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Jacob’s Creek prevails in Syrah (Shiraz) showdown

Northside Staff
Tasters: Dave Pohl, ed., Jason Wentworth, and Kelley O’Neill

Syrah, the great grape of France’s northern Rhône Valley, is responsible for two of that country’s greatest red wines, Côte Rotie and Hermitage. In other parts of France and around the world, the grape is also used to produce tasty wines for everyday consumption. In Australia, where it is called Shiraz, it is the most widely planted red wine grape. As of 2009, nearly fifty percent of Australian red wine was Shiraz, much of it accessibly fruit forward and inexpensive.

With nearly 20,000 acres planted as of 2010, California is also a notable source of New World Syrah. Though highly rated and expensive wines from wineries such as Pax and Alban may get all the headlines, California’s vintners also turn out reasonable quantities of inexpensive Syrah.

Intrigued by the many examples of affordable Syrah from both California and Australia available in the current marketplace, the staff at Northside Wine & Spirits recently blind tasted 14 Syrahs from both areas priced under $10 per bottle. As a group, the wines were clean, straightforward, and well made.

Stylistically, the California wines differed from the Australians. The California Syrahs tended to have a bit darker fruit, were a touch smokier, and showed more oak influence. The Australian wines exhibited a brighter red fruit character and were a pit more peppery. Several of the Australians also displayed a decidedly minty edge.

The staff’s top pick turned out to be Australian. The Jacob’s Creek 2010 Shiraz ($9 per 750 ml bottle) bursts with spicy fruit. With an inviting aroma that jumps out of the glass, it almost begs to be drunk in an outdoor setting. On the palate it’s medium-bodied, pleasantly textured, with a vibrant finish underscored by soft, ripe tannins.

Founded in 1847 by German immigrant Johann Gramp to satisfy his own thirst for wine, Jacob’s Creek now wins medals in wine competitions all over the world. Interestingly, our winning 2010 Shiraz was awarded a silver medal at the 2013 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition in Rochester, NY. Try this beauty with spiedies, flavorful picnic fare, hard cheeses, or nearly anything hot off the grill!

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