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Celebrate shiraz, the world’s very first wine

If you happen to be in Philadelphia, you may wish to visit the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania and see a 7000-year-old jar.

Found in northern Iran in 1968, its dark red stains have been confirmed to be caused by wine all those years ago.

The area around the Persian city of Shiraz produced our world’s very first wine and, as we will celebrate International Shiraz Day on July 22, let us find out about a few.

Call it syrah if you wish, and I like to say that the difference is like that of a German Sheppard and an Alsatian, which is none. However, there is a tendency to refer to the oldest wine grape as syrah in cooler growing areas and shiraz in warmer ones.

We lead off in the cool Northern Rhone Valley of France and taste 2017 Chapoutier Cote Roti Les Becasses. DNA tests show that syrah growing here is indigenous to France and not the Persian version. Wine Enthusiast awards it 93/100 and says: “Layers of smoke and dark chocolate, leather and black olive mingle seamlessly into raspberry and blackberry flavours in this wine. While fine, penetrating tannins lend a taut feel, it's a freshly balanced syrah that's inviting already. At peak now to 2027.” This wine is created using fully certified biodynamic methods. $72.65 (Stock #9447).

From the same producer and the same year, we offer 2017 Chapoutier Les Meysonniers Crozes Hermitage that merits this from The Wine Advocate: “Delivers a pannier of plush, juicy blueberries, balanced by just enough soft tannins to keep it savoury and focused. Full-bodied and rounded in the mouth, it finishes silky and long. This looks like a beauty to drink over the next six to seven years.” $30.50 (Stock #9421).

Now we move to warmer South Australian shiraz territory and try 2019 Molly Dooker The Boxer. I quote from Nic’s Wine merchants who score it 95/100 and write: “Inky black heart with a deep dark red/black hue. Heady ripe black cherry, liquorice and black plum scents waft from the glass with subtlety toasted vanillin oak, fennel and spice notes ensuing. Incredibly rich and lavish, the thick, voluptuously textured palate is saturated with lush blackberry, liquorice, black cherry and black plum fruits which overshadow a backdrop of toasty vanillin oak, fennel and spicy pepper characters. Magnificent power with velvet smooth tannins and a long decadent aftertaste.”

Those with knowledge of Australian slang know that Mollydooker is a left-handed person, as the winery founders are. $39.70 (Stock #6096).

We head over to South Africa for a brief stop and try their 2017 DeMorgenzon DMS Syrah that has a deep purple core with a rich berry fruit nose with lots of ripe, red plum and whiffs of white pepper. There are some floral notes in the background, including violets, lavender and spring blossoms. It is very full in the mouth with layers of berry fruit, spices of pepper, cinnamon, clove and vanilla. $27.85 (Stock #7187).

A wine with a similar price hails from Washington State and it is 2018 Charles Smith Boom Boom Syrah that exploded on the wine industry in 2007, and this spicy syrah has been one of Washington State’s signature wines ever since. It’s a tribute to Charles’ first love lost – a woman nicknamed Boom Boom O’Brien – and they say that it is one of the boldest syrahs of all time. It’s not surprising that wine drinkers everywhere have fallen in love with it. A bottle is yours for $28.45. (Stock #8055).

While driving up the Silverado Trail that skirts the eastern boundary of Napa Valley, we spot the two rock outcrops, leapt across by that legendary stag, and we know we are at the Shafer Family Winery. We are seeking a bottle of their syrah named for their winemaker’s relentless pursuit for perfection.

Here is what critic Jeb Dunnuck thinks of the 2016 Shafer Relentless: “I’ve consistently loved the Relentless cuvée from this team, which is always from a single vineyard and is syrah-dominated, with about 10 per cent petite sirah in the blend. The 2016 Relentless is sensational. Dense purple-hued with a sweet bouquet of jammy blackberries, ground pepper, charcoal, and some smoky, meaty notes, it’s a full-bodied, powerful, yet plush, even elegant syrah that does everything right. 96/100.”

In 2012 Wine Spectator placed the 2008 vintage in the number one spot-on their Top 100 Wines in the World. I still have a bottle stashed away. $118.40 (Stock #6820). You may now find the 2017 in our shops and it garnered 98/100 from a tasting panel.

We end with one of the world’s most iconic wines, that was first made in 1951 when Max Schubert, the winemaker for Penfolds in Australia, toured Bordeaux and decided to give their greatest some stiff competition. In 2004 a bottle of this first vintage sold for AU$50,000.

We presently can offer you three vintages of Penfolds Grange and here are a few reviews. Decanter rates the 2014 vintage 100/100 and prints: “A perfect wine: extraordinary chypre and warm earth notes and the powerful fruit follows. Phenomenal shiraz with 2 per cent cabernet sauvignon.” $910.40 (Stock #7200).

The 2015 also scores perfection with James Suckling who comments: “It is a powerhouse of concentration and complexity. Aromas of orange and lemon peel to start, then graphite, blackberries, plum paste, black cherries, boundless sweet oak spice, fresh cedar, tar, mahogany, roasted coffee and chocolate – the list goes on. 100/100.” $909.55 (Stock #7199).

Australian critic Dan Murphy awards the 2016 98/100 and most major publications have not rated this recently released year yet. $825 (Stock #7224).

For the fourth Thursday I am still trying to decide – hard cheese such as Gouda?Barbecue spareribs? roast lamb? But certainly syrah/shiraz.

This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Contact Michael Robinson at mrobinson@bll.bm. Burrows Lightbourn have stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554) and Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355). Visit www.wineonline.bm

This 7,000-year-old wine bottle found in northern Iran sits on display at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania

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Published July 09, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated July 06, 2021 at 3:12 pm)

Celebrate shiraz, the world’s very first wine

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