26 Apr

Top Syrah NZ v France Challenge

Our Fine Wine manager, Regan McCaffery, presented this fantastic head to head match up last week. We had four of New Zealand’s greatest examples of Syrah. As one of the most exciting varieties we have, it was an opportunity to see where we stand against some of the finest Syrah from France. They were presented in pairs, country against country. Three different regions in New Zealand were represented, and four different appellations from the Northern Rhone.

The first pairing was Martinborough against St Joseph. Dry River Syrah 2013 v Pierre Gaillard St-Joseph Les Pierres 2009. The Dry River has wonderful floral aromatics, and a beautiful fine elegant structure. This is unsurprising considering they make it almost the same as their Pinot Noir, except all the bunches are destemmed. The Gaillard is from a great warm vintage and was much broader and denser on the palate. This is made from the best barrels of his single vineyard wines, aged in 100% new oak. At 9 years of age this is just starting to really show its class.

Next up was one of our countries iconic wines, Craggy Range Le Sol 2015. This was beautifully made with a very clean and pure presence. This had really become much more refined compared to the early vintages, which were more about ripeness. Its French counterpart was the oldest wine in the tasting, 2007 Domaine Clape Cornas. They are a very traditional producer and this wine has always needed time to soften the huge tannin structure. Now at 11 years of age this is entering its drinking window, showing a lovely olive and herb complexity and being the choice as the best wine for dinner now.

Trinity Hill Homage 2014 was next off the block and showed closest to the French wines in style with its excellent grained tannin structure. This was named by John Hancock as a Homage to Gerard Jaboulet, producer of the famed ‘La Chapelle’ Hermitage. John worked a season with him in the Rhone, and he was gifted some Syrah and Viognier cuttings from Jaboulet that now go into the blend. The Homage is from a fantastic Hawke’s Bay vintage and has a very long aging potential. Of course we needed to match this up against the current king of Hermitage Hill, the Jean-Louis Chave L’Hermitage 2012. This is one of those wow wines that stops you in your tracks. Supremely elegant and balanced, with an intensity that builds and builds on the extremely long finish. The wine of the night for most guests.

Our final match up was the cheapest New Zealand wine, against the most expensive French example! Man O War Bellerophon 2014 from a blend of steep hillside vineyards on the eastern end of Waiheke Island. The only one of the kiwi labels that is not made on a flat vineyard. This is produced by co-fermenting 3% Viognier with the Syrah in a Cote-Rotie style. This has wonderful aromatics that are followed by warm dense fruit and good tannins. This is a wine with a lot of potential that over performs its price point. The Cote-Rotie we finished with is one of the world’s greatest and most expensive examples. Guigals La Mouline 2013 is an absolute powerhouse, even if it is the most approachable of his three “La La’s”. Despite having 11% Viognier in the blend this is Syrah on a huge scale, thanks to the combination of extremely ripe old vine Syrah, seasoned with a whopping 42 months in 100% new oak. This is a very impressive wine, but one you would not think about even touching until 10/15 years of age.

Watch the tasting in action: