From Matt Walls, writing in Decanter, comes an article on top-quality and great-value Côte-Rôtie alternatives.
As Matt puts it, “When a grape variety is given time to ripen slowly and gradually, it develops its aromas one by one. The grape has time to listen to those aromas, to remember them all, layering them like tints in a watercolour.
When there is no race for ripeness, a grape can meander through non-fruit aromas, the subtle tones of flowers, spices and herbs that speak more of a place than of simply a grape variety.
… even outside France, there are winemakers producing Syrahs from cooler climates that can slake a thirst for Côte-Rôtie. South Africa is your best bet, particularly Elgin, Elim, Bot River and cooler sites in Stellenbosch and Swartland. It’s a similar story in Australia, with Yarra Valley and Adelaide Hills producing some highly elegant Syrahs.” (see Decanter.com for the full article).
He goes on to recommend a series of wines of which the two highest-scoring are:
2017 ONE BLOCK ‘Yellingbo’ Yarra Valley Syrah
‘Sage and black cherry are the dominant aromas here, but most of all there’s a sense of gentle togetherness, harmony and grace in this wine. Despite being light-bodied, it has a certain presence on the palate, it moves fast. The acidity is low, but it’s not noticeable; it’s a wine of great poise and precision. One of those perfectly balanced wines that appears to have made itself. It’s a Syrah akin to a marble statue, with great purity, grace and coolness. Not a terribly complex or concentrated wine, but it doesn’t need to be; I love it for its calmness and serenity. Coming from just one block of 20-year-old vines which are at 240m and south-west facing, in the Yellingbo area of Yarra Valley. Partly whole bunch fermented and then matured in demi-muids, of which 20% were new. Only 2,800 bottles were made.’ (Matt Walls, Decanter.com)
DR: 2021 – 2023 | R: 95
Price: £30.95 | £27.95
2019 DAMASCENE Syrah Stellenbosch
‘‘Beautifully floral aromas, with a touch of greenness that gives freshness. This evolves into graphite, black pepper and blackberry characters with a reductive edge that accentuates the aromatics. This is definitely a savoury Syrah, as opposed to a fruity Shiraz, evidenced by the tight and dry finish, which is grippy but not austere. It’s perfectly balanced, open, complex and drinkable; an excellent example of South African Syrah. The vines are at an impressive 940m altitude, it was fermented using natural yeasts and aged in foudres.’ (Matt Walls, Decanter.com)
DR: 2021 – 2024 | R: 94
Price: £33.95 | £30.50
Stock of both is limited, (but the next vintages of both are already on the way) – if you are a fan of sleek Syrah, why not give them a try?