Shiraz||Barossa Valley||Australia||2018||Gold|
|Langmeil Winery||Hallowed Ground Shiraz||Barossa Valley||Australia||2018||Gold|
|Gatt Wines||Gatt Wines||Eden Valley||Australia||2015||Silver|
|Château Tanunda||100 Year Old Vines Shiraz||Barossa Valley||Australia||2017||Master|
|Wakefield/Taylors Wines||The Pioneer Shiraz||Clare Valley||Australia||2016||Master|
|Bird In Hand Wines||Mac Shiraz||Adelaide Hills||Australia||2013||Master|
|Jackson Family Wines||Hickinbotham Brooks Road||McLaren Vale||Australia||2017||Master|
|Gatt Wines||Single Vineyard Old Vine||Barossa Valley||Australia||2015||Master|
|Bird In Hand Wines||Nest Egg Shiraz||Adelaide Hills||Australia||2015||Gold|
|Bird In Hand Wines||Nest Egg Shiraz||Adelaide Hills||Australia||2014||Gold|
|Church Road||Church Road 1 Syrah||Hawkes Bay||New Zealand||2017||Gold|
|Langmeil Winery||Pure Eden Shiraz||Eden Valley||Australia||2018||Gold|
Unoaked Blend (minimum 50% Syrah)
|Aldi Ireland||Kooliburra Australian Reserve Shiraz||South Australia||Australia||2018||Bronze|
|Aldi Ireland||Kooliburra Australian Shiraz Cabernet||SE Australia||Australia||2018||Bronze|
Oaked Blend (minimum 50% Syrah)
|Trentham Estate||Hope Shiraz Reserve||SE Australia||Australia||2019||Silver|
|Barton & Guestier||Héritage No. 294||Rhône||France||2018||Gold|
|De Bortoli Wines||Rutherglen Estate Red Shiraz Durif||Rutherglen||Australia||2018||Gold|
|Viña Los Boldos||Château Los Boldos Grande Réserve||Cachapoal Valley||Chile||2018||Silver|
|Concha y Toro||Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Syrah||Maule Valley||Chile||2018||Silver|
|Le Nez||Français Classique Rouge||Pays d’Oc||France||2019||Silver|
|Santa Rita||Medalla Real Syrah||Limarí Valley||Chile||2018||Silver|
|McPherson Wines||MWC Shiraz Mourvedre||Central Victoria||Australia||2018||Silver|
|Viña Sutil||Limited Release Syrah||Limarí Valley||Chile||2018||Gold|
|Church Road||McDonald Series Syrah||Hawkes Bay||New Zealand||2019||Gold|
|Mancura||Mancura Leyenda||Casablanca Valley||Chile||2017||Silver|
|Saronsberg Cellar||Saronsberg Full Circle||Western Cape||South Africa||2018||Master|
|Berton Vineyards||Bonsai Shiraz||Eden Valley||Australia||2018||Gold|
|Elephant Hill||Estate Syrah||Hawke’s Bay||New Zealand||2018||Silver|
|Church Road||Grand Reserve Syrah||Hawke’s Bay||New Zealand||2018||Silver|
|Mission Hill Family Estate Winery||Reserve Shiraz||Okanagan Valley||Canada||2017||Silver|
|Mission Hill Family Estate Winery||Terroir Collection Border Vista Syrah||Okanagan Valley||Canada||2017||Master|
|Elephant Hill||Airavata Syrah||Hawke’s Bay||New Zealand||2018||Gold|
|Viña Casas del Bosque||La Trampa||Casablanca Valley||Chile||2018||Silver|
About the competition
With high-quality judges and a unique sampling process, the Global Syrah Masters provides a chance for your wines to star, whether they hail from the great vineyards of Europe or lesser-known winemaking areas of the world. The 2020 competition was judged over two days in November at the Novotel London Bridge Hotel.
The judges were Andrea Briccarello, Patrick Schmitt MW, and Patricia Stefanowicz MW.
The top wines were awarded Gold, Silver or Bronze medals according to their result, and those expressions that stood out as being outstanding in their field received the ultimate accolade – the title of Syrah Master.
Please visit the Global Masters website for more information, or, to enter future competitions – giving you the chance to feature online and in print – please call: +44 (0) 20 7803 2420 or email Sophie Raichura at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Judge’s comment: Patricia Stefanowicz MW
Judging the Syrah Masters is an event not to be missed. Each year seems to surpass the previous one in terms of quality and diversity. The 2020 Syrah Masters is no exception. The phenomenal number of wines receiving Silver, Gold and Master awards is to be celebrated.
In 2020, as often the case, the Australian Shiraz wines reached soaring heights. While keeping all that lovely blueberry, blackberry and black pepper, elegance seems to be on the rise, with delicious freshness and supple tannins in exquisite balance with concentrated flavour and integration of slightly less oak. Fine wines can be found everywhere, whether juicy Barossa, stylish South Australia or leathery Hunter.
Hawkes Bay in New Zealand demonstrates just how suited the region is for Syrah, with the wines showing distinctive blackberry and morello cherry fruit, and nicely judged oak, elegance and persistence.
It is fantastic to see Chile becoming better at producing juicy, lively versions of Syrah with subtle wood in support, and with less evidence of capisicum and peppermint.
Much further north, the Syrah wines of the Okanagan Valley are lovely: vibrant blackfruits and chocolate oak notes framed by zippy acidity and silky tannins.
There were some delightful surprises from Romania and at very affordable prices; these wines are perfect for everyday drinking.
At stratospheric price levels many of the wines were stunningly delicious, with great fruit, appropriate oak accents, lively acidity and velvet-textured tannins. It was almost impossible not to award Golds and Masters to these wines, and a few were ‘practically perfect in every way’.