Home Winners > Winners 2012 > NEW WORLD: Shiraz, Grenache & Rhône-style blends: Excluding Australia

Winner Details

New World: Syrah/ Shiraz, Grenache & Rhône-style blends: excluding Australia

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

If you were looking for New World Syrah/Shiraz for your wine list, Australia would almost certainly be your first port of call. Well, on this evidence, unless you’re looking for cheap versions, perhaps it shouldn’t be. While the Aussies’ showing was patchy, this looks like the year when the Rest of the New World finally ‘got’ Syrah.

Every country picked up a medal, with Chile, and, in particular, New Zealand and South Africa, really making great strides. The only caveat is that they came at a price – there was a startling shortage of medals under £10 from anywhere.

New Zealand’s performance with this grape last year (one Gold and two Silvers) was news to many who thought the country’s only red varietal was Pinot, and it built on that foundation again this year. Two Golds, a Silver and four Bronzes suggest that, while this might still be a niched varietal for the Kiwis, it’s one that has real potential – and a growing number of devotees, mostly, on this evidence, in Hawkes Bay. Special congratulations, too, to Elephant Hill for taking both the country’s places on the Gold List.

‘There were exciting wines across the range with entries ranging from those with more Rhône-like character to those that were more clearly cooler New World in style,’ praised Henley Hotel du Vin’s Michael Harrison. ‘I could put a lot of these wines on. None were below par, so it was a question of choosing on style and price point to complement the list.’

The other big mover here was South Africa, which came from, frankly, nowhere last year to a position of some influence. Given the country’s persistent problems with red wines, it wasn’t all plain sailing. Tasters often picked up a less-than-winning combination of burnt rubber, roasted fruit and jam, ‘with a bit of horse’s arse thrown in!’, as The Folly’s Foni Tsouvallas put it. But, as with the Cabernets, this tended to be at the lower end, and moving upmarket our tasters found a lot more about which to be positive.

‘The medal-winning wines had a purity of Shiraz character – black cherry, violets, tannins and structure,’ said Flint Wines’ Gearoid Devaney MS. ‘They were nice and tidy. It’s good to see.’

More difficult for our tasters to get their heads around (probably because the wines came in from all over the Cape, and that this is still, broadly, a variety in experimentation) was the difficulty in pinning down the character.

‘There’s such a diversity of winemaking styles here,’ said consultant Angela Reddin. ‘South Africa hasn’t quite defined what it’s doing with Syrah yet.’ None the less, there was one Gold (the country was close to getting two or three more) and a hatful of Silvers.

In strictly numerical terms, Chile’s performance was slightly disappointing: half the number of medals of last year. But competition in this category was tougher than in 2011, and the feedback from the judges suggests that the country is onto something here.

‘I was excited by these,’ said consultant Jade Koch. ‘They had personality – whether you like it or not. They were saying something. And when it’s good, it’s very good. It’s wine with potential and good fruit.’

The problems here were, if you like, good ones to have. The fruit was clearly excellent: pristine, bright and ripe, with good varietal character. The problems came mostly in the winery, with too much oak or problems with reduction. And these problems, of course, are quickly and easily fixed.

‘They are so going in the right direction,’ praised Hakkasan’s Christine Parkinson. ‘To me, Chile is the most elegant of the New World countries: the fruit is ripe but not cooked.’

‘The New Zealand wines were really good: expressive, balanced and showing cooler-climate intensity. They had freshness and good acidity, with good tannin management. They were very food friendly.’ Nigel Lister, Bread Street Kitchen

‘The prices on these New World Syrahs were generally very fair. These wines were also good drinking while young and many would have good consumer appeal.’ Peter Fazekas, Galvin La Chapelle

‘Chilean Syrah was about violets and white pepper. There was less messing around with the wine and a nice typicity.’ Fionnuala Synnott, Pollen Street Social