This year marked the sixth iteration of an event known as the 'World's Greatest Shiraz Challenge', a tasting which is effectively an expanded Winestate Magazine panel tasting, held annually, that cobbles together a collection of the best Shiraz in the world and tastes them in traditional Winestate style (blind, over several days, with a varied assortment of judges).
Now what makes this event/show useful is not the results themselves (which follow typical wine show lines, bringing all the advantages and foibles of the show system), but the public tasting that goes along with it, which feature a seriously impressive lineup of wines from all over the world.
This year I was lucky enough to be in sunny Radelaide for said boozefest and managed to hop along and taste a fabulously varied range of global Shiraz styles over the course of a couple of hours, interrupted only by a slightly bizzare interview with Channel 7 Adelaide (apparently my mug had a fair bit of exposure on the Saturday night news, black teeth and all).
The following wines then were some of the those open at the tasting and, as you can see, there was some shit-hot wines amongst them. What was great to see was just how interestingly diverse and high quality the Australian and New Zealand wines were on offer, presenting a whole quiver of different styles and flavours at often quite realistic price points. Apparently, in this years Challenge, Australian and Kiwi wines took out nearly all of the top 30 too, as if to further prove the point. Shiraz done good.
All notes are as written on the day (with a very light edit) and were written at speed, thus they are rather haughty and stunted. Hopefully you get the gist. Additional comments in Italics.
|What it's all about. Love to have some|
of this in the cellar...
Glacé fruits, black pepper and a very nice lift. Floral and Rhoney. Lovely sappy palate. A mere baby, with slightly bitter tannins. Very young, but so effortlessly proportioned. Long term star. 18.3/93+ (I could be underrating this. It was way too young though).
Jean-Luc Colombo Les Ruchets Cornas 2004 (Cornas, Northern Rhone, France)
Evolved and ferrous nose. Grainy, maturing palate with a very dry tannic end. Not much love. Raspy acidity. Fair, but drinkable savoury and not without some appeal. 16/87
Bonny Doon Le Pousseur Syrah 2009 (Santa Cruz, California, USA)
Earthen, medium bodied and rather lively looking Syrah style, with good penetration. Quite restrained and coiled wine with peppery, pan juice savoury edges. Very young but nice modern wine. 17.5/91 (whilst tasting this I looked up to see a camera filming my spit. I ignored it, expecting the camera to keep moving. Until I looked up to be confronted with an oversized microphone and the question about what I thought the appeal of Australian Shiraz was. A hard question to answer with a mouthful of Californian Syrah....)
Domaine Durand "Les Côteaux" Saint-Joseph 2008 (Saint-Joseph, Northern Rhone, France)
Classic, black pepper infused lamb rack nose. Sappy, meaty and slightly pointed palate. Quite an acid driven style, with plenty of character. Pretty smart. 17.7/92 (apparently this is only $45 a bottle! Quite an authentic wine at that price).
John Duval Plexus 2009 (Barossa, South Australia)
Sweet vanillan sheen to the nose. Oak dominant. Sexy oak sweet palate.. Lots of oak but excellent red fruit persistence. Lingers. Long! Good stuff. 17.8/92++ (Way too young. Also an outcast in this lineup, simply due to the fact that it is Grenache, not Shiraz, dominant. A worthy investment for the cellar though.
|Blurry photo purely due to how hard it was|
to elbow someone aside to get a photo...
Light, just peppered nose. Sour, evolved and meaty palate. Looks a fraction washed out. Flavour is very correct but just a fraction angular at present. 16.7/89+
Trinity Hill Homage Syrah 2009 (Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay, NZ)
Woah. Touched up, overly glossy nose. Red lipstick red fruit, juicy medium weight palate. Far too much oak, far too smooth and sweet. Built to win show medals really. But silky smooth and very polished.. 17/90++ (My score may look a bit generous in light of the notes, but I'm quite torn. On the one hand it's a 'made' wine and horribly so, yet on the other there is more than a little seduction here. I'd probably still drink it too, so the objections are more on a style basis really. A personal score if ever. Those plus signs are also very important).
Bernard Faurie Greffieux Bessard Hermitage 2008 (Hermitage, Northern Rhone, France)
Quite a candied nose. Red fruited and rather pretty. Lovely elegant and finely nuanced palate, with superb tannin and definition. Perhaps a fraction roasted but absolute top draw wine. 18.5/94 (Now this is great stuff. Yes)
Bilancia La Collina Syrah 2008 (Hawkes Bay, Syrah)
Very juicy, lightly peppery and proudly boysenberried palate. Very young and glossy but also a high toned and obviously fine thing. Strongly sappy, whole bunch-ish palate with strong tannins. Very warm, distracting alcoholic finish. That alcohol is the only blemish on what is otherwise a glorious, detailed wine. 18/93.
Delas Frere Les Launes Crozes-Hermitage 2007 (Crozes-Hermitage, Northern Rhone, France)
Rustic, fatty, meaty nose. Earthen, sour, mid weight palate with a hole in the back palate. Sour but still tasty old school squishy red. Entirely pleasant and very drinkable with plenty of personality. 17/90 (For $33 a bottle there is lots of Rhonish pleasure here).
Guigal Vignes De L'Hospice Saint-Joseph 2007 (Saint-Joseph, Northern Rhone, France)
Oooh a 'special nose. Bacon bits, lots of density and oak, rich, full and meaty nose. Wonderfully Rhoney spice, black olives and beef. Rich full and slightly sour palate looks a fraction too oaky but also nicely full. The density is the kicker here - medium bodied but so meaty and powerful. Epitome of Rhoney goodness. 18.7/95 (Yes!)
Sequel Syrah 2006 (Columbia Valley, Chile)
Black Cola juice. Very 'hand of man'! Lovely cola tannins but also loads of heat. Is this soulless or just too polished. A trophy winning wine but also such a 'winemakers wine'. 16.8/89
Lethbridge Que Syrah Syrah 2009 (Geelong, Vic)
Fine boned, redcurrant nose. Very pretty and juicy. Sappy and very fine palate has lovely tannins and such polish! Excellent acidity too. Yes! 18.5/94 (This is bloody cheap in the scheme of things. $25! I had no idea of the price of this and am not usually the biggest Geelong Shiraz fan, which made this the happiest of surprises).
Forest Hill Block 9 Shiraz 2008 (Great Southern, WA)
Lots of cocoa powder oak over a sour, oaky, formic edged palate. Quite fine and elegant with a muscular palate and full flavoured, berried fruit. Too much oak perhaps but good wine underneath. 17.5/91+
Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 2008 (Coastal Region, South Africa)
Slightly rustic, peppery and pan juice nose with a suggestion of merde. Ferrous, meaty and only medium bodied palate is very complete with beautiful savoury, black fruit palate. Nicey. 18.3/93 (lots of character here. Genuinely intriguing and charismatic wine)
Haskell Pillars Syrah 2007 (Helderberg, Stellenbosch, South Africa)
Very ferrous! Roasted and quite evolved. Long, sour palate. A little too roasted and meaty for me but certainly an interesting, defined and well made style. 17.5/91
Herve Souhaut Vin de Pays de L'Ardeche Syrah 2007 (Ardeche, France)
Woah. Extremely herbal and definitive nose. Very dusty, herbaceous and green olive styled wine with high acidity. Just too unripe for my tastes. 15/85
Bilancia La Collina Syrah 2009 (Hawkes Bay, NZ)
Sexy nose. Blackcurrants, black jubes and white pepper if just a fraction reductive. Lots of oak at this stage. Polished and very juicy, licorice laden palate has lovely persistance and boysenberry wildness. Raw, alcoholic finish again the only downer. 18.3/93 (A degree less alcohol and this would be a top gold medal winner as otherwise it's fabulous. Quite a step up on the 08 too.)
Pangea Vina Ventisquero Syrah 2006 (Colchagua Valley, Chile)
Ridiculous heavy bottle. Mousey, bretty stink and horrible nose. Acrid palate. Hope this is not a representative bottle. 9/40
Rosemount Balmoral Syrah 2008 (McLaren Vale, SA)
Strong 'Vale' nose with lots of rich plum fruit and oak. It's a very heavily toasted/coffeed oak that covers most of the bright gummy red fruit underneath. Good fruit in there somewhere. 17/90 (Ugly oak on top, but I've got faith here that the structure is pretty good).
Old Faithful 'Top of the Hill' Shiraz 2007 (McLaren Vale, SA)
Nicely evolved, slightly candied red fruit nose. Lots of perfectly formed, earthen old fruit on show here if just a fraction drying and boozy. Still pretty sexy though. Genuinely smart regional vino. 17.8/92 (I've always enjoyed these Old Faithful wines, though they can be a bit warm)
La Curio Reserve Shiraz 2009 (McLaren Vale, SA)
Again a properly regional, tarry red dirt nose. it's perhaps a bit too vanillan and sweet, with choc oak dominated but has lots of vibrancy underneath. Fresh finish. Very drinkable again. 17.7/92 (Easy recommendations these two. McLaren Vale fans buy with confidence).
Old Faithful Cafe Block Shiraz 2006 (McLaren Vale, SA)
Again quite correct and settled style, with meaty, maturing McLaren Vale tarry, dusty red fruit on the nose. Again a little too oak rich, but nicely proportioned and powerful though. 17.5/91
De Martino 347 Vineyards Syrah 2008 (Maipo Valley, Chile)
Reductive and oaky nose. Lots of oak, lots of sweetness too. Light finish. Sort of juicy and spicy red fruit style, but a struggle. 15.5/85+ (a fraction too young, though still awkward)
Shingleback Unedited Shiraz 2009 (McLaren Vale, SA)
|Guigal style and loving it. As you can see, many|
others wanted a piece too...
Houghton Wisdom Shiraz 2009 (Great Southern, WA)
Mid weight, silky and very polished style. It's too oaky now but that palate has sex appeal, vibrancy and length. Very mid weight and all the better for it. 17.6/91+ (One to put away if you see it on special methinks).
Terrace Edge Syrah 2009 (Waipara Valley, NZ)
Lifted, volatile, just ripe nose with white pepper and cranberries. Lightly herbal, cranberry laden palate with some rhubarb in there too. Pleasant enough 16.5/88 (just straddles the edge of ripeness does this wine. Quite graceful though)
Guigal Château d'Ampuis Côte-Rôtie 2007 (Côte-Rôtie, Northern Rhone, France)
Loads of oak, super dense red fruit and sweaty, peppery wafts. A fraction roasted and very ripe, but so effortlessly deep, dark and rich. Effortless, seamless and powerful. Long and surprisingly exuberant palate. Sexy! Power of fruit, power of tannins and persistence plus. Peppery, complex and long finish rams it all home. Wow. 19/96 (Superstar wine, no question about it. Double wow).