Jonathan Pedley MW
On style: “The handling of oak has improved immeasurably over the last decade or so. There were only one or two wines where the wood was masking the fruit.
It seems that the trend towards more elegant Syrah wines continues. There were actually very few old school blockbusters: opaque colours, jammy fruit, steroidal bodies, thuggish tannins. It was refreshing to see how many wines were striving to capture the floral (violet, rose petal, jasmine tea) and graceful side of Syrah.
A lot is written about high alcohol levels in Syrah wines (and many other varieties). Of course Syrah is never going to be thin and weedy but a good example, with the right amount of fruit and acid, can support a decent punch of alcohol. We had a few wines that were on the warm side but most of the examples we tasted were carrying their alcohol well.”
On price: “Previous editions of the Syrah Masters have shown that of all the mainstream black grapes, this variety is perhaps better at performing across the price spectrum than any other. In other words, whilst Syrah can do great things at the top end (£30-50 and £50+), it can also produce attractive and approachable wines at the cheaper end (<£10 and £10-15). This year’s tasting confirmed that observation.”
“I really enjoy Syrah in every shape and form; from the spicy and savory to the silky and vibrant. Syrah loves heat so obviously south of France and in particular south Australia, had the best examples during the flights.
Syrah can be very versatile and offer all sorts of aromas and notes. It has a great freshness from within and can take a fair amount of oak. It is still a great grape that can age beautifully and offer great value for money.
I really liked the fact that there weren’t many overly oaked and over extracted wines; it’s quite easy to extract and get very dark and syrupy wines, masking the true notes of the grape.
There’s not much I didn’t like, I would have loved perhaps, to see more examples from the U.S and south of France.
I really enjoyed the cooler side of south Australia, like Clare valley, showcasing some great structure and finesse.”
Simon Field MW
“A lot of positives emerged. Firstly how few wines were reduced, often, for me the Achilles heel in young Syrah. Therefore plenty of rich colour, floral aromatic and berry fruit flavours. All the more encouraging, given that over 50 of the entrants, therefore not far off one third, came from Australia. The menthol and eucalypt flavours were not entirely absent, nor should they be, but there were few caricatures and little by way of the Proustian cough sweet.
That said, it was striking that the Australian wines, for all their consistency , often didn’t scale the heights of appreciation. Telling too that the highest marks were reserved for countries such as Switzerland and Canada ( BC) where maybe the climate more closely follows the Rhône template, even if one is land-locked and the other an island! Similar comments can be made for the wines submitted from South Africa and New Zealand, where, respectively, The Western Cape and Hawkes Bay , performed very well.
An encouraging tasting overall; Syrah should be seductive and cerebral at the same time, more flamboyant than a blue-stockinged Cabernet Sauvignon and yet perfectly capable of lasting the course, indeed of making it to the cheese course, as and when required.”
Patricia Stefanowicz MW
“Judging the Syrah Masters is a ‘mark the calendar’ event. The overall quality of the wines from relatively inexpensive (sub-£15) to astronomically expensive is remarkably high. There are very few wines that one would not drink a glass, or even two, a confirmation of the distinctive black-and-red fruits and black pepper attributes of this distinctive and superb grape variety. The ‘harvest’, as it were, of Silver, Gold and Master Awards is to be applauded.
In 2019, as often the case, the Australian Shiraz wines generated excitement.
…We tasted some delectable and affordable wines from the northern Rhône; St Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage tasted well. It’s a shame that we didn’t see more wines from the Rhone or south of France, because those we tried were very drinkable and would be flexible with a variety of foods.
There were fewer South African wines with burnt and charred meat characteristics of the past, and the best examples from South Africa showed good balance and concentration.
Other positive aspects of the tasting were the blends of Syrah/Shiraz and other varieties. Many of these blends were succulent and aromatic, showing how well Syrah works with other grapes. In particular, the floral notes from white grapes added a touch of je ne sais quoi.
At the stratospheric price level many of the wines were stunningly delicious: great fruit, appropriate oak accents, lively acidity and velvet-textured tannins.
If there were a minor disappointment, it was the almost overly herbal/green features in some wines from Chile, where producers really require an appropriate terroir with the attributes that produce excellent Syrah grapes.
All-in-all, a wonderful judging day.”