April 14, 2020
Syrah Shiraz Merlot
Enjoying a glass of red wine is as easy as cracking the screw-top or pulling a cork, and with the right food, company and atmosphere some pretty cool memories can be created. Selecting the correct or best red wine can cause just a little angst if the food or company is very particular.
Two varieties that will nearly always deliver when this kind of challenge presents are Syrah and Merlot – two excellent Winter wines.
Syrah also goes by the name Shiraz. Like Pinot Noir Syrah can have a floral lift of violet, a complex core of fruit and beguiling textures. When aged it can be very compelling and seductive. With the right food- incredible. Syrah will often have a dark cherry fruit and raspberry flavor when young, and when less oak is used it can be a nice alternative to Pinot Noir. Typically, however Syrah does have a lot more power and impact on the palate with bold tannins, sometimes more oak and a noticeable back bone of acidity. Complex or aged Syrah may also show a meaty quality as well as gravelly soil suggestions, field mushroom and garrigue character. These ideas also include flavors of black currant and dark cherry. When oak is also a feature – clove and vanilla, wood smoke and pepper become more pronounced. Shiraz is often thought of as being from warmer climates, but this is not necessarily so. A riper, more jammy style can be discovered from warmer sites while in cooler sites Shiraz can be even more complex, layered and with great finesse and length.
Another variety that works rather well is Merlot. In a blended red wine it is often the lead player in the silky softness, the cushion, the mid-palate pleasure, the voice of reason and balance. Also, it doesn’t carry too much acidity or tannin to tame and loves oak – French and American equally – though not together. On its own as a single variety expression Merlot has to be more than just a voice of reason and mid-palate pleasure, it must also show off the right weight, texture and intensity. This means that vineyard site, farming style, growing conditions through a season and ripeness play important roles for the finished product to mean something in glass. Ideally Merlot should have an aroma and flavor package of violets and dark plums, a fleshy core, suggestions of blue fruit and a natural earthy quality. Merlot tannins are typically rounder and easy on the gums. The core of fruit often seen from Merlot means it can handle oak rather well so expect to engage in both when tasting decent examples.
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