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Scientists nix a great wine story

Winemaker Austin Hope

Apologies for being a little late off the mark to advise on wines to celebrate International Syrah/Shiraz Day, which took place last Wednesday, February 16.

For decades I loved to tell the story of the very first wine grape, with a history spanning almost 7,000 years. I would recount how King Jamsheed, from the city of Shiraz in Persia, loved to eat grapes, and one year stored a few large jars of them in his cellar. The fruit burst, started to ferment, bubble, and emit gas. Startled, the king had the resulting liquid labelled poison. A very unhappy woman in his harem decided to end it all by drinking some of the juice. Her sudden mood change caused the king to have a sip, and then his whole entourage followed suit. This was the world’s first joyous wine party!

Well those darned scientists at the University of Davis in California put an end to all that! This is one of the top institutions for studying wine and winemaking and people come to study there from all corners of our planet. A comprehensive DNA study was done there, and it has been proven that the syrah grape originated in France from the crossing of the dark-skinned dureza and light-skinned mondeusa blanche. There goes the city of Shiraz in modern-day Iran story! If the Australians want to call it shiraz so be it, after all they call a raincoat a ”drizabone” (dry-as-a-bone).

I have picked three areas and will offer two wines from each that feature this grape. With virtually perfect scores of 99/100 from James Suckling and Decanter Magazine, the 2016 Jim Barry Armagh Shiraz from Clare Valley in South Australia is described this way by Decanter: “This is a brilliant wine that makes you sit up and pay attention. Concentrated and mouthwatering with spicy liquorice root and black cherries. Needs a couple more years to fully open but already it packs a punch without being overpowering, and it achieves the feat of great wines where you simply know how good they are by how your palate responds to the effortless balance of tannin, juice and brambled fruit.” This is one to keep in the cellar for as long as you would like. Do you have a child or grandchild born in 2016? $320 (Stock #6423).

We stay with the same renowned winery and read about their 2017 Jim Barry Lodge Hill Shiraz which is yours for $29.05. Their winemaker says: “This wine is a deep red with a bright magenta hue. Vibrant aromatics of red and black berry fruits, a lift of violet florals, clove spice and mixed garden herbs. The palate is dominated by a lively burst of berry fruits, which are well framed by fine, powdery tannins. Juicy plum and blackberry flavours persist through the finish, with sweet spice to close. As the wine ages over the decades, these young characters become more complex to create a symphony of flavours on the palate, supported by the further refined tannins of its youth.” Wine & Spirits gives it a very credible 92/100. (Stock #6419).

The Chapoutier family were one of the first to farm biodynamically in the Rhone Valley of France and their 2019 Chapoutier Cote-Rotie Les Bécasses is 100 per cent syrah. Critic Jeb Dunnuck thinks this of it: “The 2019 Côte Rôtie Les Bécasses reveals a deep purple hue as well as impressive notes of red and black fruits, scorched earth, ground pepper, camphor, and dried flowers. A rich, medium to full-bodied effort, it stays closed and tight on the palate, with firm tannins, yet I like its mid-palate depth as well as purity of fruit. It should have over a decade of longevity. 92/100.” $87 (Stock #9447).

Also biodynamic is the 2017 Chapoutier Crozes Hermitage Les Meysonniers that scores 91/100 and this from James Suckling: “A gently smoky edge to the ripe and complex, dark-fruited nose with brambly, spiced red plums and blackberries.” $34 (Stock #9421).

We do not have a 100 per cent syrah from California so I will share two where this grape dominates. The annual Top 100 Wines list that the Wine Spectator publishes each autumn is considered a very fine selection of the pinnacle of wine production. They usually taste over 15,000 wines, so to be the top one is remarkable. In 2012 their number one wine was the 2008 Shafer Vineyards Relentless. I almost opened my last bottle for Valentine’s Day but resisted the urge and so we can still dream of it!

Our present stock is the 2017 Shafer Relentless. The Tasting Panel Magazine scored this 98 points, saying, "We taste this proprietary blend of syrah (86 per cent) and petite sirah (14 per cent) almost every vintage, and this time we admired the elevated elegance of its structure, with silkier tannins than we recall in former bottlings. Grown on a small ridgetop just south of the Stags Leap District, the grapes experienced a lengthy hang time, and the result is stunning: chocolate, black plum, slate, black olive, and leather reveal themselves in the opaque, carmine black – hued liquid, which aged 30 months in 100 per cent new French oak." It is always very limited in supply. $120 (Stock #6820). Here is another dream wine for the cellar.

In Austin Hope’s younger days, he was something of a troublemaker. And on those days when his schoolwork or attitude didn’t quite live up to the family’s expectations, he was sent to the vineyards in Paso Robles for a hard day’s work meant to teach him a lesson. Little did the Hopes know that this childhood punishment would be the beginning of a lifelong passion and career.

Austin Hope Troublemaker is a non-vintage blend of 54 per cent syrah, 15 per cent petite syrah, 14 per cent grenache, 10 per cent mourvèdre and 7 per cent zinfandel that scores 90 points with Wine Enthusiast which describes its “black fruit, oak and black pepper and extremely rich palate that’s loaded with vanilla, caramel, fudge and black cherry”. $28.30 (Stock #8029).

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

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Published February 25, 2022 at 7:58 am (Updated February 25, 2022 at 7:41 am)

Scientists nix a great wine story

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