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Home Winners > Winners 2013 > NEW WORLD: Shiraz/Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre & Rhône Blends: excluding Australia

Winner Details

New World: Shiraz/Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre & Rhône Blends: excluding Australia

Not many cheap medals, but an awful lot of positive feedback from the tasters. The Aussies had better watch their backs!

Syrah/Shiraz is rapidly establishing itself in this competition as the go-to grape variety if you’re looking for value for money, reliability and the occasional burst of eye-popping brilliance at a halfway decent price. It happens in the Rhône, it happens in Australia and, increasingly, it’s beginning to happen across the rest of the New World, too.

Chile, South Africa and New Zealand all picked up a decent number of medals last year, and it was the same story in 2013, with two Golds for New Zealand, and one for each of the other countries, with only Argentina and the US failing to excite our tasters very much.

Chile, South Africa and New Zealand all picked up a decent number of medals last year, and it was the same story in 2013, with two Golds for New Zealand, and one for each of the other countries, with only Argentina and the US failing to excite our tasters very much.

The most surprising story, in a sense, is New Zealand. Syrah is, after all, a tiny percentage of the country’s plantings. But it’s clearly in the right places and being made by winemakers who understand that it’s not just Cabernet wearing a different coat. Over the past couple of years the country has really established itself as a force to be reckoned with in this competition and with this grape.

‘This was a lovely flight of wines, over-delivering at every price level, and showing some stunning quality at the higher end,’ drooled The Vineyard Group’s James Hocking. ‘A lot of sommeliers could get really excited about these wines so they wouldn’t be difficult to sell, especially as New Zealand has both a quality image and a reputation for its cooler climate.’

Stylistically, the wines nod towards the Rhône rather than Australia, with hints of pepper and spice, but they stop short of any form of direct imitation. And that they have a distinctive style of their own was very definitely seen as a good thing. The words ‘precise’, ‘intense’ and ‘beautifully balanced’ came up time and time again.

Interestingly, this year saw our first Kiwi Syrah Gold from Marlborough, courtesy of Fromm, so with red-grape vineyard land still available to plant in the region (not the case in Hawkes Bay), it’s possible that we might have a few more of these in 10 years’ time. Certainly, on this evidence, Syrah, rather than Cab/Merlot should be the Kiwis’ ‘other’ red grape variety besides Pinot Noir.

‘This wine showed a real sense of place, not pretending to be a Rhône, but with a balance and elegance of fruit that said New Zealand,’ said Coq d’Argent’s Olivier Marie. ‘It has a cross-over appeal to those who love Rhône wines, so it’s a great introduction to the quality coming out of New Zealand and a wine that you could hand sell to customers with confidence.’

It was a similar story in Chile. Our tasters were perhaps less poetically knocked out by what they were tasting, but there was (as you might expect) a lot of good, juicy fruit, keen pricing and customer accessibility.

The wines had a certain joie de vivre that made them impossible to dislike, and they were described (approvingly) as mid-week wines; the kind of bottles that would do a really good turn at bistros and gastropubs up and down the country.

There were few winemaking faults – ‘We didn’t complain about alcohol or too much sweetness,’ pointed out The Glasshouse Restaurant’s Sara Bachiorri – with the only occasional problem being where young vines were somewhat over-ridden by too much oak.

Moreover, The Ritz’s Tobias Brauweiler thought that he could detect the beginnings of terroir.

‘The coast is more about spice – it’s lighter. Inland you get richer and darker black pepper characters. You should have both styles on your list if you want it to be balanced,’ he said.

Certainly, whatever kind of establishment you run, you should consider the Undurraga TH from Limarí, which also picked up a Food Match award for rib-eye steak. It's generous and easy drinking but with some real character, too; though if you think that’s a bit much, you could always try the same winery’s Sibaris from Maipo – a ridiculously well-priced Silver.

South Africa, interestingly, never managed to get anywhere near this kind of pricing. In fact, none of its medal winners were under £11, and in the early stages of the competition there were a significant number of wines removed for being faulty. But once this initial cull had been carried out our tasters were pleased to find some wines of real pedigree.

‘The wines that stood out were approachable now,’ said team leader Simon Woods. ‘And the character of fynbos, like the garrigue in the Rhône really came through and added complexity in the wines.’

Congratulations to Journey’s End, which moved up from a Silver last year to take a place on the Gold List for Syrah – only the second ever South African wine to do so since this competition started.

‘I liked the Chilean Syrahs. They had lots of concentration and fruit, and we could see that they are starting to get the hang of different styles.’
Tobias Brauweiler, The Ritz

‘If I’m going to list NZ Syrah and Syrah blends, then because it needs a bit of hand selling, I’m going to go for a really great example.’
Laure Patry, Pollen Street Social

‘South Africa showed really well, meeting expectations with fresh, modern, but discernibly South African wines.’
Diana Rollan, Hakkasan London