Shiraz is inarguably this country’s key red variety, occupying about 30 per cent of vineyard land and an even larger portion of Australian wine’s prestige. That sense of identity is largely shaped by the commanding resource of old vines, primarily in South Australia’s key areas of McLaren Vale and Barossa, with a style built on fruit depth and concentration. That style was turbo charged in the 1990s, with wine mega-critic Robert Parker shaping styles just as much as he assessed them. The wines got almost impossibly big, soused with alcohol and buttressed with menacing amounts of charry oak. The monolith that was ‘brand shiraz’ sparked a counter movement in the early 2000s that favoured elegance and perfume, and one that branded itself with the French name for the grape: syrah. Today, Australian syrah is a category in its own right, and an exciting one at that. So much so that a Deep Dive is called for.
The panel: Sebastian Crowther MS, owner Real Wines and Wine Theory; Sarah Andrew DipWSET, WSET Business Development Manager for Aus and NZ; Hannah Day, Sommelier and Beverage Manager for Chancery Lane; Gary Mills, owner/winemaker Jamsheed and Jamsheed Urban Winery; Rory Lane, owner/winemaker The Story Wines; Meg Brodtman MW, Chief Winemaker Rob Dolan Wines; Isabelle Szyman, sommelier; Adam Foster, owner/winemaker Syrahmi, Foster e Rocco and Garden of Earthly Delights.
We gathered every Australian wine labelled syrah we could find and set our expert panel the task of finding the wines that compelled the most. All wines were tasted blind, and each panellist named their top six wines. Below are the wines that made the panellists’ top six from the tasting.
2019 Quiet Mutiny ‘Venus Rising’ Syrah
Crowther had this placed in his top six wines for the day. “The wine presents with some dark fruit character, black and red fruits – blackberry and deep plum,” he wrote. “There’s a little char and spice sitting within this frame of fruits. The palate is compact and concentrated. Dark earth and some rugged, savoury tannins are attractive. Good depth, flavour and concentration running from front to back on the palate. Makes me want food. Something off the barbecue or slow roasted!