Shiraz or Syrah – 2024 YGOW Awards Feature

Wines Of Now
31 May 2024. Words by YGOW.

Shiraz or syrah? Call it what you will, the grape is our most planted and arguably our most emblematic, both locally and on the world stage. Much of that reputation is built on some notable regional styles, from powerful old vine expressions from South Australia to the savoury midweight wines of the Hunter to peppery cool climate expressions from across Victoria and the Canberra District, for example. While the frenzy fuelled by the stratospheric point scores in the 1990s by some notable reviewers has well and truly cooled, Australia’s reputation for high-octane shiraz has lingered. The truth is that while these wines still exist and have a loyal following – who’s to tell you what you like drinking! – the shiraz landscape is far more nuanced than that, with huge variances in light and shade due to region, site, vintage and the sensibilities of makers.

Winemakers in the 2024 YGOW Awards Top 50 demonstrate the gentler shades of shiraz through wines from Agricola, Cape Jaffa Wines, Little Frances, Juliard, Honky Chateau, Guthrie, Alkimi and Mise En Place.

2022 Agricola ‘Flaxman Valley’, Eden Valley $56 RRP

Pepper spice and menthol melds with blackberry, subtle ash, and salted plum. Lovely savouriness kept in check with the fruit bringing complexity and interest. The palate is intense and dark fruit, though with lift and elegance. Black pepper, menthol, blackberry and black plum sit within stacked chalky tannins and a latent lick of freshening acid. A rhone-like Shiraz of complexity, texture and precision.

2022 Agricola ‘Kalimna Sands’, Barossa Valley $56 RRP

Dark and brooding. This opens with blood plum, brown spice, menthol, subtle smoke, and a ferrous note. It’s complex and intriguing. The palate is fulsome and sweet fruited. Plum, blackberry, pepper, menthol, iron and bacon fat. The tannins are chewy and stacked, commanding the mouth before the fruit catches up thanks to cleansing acid.

2022 Alkimi ‘Silvan Reservoir Vineyard’ Syrah, Yarra Valley $38 RRP

Lifted white pepper, blackberry, game meat and subtle menthol. Classic cool climate Syrah aromas at play here, and in lovely balance. The palate is medium bodied and lithe with a cool feel. Black pepper, blackberry, and seared meat permeate the palate, though again with lift, brightness, and buoyancy. Chalky tannins hold sway, and intermingle with clean acidity to carry the black fruits and savoury spice long through the palate. Fresh, bright, and melding savouriness with fruit beautifully.

2023 Honky Chateau ‘Decoupage’ Syrah, Yarra Valley $32 RRP

Blueberry pie, black berry, gentle pepper spice on the nose, followed by baking spices and red plum. The palate is packed with plush fruit and supporting spice much akin to the nose. Black and blue fruits meld with spice again, all of which is pulled into line by a vein of chewy, sinewy tannins to a gentle close.

2023 Mise en Place ‘Homeblock’ Syrah, Yarra Valley $38 RRP

Punch blackberry leaps out of the glass initially, followed by firm wafting of menthol, black pepper, au jus and dried cranberry. A swirl of the glass brings it all together, melding the fruit and savoury. The palate is medium bodied with lifted, detailed fruit bringing a buoyant and bright feel. Red liquorice leads the charge, followed by pepper spice, and cranberry. Fine, detailed, lithe. A wonderful Rhone-like expression of cool climate syrah.

2021 Guthrie ‘Snare’ Syrah, Adelaide Hills $32 RRP

Open knit aromas of plum, ripe red currant, pepper spice, game meat. It’s attractively lifted and bright, drawing you to taste . The palate is medium bodied, soft, and plush. Baked red plum, red currant, pepper spice, game meat permeate the palate with aplomb. A strong line of tangy plum-laced acidity carries length through the palate along with integrated fine-grained tannins. The finish is juicy, fresh and moreish.

2023 Cape Jaffa Wines ‘Aura Range Shiraz – Biodynamic Block 15’, Mount Benson $37 RRP

Blueberry pie and red plum meld with black pepper spice on the nose, followed by a glimmer of red liquorice and a nuance of brick dust. The palate is fulsome and and forward – blueberry, pepper, and a gamey nuance. There’s delicate structure in support thanks to a vein of fine tannins and cooling, freshening acidity.

2021 Juliard Wines Shiraz, Beechworth $38 RRP

Red currants and red plum are to the fore, with slight layers of black pepper and lovely liquorice spice, and an earthen quality. Teetering around medium weight, there’s a good grip from dusty tannins, with a nice flow and feel to the wine here.

2022 Little Frances Shiraz, Beechworth $36 RRP

A gorgeous melding of blackberry and black pepper spice off the bat, followed by aus jus, seared meat, and subtle tilled earth. This is elegant and intense at one, with lovely balance and poise. The palate is medium bodied and wonderfully intense – black pepper, blackberry, red plum, peppered meat, and earth. The tannins are chalky, integrated, working with clean acidity to bring it all to a clean, fresh and long finish. A wonderful cool climate style, packed with flavour, intensity and complexity.

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