Syrah Tasting on Waiheke Island

I hosted a Syrah tasting to mark my 25th anniversary of living on Waiheke Island and to thank many of the people working in the cellar doors who provided great service to my private tour customers over the past few years. The tasting was of Syrah wines, from New Zealand, France and had one wine from Australia, but excluded Shiraz. It’s not that we don’t like Shiraz but it is a very different version of Syrah to those produced here in NZ. Half of the wines were supplied by me and my guests provided the rest.

The wines in the tasting were between 5 and 20 years of age and small plates of food were served during the tasting as well as having charcuterie boards available at all times. All 16 Syrah wines and one rogue wine, were tasted blind. My top 10 wines with scores out of 20 were as follows –

1. Michelas St Jemms Cornas Les Murettes 2018 19.5

2= Chapoutier La Sizeranne Hermitage, France       2010     19.0

2= Mt Difficulty Ghost Town, Central Otago, NZ      2016     19.0

2= Trinity Hills Homage, Hawkes Bay, NZ                 2010     19.0

5= Awaroa, Waiheke Is, NZ                                       2014     18.5

5= Church Road, Grand Reserve, Hawkes Bay, NZ   2017      18.5

5= Te Mata Bullnose, Hawkes Bay, NZ                      2012      18.5

8    Owhanake Bay, Anchorage, Waiheke Is, NZ        2018      18.0

9.  Stonyridge, Pilgrim, Waiheke Is, NZ                      2015      17.5

10. Kennedy Point Reserve, Waiheke Is, NZ               2015      17.0

Most of these wines are no longer available for purchase but current vintages vary from about $35-40 (Church Rd Grand Reserve), $88 when it was available (Michelas St Jemms Cornas La Murettes), to about $150 (Trinity Hills Homage).

All wines scored 16 of more points so there were no bad wines but a couple of top end wines from New Zealand didn’t score as well as I thought they might. My top wine, the Cornas, was the youngest wine by six months and the fact that the bottle was quickly finished off when the wines were unveiled would indicate that most of us thought the same.

The biggest surprise out of the NZ wines was the Mt Difficulty wine that scored 19.0 points. It is from grapes grown in NZ’s southern-most wine region, Central Otago from a vineyard in the Bendigo sub-region which I think have the warmest vineyard sights down there.

I did put in a rogue wine, a well-known NZ Pinot Noir from 2008, to see if anyone noticed that there was something different in their glasses. As a young wine this wine was often described as a ‘bit Syrah like’ and I guess the fact everyone missed it being a Pinot, including me, would indicate that that in some cases some of those characteristics carry through with age. I did however give it my lowest score thinking I was tasting a Syrah!

Many thanks to Angela, Adam and Jenna who prepared and served all of the food, and poured and served the wines as well.

Geoff