So the title to this post is a bit of an in-joke, borne from many a spirited discussion (read: pontificating and shit stirring) amongst some old mates (G’day SB & RE) when comparing shirazes as their search for the best expressions of the warmer regions butts up against my hunt for cool climate savouriness. Syrhadonnay is the moniker is the joking half-sledge given to the spicy, elegant wines that I’m inevitably drawn towards.
The reason that we can make these climatic comparisons comes from the relative ubiquity of Shiraz throughout the new world, a ubiquity which can produce amazing examples in regions that aren’t known for it. (And to celebrate this I plan on using shiraz and syrah interchangeably throughout this piece with no discernible consistency)
I was reminded of this on my recent trip through NZ as we tasted through the region of Martinborough (about 90 mins NE of Wellington on the North Island). Martinborough is principally known as a pinot region, and produces some mighty fine examples via wineries such as Ata Rangi, Escarpment, Dry River and more. And while the pinot was sensational, it was the Syrah that really blew me away.
I was first introduced to Martinborough Syrah through the Kusuda winery, a fastidiously run, small estate that is imported by one of my suppliers (I should probably call them dealers…). Whlist the highly fancied pinots were pretty good, what I remembered was the luxurious shiraz at the end of the bench. Ripe without syrup, peppery but not at the expense of all other flavours. An absolute treat. And Martinborough isn’t the only pinot region where Syrahdonnay sneakily succeeds. The Mornington Peninsula is another ‘pinot zone’ that produces some shiraz that may well eventually eclipse the pinot that the region is best known for. Foxey’s Hangout, Bailleu and Paringa Estate are all starting to show just how well shiraz does on the MP (as does Viognier, which opens up even more exciting possibilities).
But let’s get back on track and talk about Martinborough Syrah. At the end of our Ata Rangi tasting I found out that they had a bit of Syrah for sale so I bought a bottle to try. Remarking that I was keen on Martinborough shiraz I was kindly directed about 200m down the road to Schubert. After tasting their excellent 2012 Sauv Blanc (something I don’t often find myself remarking) and the 2010 Marion’s Vineyard Pinot that had a great sweet/savoury/herby balance, I was poured their 09 Syrah, and it totally stomped all over everything that came before. It’s hard to describe a truly layered wine until you’ve had one but the aromas just kept leaping out of the glass, nothing dominating and all in perfect balance and harmony. On the palate it was just as exciting with fine tannin, a hit of rich fruit and a long, spicy finish. Moving on next to Martinborough Vineyard we again tasted through the range of excellent pinots but were really won over by the 2010 Shiraz Viognier with its luscious dark berry fruit and peppery tail. We left the region with far more Shiraz than we did Pinot as most of the Shiraz is sadly cellar door only! A travesty…
And as for the Ata Rangi? We enjoyed it on the last night of our stay, and it was every bit as good as it should have been – loaded with dark cherries, blackberries and other briary fruit and offering a spicy lift on the palate while the flavour was carried on and on. Superb Syrahdonnay more like it…