The ICC group tasted 6 Syrahs, blind, on 9th January. All were in the £12 – £16 price range and so value is determined entirely by quality. After my notes and my score I give the average score for the whole (29 people strong) group.

CROZES HERMITAGE “LES MESONIERES” 2010 (Chapoutier) France 13%
Bright deep purple colour. Quite a strong black fruit nose, some menthol/minty notes too. Spicy palate, strong acidity and aromatic herb notes. Quite a warm and tannic (young?) balance and a hint of salt with the tannins at the end. Quite textbook Syrah, maybe a little young.
Ratings:    Mine:  15/20            Group Ave.: 15.00

TAMAYA RESERVA 2009 (Limari Valley, Chile) 13½%
Floral, soapy notes then blackcurrant pastilles. Sweet confectionery fruit, peppery middle palate and dies away quickly. A hard edge on the short finish.
Ratings:    Mine:  13/20            Group Ave.: 14.44

PENFOLDS BIN 128 2010 (Cooonawarra, S. Australia) 14½%
Again a minty herby nose. Supple but heavy black fruit – almost blackcurrant. Quite easy drinking with some salty tannins and a spicy finish, quite a “thick” impression. Pleasant but not subtle and a whole bottle might be tiring.
Ratings:    Mine:  14/20            Group Ave.: 15.89

French, S. African & Australian Syrah

French, S. African & Australian Syrah

FLAGSTONE DARK HORSE 2009 (Western Cape, S. Africa) 14½%
Smokey, spicy and woody vanilla notes too and hints of softer fruit and higher fragrances. Woody and slightly spirit palate – supple long berry fruit with spice and salt pleasantly recessed. Quite a satisfying balance in spite of (because of?) the wine being slightly untypical!
Ratings:    Mine:  16/20            Group Ave.: 15.92

CORTES DE CIMA 2010 (Alentejano, Portugal) 14%
Fruity nose – blackberry and a touch of plum. Smooth palate with the same fruit flavours and refreshing acidity. Hints of herb and spice but little salt and supporting rather than dominating the fruit. A long supple acid/fruit finish. Very good.
Ratings:    Mine:  17/20            Group Ave.: 16.34

STEAM WHARF ROAD 2008 (Hawkes Bay, New Zealand) 12½%
Quieter nose than the rest, with some floral and herby notes and a subtle berry fruit note. Supple palate with the same notes but well integrated (longer age?) so nothing sticks out. Still some powerful tannins behind the flavour but no distracting salt or spice. Also very good.
Ratings:    Mine:  17/20            Group Ave.: 16.58

Overall, an interesting tasting with quite close family resemblance – as you would expect – with all the wines. The scoring pattern were similar for each wine – with most scores ranging from +3 to -3 of the average, and my scores were mostly close to the consensus. The only real differences being the Penfold and the Cortes de Cima. The Penfold divided opinion, very few gave it close to it’s average score: half the group scoring a point or two higher and a third scoring two, three or even four lower. I was one that had it much lower.

In contrast opinion was very focused on the Portuguese wine, with all but 2 scores within 1.7 points  the average and a majority within one point. Other than that, I’m not sure if one should discount the fact that the scores rise towards the end of the tasting due to increased… er…. enthusiasm… of the group – I’ll leave that to you.

For my part, my feelings were confirmed – the less “Shiraz-ish” the wines, the better I liked them and it’s not a variety I seek out. That said the two highest scorers are widely available [The NZ at Tesco for £15, the Portuguese at Waitrose for £12], and for the right occasion very reasonable value and drinking pleasure.

Until next time.