Last week, at the 30th annual New Zealand Winegrowers tasting in London, Syrah was heralded as New Zealand’s third most important grape variety after Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, the most popular and widely planted white and red grapes, respectively.
Syrah is not the third most planted variety, however.
At this stage it ranks 7th in vineyard area, well behind Chardonnay, Merlot, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Cabernet Sauvignon.
And even though Syrah is becoming more and more dominant, it might never be number 3 on the 'most popular planted' nation-wide list because the places when Syrah grows with ease are really, at this stage, Hawkes Bay, Auckland (most notably Waiheke Island) and Northland.
But it could become the number one red in these warmer regions that are better suited, climatically, to Syrah than Pinot Noir.
What is exciting about the Syrahs we are seeing to today, is the ripeness and generosity of the wines – delicious wines with some at very delicious prices.
One in particular is Selaks Winemakers Favourite Hawkes Bay Syrah 2009, which has a price range of $15 - $20, which is unbelievable for the quality.
Perhaps the 'hotter than usual' summer had something to do with it – just perfect for this variety with no slightly underripe 'green pepper' tones here.
Selaks Winemakers Favourite Hawkes Bay Syrah 2009 is shiny black cherry in hue – deep and inky and smelling of smoke, pepper, spice and all things nice.
There's also what I call 'rose spice', for me a very much sought after and pleasing character of cool climate Syrah – and concentrated blackberry scents stand out too.
The spicy, savoury flavours have a kick of fruity brightness with blackberry and blueberry supported by a leathery undercurrent that's a little reminiscent of some Merlots, together with a hint of liquorice.
There's a kind of nuggety thing going on with chocolate, leather, spice and creamy oak - American oak, perhaps – the label doesn't say, it just has that generous American oak feel, and the finish is long and creamy.
The tannins have a little of the velvet-rubbed-the-wrong way feel about them and give this wine structure. They say, "I am gutsy wine".
Yes, this is a gutsy wine in a medium to full-bodied package.
It's very nice drinking indeed.
Ninety percent of the fruit comes from the Gimblett Gravels denominated area with the rest from Highway 50, nearby.
The grapes were fermented in stainless steel with Rhône isolate yeasts, then matured in oak for 12 months, and alcohol is stated as 13.5% by volume.
Selaks Winemakers Favourite Hawkes Bay Syrah 2009 is widely available in New Zealand. Find out more from www.selaks.co.nz.
© Sue Courtney
1 Feb 2011