From My Knowldege and Experiences

Superb, Surprising Syrah/Shiraz

Wednesday, January 11, 2023
We continue our wonderful wine review series: Widya’s Wines, with the ebullient and knowledgeable.

Who is so obviously in love with her wines that it makes you want to put down the rticle and get a bottle out immediately! This month she takes us on a world tour to find Shiraz or its old name Syrah. For those of you who think the think that wine is a Judeo-Christian invention, think again, Shiraz was a town I ancient Persia, now part of Iran!

If Shiraz was a person, it would be a bold, independent, strong and masculine yet, fun and full of surprises. That is how I imagine Shiraz aka Syrah, the same name given to the same personality. Yes, both are the same grape variety, the darkest grape skin, full body, medium to high acidity and high in tannin, it’s a wine with black fruit and for me the most interesting thing in Syrah aka Shiraz is the black pepper character. Syrah are mostly associated with the Rhone Valley of France, and several myths associated with it say that Syrah was first planted in France by a Roman Emperor in 280 A.D. Bur another story said it is actually a winemaker from Iran that brought the vines to France in 600 B.C. Both myths are telling us on how old and how ago that the current Syrah that we enjoy today from a bottle of wines from Rhone Valley, is influenced by that history.

Let’s first explore Syrah: the most famous Syrah from the Northern Rhone are from the town of Hermitage that really the focal point of Syrah, and became famous and known to produce the most expensive Syrah in the world.  If we are thinking about the terroir of France, Northern Rhone is the most moderate climate region that allows Syrah to grow and contributes hints of herbaceous, smoked, meat and of course black pepper, as Syrah does not ripen in cool climates.

At that time Syrah was famous and attracted winemakers from other countries to also try to plant and make the wine until James Busby known as the father of the Australian wine industry, who in 1832 visited France and brought the vines back to Australia. Today Shiraz is the most popular red wine in Australia. And what happened when Syrah became Shiraz in Australia? Is it related to the Australian accent and how they love to make many common words more fun to say, … Syrah became Shiraz, now Syrah is associated with the old world wine regions and Shiraz more familiar with the new world wine regions.

I am so excited to talk about Syrah, let me share to you about a big thing about Indonesia wine, even wine in the world. The first Syrah from Bali was a result of a long 14 years of trial and research development of the Hatten Winery team effort to keep trying different clones, vine sources, method of planting and viticulture practice to be able to growth Syrah in Bali. Ida Bagus Rai Budarsa the CEO and Founder of the Hatten Winery passionate that drive his team the Winemaker James Kalesske , Vineyard manager Bowo Hadisucipto and Assistant winemaker Jeremy Pramana to continue the process and finally manage to harvest the first vintage of Bali Syrah in 2018 from the three-hectare block in Sanggalangit Buleleng Region from Clone SA1654 from Barossa Valley, South Australia. The grapes were hand picked and sorted, grapes are not crushed but only de-stemmed to maintain the pure flavour of the grape. Gently pressed after fermentation and aged in two French oak barrels (one of which was brand-new) and aged for twenty-four months in order to soften the tannins and develop complex secondary flavours and aromas.

James Kalleske the winemaker said : “The resulting wine is a pure representation of warm climate, equatorial winemaking. This medium-bodied and elegantly fragranced wine displays layers of complex berry fruits, intensely structured grape skin tannins and a distinctive black pepper character unlike any other Syrah in the world. A magical combination of our soils and our tropical climate. A true expression of terroir. Due to these intriguing, individualistic flavours and aromas profile they decided to call this wine Syrah, instead of Shiraz. We believe that our Balinese Syrah displays a medium body and complexity, more in line with an old-world Syrah than a new world Shiraz”

Production numbers are small from this special first vintage 2018 Bali Syrah only 380 bottles and every bottle is labeled with a number, and will be a very special bottle worth for you to have and be part of the history of wine in Indonesia - even in the world. My suggestion: you better call Hatten Winery to reserve your bottle as I don’t think they will sell it to public as a regular bottle. I was lucky enough to try it first!

For my review, as I am very excited about the grape, I will start with the Hatten Aga Red even though is not predominant Bali Syrah instead the blend of original single grape of Alphonse Lavallee with Bali Syrah and Malvasia Nera (another international grape that also has been successfully planted in Bali by Hatten Vineyard). The wine has undergone huge changes from before - the wine is a collective of red fruit character with the hint of white pepper, a delicious wine that is more fruity and fills the mid palate with soft and round tannin and medium acidity, and the influence of this new grape variety to the wine has changed the wine completely. If you have not come across this wine yet, I strongly recommend you to do so and I am sure you will agree with me, it is a whole new wine.

For the second and third wine review I would like to compare two wines from Hatten Winery under the Two Islands brand: The Two islands Shiraz and Two Islands Reserve Shiraz both grapes sourced from South Australia but thanks to the winemaking technique, there’s a very interesting difference between these two. The Two islands Shiraz has a fruit boom in the aroma and the palate: the blackcurrent, blackberry, dark cherry with rich and pungent black pepper both in aroma and its palate, with vanilla present as result of aging the wine in the oak barrel, makes the wine bold with a delicious balance. While the Two islands Reserve Shiraz presents in a more complex and delicate way with a rich taste of vanilla, cassis, dark chocolate all from the influence of the longer aging in new French Oak Barrels for 18 months on lees to contribute a toasty, creamy texture to the wine. And tannins are special - it was round, silky and the mouthfeel is super delicious and shows clearly the different level of wines now produced in Bali. If you do a blind tasting, none of you will think this is produced in Bali! We have tried this many times with those who don’t believe!

For my fourth wine I am taking you to where Shiraz are best known in Australia: Barossa Valley region in South Australia to try the Bishop by Ben Glaetzer 2017, made from 100% Shiraz from northern Barossa Vineyard of Ebenezer. Ebenezer had perfect soil for Shiraz with well drained sandy clay loam over limestone, a type of soil that is perfect for Shiraz. No wonder the Glaetzer family, originally from Germany, settled in the Barossa Valley in 1888 and had the privilege of owning 35 to 120 old vines of Shiraz. Just by opening the wine and pouring in a big burgundy glass, the aroma of the wine was pronounced and I was greatly tempted by it. The dark summer berry fruits surprisingly are not as pungent in black pepper aroma in the nose but instead more to dried spices, a bit of dusty and firm tannin smell - very good. In the palate fresh blackberries, blackcurrant and plum, with round and smooth tannin with the hint of black pepper  on the back of the palate, the finish is long, it was rich in flavour and complexity in the middle palate. The second sip is just about the layer of flavour of fresh berries, dried spices, vanilla, cassis, fresh medium acidity balancing the beautiful velvety tannin… so good. It was really classical Barossa Shiraz that is elegantly structured with a long finish, the perfect showcase of interesting characteristics of grape variety with exceptional terroir and excellent wine making process.

To complete my review of Syrah from the old world I selected, from Northern France, the Appellation Crozes- Hermitage Contrôlée Petite  Ruche M. Chapoutier 2016 . Located on the surrounds of the great Hermitage Hill, known as down sized Hermitage I guessed that the petite name comes from, but it’s actually the “Petite Ruche” which means “little beehive,” an appropriate name as the vineyards were formerly used for beekeeping. Its deep ruby colour with intense blackcurrant, plum, raspberry, red berries, very fresh fruit with intense vanilla, clove, cassis, and cinnamon. I love the smell of dustiness in the wine influenced by the oak aging and of course black pepper. In the palate, long fresh fruit driven with medium acidity and super smooth tannin, is almost like a velvety texture of tannin on the tip of your mouth, with peppery finish. All is in fineness.

For the wine pairing as Shiraz aka Syrah are full body, high in tannin and acidity, we need to bear in mind to always pair it with full body flavoured food. The high tannin will best be pairied with fat in food making it excellent to pair with red meat, especially grilled or barbecued meat. A rich pasta and cheeses will also be good to pair with it. Don’t forget the black pepper character in the wine as it gives a spicy tone in the wine and will affect your food pairing. Unless you love spicy, don’t pair it with spicy and black pepper sauce in your food! My best pairings are tenderloin steak, medium rare with red wine reduction sauce, paired with delicious peppery Shiraz, the spiciness comes from the wine, the acidity contributes to the freshness in the palate, the fat lands softly in the tannin .. yum… wait until you manage to find your best pair, you will never say no to Shiraz again.



WSET Certified Educator / Head of Hatten Education Center

Check  as Widya just recently launched the fun education card deck for easy and fun learning.

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