Shopping CartShipping CalculatorCustomer ServiceFeedback
Your Wines
SEARCH NORTHSIDERare WinesBest Buy CasesSybarite & Sale Items

Shiraz and Syrah: the best of the cheap

Northside Staff
Tasters: Dave Pohl, ed., Dana Malley, Chris Coronel, Jason Wentworth

In these trying economic times, it's no surprise that more wine drinkers than ever are looking for wines that deliver the biggest bang at the lowest price. Many wineries have created lower priced lines to meet this demand, and wine shop racks are currently awash with less expensive examples of popular wine varieties such as Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Cabernet, and Shiraz. But are these wines any good?

The staff at Northside Wine & Spirits recently blind tasted 21 $8-and-under examples of the very popular Shiraz, a red wine grape also known by its French name, Syrah.

If nothing else, the tasting highlighted the need to be highly selective when seeking out inexpensive wine. The tasters found half of the wines to be of below average quality, while many of the rest were deemed drinkable but unexceptional. The good news is that there were two very good examples that really stood out from the pack.

The 2008 Black Swan Shiraz [sku 4898]*, $7 per bottle, was very tasty indeed. Its full flavors hint at blackberry and cherry with hints of smoke and pepper creeping into the finish. Black Swan is a label created by E & J Gallo for its Australian lineup, produced in conjunction with Australia's Brian McGuigan winery. Its 2008 Shiraz is a great value and a great summertime red to drink with anything hot off the grill.

The 2007 Cycles Gladiator Syrah (sku 12216]*, $8 per bottle, also stood out. Cycles Gladiator is a value line of wines produced by California's Hahn Estate. The grapes for its 2007 Syrah were sourced from both cool-ish Monterey vineyards and the warmer Paso Robles area. The resulting wine is deeply flavored packed with dark fruit framed by attractive hints of mint and eucalyptus, finishing with a gently oaky note. This is another great value to enjoy with summery foods such as barbecued ribs and grilled chicken.

*To Purchase this wine, simply type its "Sku" into the "Find" field at the top of the page, then click "Go."

If you would like the full tasting list along with the rankings, please email us your name, phone number, city, and zip code to

» Past Wine Picks