The thing I enjoy about attending structured tastings like this one is that it serves to further refine my knowledge and appreciation of wine. Sometimes it even destroys misconceptions I have.
Shiraz and Syrah are two different names for the same grape. The difference between the two is the style in the way the wine is made as well as the different flavors imparted into the wine by the terroir.
Shiraz tends to be more of a fruit forward style of wine with quite a peppery, tannic finish to them. Sometimes the tannins and pepper can be quite dominant.
Syrah on the other hand, when on it’s own (the French often blend Syrah) ends up being a smooth, refined wine without the edgeyness on the finish.
The difference between the two is most evident when the wine is young. As the wine ages I discovered at this event, the peppery, tannic finish dominant in a Shiraz integrates more fully into the wine and the line between a Shiraz and a Syrah virtually disappears. This is the first time I’ve had a well aged Shiraz and I was impressed with how smooth it can become. I had always believed there was no point in aging Shirazs beyond 5 years. Man was I wrong. These were lovely. The oldest tasted was a 1999 and all of the wines we tasted were still tasting VERY well. Managing a large cellar isn’t easy and it would be a crying shame to have a wine go bad before you get to it! Clearly the cellar masters are doing a great job!
This particular event was a blind tasting.
Onto the tastings. We started the evening with two chardonnays as the reception wine.
YALUMBA WILD FERMENT CHARDONNAY 2008 $17.95
The wine is pale in color with some mild sulphur on the nose. Not to the point of smelling a match (which I have had before), but it was there. The wine is quite mild in flavor, some slight butteryness, some varietal chard flavors with a mild finish. There is a bit of sulphur tastes to the wine as well. All in all this was an Ok wine, but nothing great. I would give it an 87-88 ish.
CHATEAU ST. JEAN CHARDONNAY 2007 $19.95
The wine is a lovely Californian style chard with some butteryness, some creamyness and a finish that builds nicely in the mouth. At first the wine seems light in flavor until it starts to build. After a few sips you are really appreciating the depth and complexity of the wine. This is a very well made chard. Be sure and try a few sips of it on it’s own (without food) to fully appreciate it. I would give it a 90 easily. Yummy. Of the two this was my favorite and the crowd also preferred this one. As an interesting side note, this winery is owned by Fosters, an Australian company.
Wines from the tasting
These wines were all brought out of the cellars of the Society for American Wines and the Australian Wine Society. Current vintages are available for some of them in the LCBO but not the specific year we tasted. Prices quoted are what they were bought for originally.
2002 Arrowood Sonoma County California $29.95
– chocolate/coffee on the nose
– smooth wine with lots of lovely fruit and a spicey finish
– this was the group’s 2nd least (tied with 2 others) favorite and my number 4
2001 Charles Melton Barossa Valley South Australia $45
– very mild and non descript on the nose
– very nice smooth wine, lots of fruit with some tannins on the finish
– more fruit forward than some of the other
– this was the group’s 2nd least (tied with 2 others) favorite and my number 2
Check LCBO stock on the current vintage now $47
2000 Henry’s Drive Padthaway South Australia $45
– very mild on the nose
– not a great finish to it at all
-this was the group’s 2nd highest rated wine but one of my least favorites
1999 Leasingham Classic Clare Valley South Australia $60
– slight mint on the bouquet
– smooth, well integrated with a lovely dry finish
– this was the group’s favorite wine of the evening and my number 5
Check LCBO stock on the current vintage now $51
2001 Macroste Wildcat Mountain Sonoma County California $30
– on the nose I got dishwater, maybe the glass was contaminated
– the wine tasted foul and had some fruit flavors. It might have just been this bottle. Others at the event enjoyed the wine. Others at my table also did not enjoy the wine but did not smell what I smelled.
– my least favorite wine and also the least favorite of the group
Check LCBO stock on the current vintage now $54.95
2002 Rosemount Hill of Gold Mudgee New South Wales Australia $24.95
– on the nose I got black licorice
– deep fruit tastes with some tannins and a nice finish
– this was the group’s 2nd least (tied with 2 others) favorite and my number 3
2003 Silver Stone Paso Robles California $49.95
– beautiful bouqet with some oak and coffee smells. Lots of cassis like smells! My mouth was watering just based on the smell. This was actually the first wine we started with and I was quite enthralled with the bouquet!
– lots of beautiful fruits, a lovely smooth wine with a medium finish. This is a well made wine that has aged extremely well. I would be thrilled to have some of these in my cellar! Of course at the price it ought to be good 🙂
– this was by far my favorite wine of the evening and the groups 3rd favorite
Check LCBO stock on the current vintage now $49.55
2002 Zacca Mesa Foxen Canyon Los Olivos California $25.60
– very mild on the nose with some petrol odors
– noticeable alcohol on the tastes some fruit with a medium finish
– this was the group’s 2nd least (tied with 2 others) favorite and my one of my least favorites as well