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When is a Syrah not a Shiraz?

Posted by Robyn on Fri, February 22, 2013

When it comes to the grape there is no difference Shiraz was just what the early Australian wine pioneers called Syrah. However when it comes to wine there does seem to be a difference. Shiraz has become the adopted tag for producer making wine from this great red in the Australian model grape. It has come to represent big, rich, blackberried reds usually with a good lick of oak.

Shiraz pretty much stands for chunky, fruit rich generous wines from everyday right up to super premium. Whereas Syrah usually graces the label if the wine comes from cooler zones that mimic the style of the north Rhône in France. If you want to see a proper example of this then Cave Saint-Désirat Syrah is a good starting point.  These are medium bodied peppery reds that rely on pure fruit, elegance and balance to shine and good versions like the one above get better and better as they open up and breathe.

On the Shiraz front try a bottle of good Barossa Shiraz oak, Bethany’s Barossa Shiraz G6 is a perfect example, and you will be rewarded by a glass reminiscent of crushed blackberries backed up by vanilla and other sweet spice; generous, full flavoured and above all very smooth and easy to drink. Other areas in Australia with cooler zones such as the Adelaide hills (Yakka Shiraz) will fashion less chunky wines but invariably they will carry those Aussie hallmarks of plenty of oak and ripe blackberries.

Many other wine producing nations choose also to label their wine Shiraz; Chile, South Africa, Argentina and in Europe Shiraz is found from the Languedoc through to Sicily. More often than not these wines will lean towards fullness of body and a ripe, black-fruit spectrum. Pick up a Chilean labelled Shiraz and you can expect it to be a big, fruit-driven style. However pick up a bottle of Chilean red labelled ‘Syrah’ and the experience can be quite different, producers going down the Syrah road are usually from cooler climate zones and the wines they make strive for elegance and less big, ripe flavours.

The Elqui valley is one such place in Chile, the wines from this cool, mountainous zone bear striking resemblance to the French Crozes-Hermitage wines. Chono’s Elqui Valley Syrah has a distinct nose of white pepper and red/black berried fruit, it is no blockbuster but what it lacks in weight it makes up for in deliciously pure fruit.

There are, as always, exceptions; some Australian ‘Shirazes’ can be extremely elegant and certain Syrah’s are not shy when it comes to big, bold flavours Chocalán Maipo Syrah being a case in point. But follow the loose the rule that a bottle labelled Syrah is likely to be made in the lighter Rhône style and those labelled Shiraz are more Australian in their fruit profile and you shouldn’t go far wrong.

Posted in Grape Profiles | Top Tips | No Comments »

Emiliana: Chilean Superstar

Posted by Admin on Fri, February 15, 2013

Established in the late 90’s by Rafael and José Guilisasti the mission for Emiliana was clear from the beginning: they were going to be different, they were going to be environmentally and socially responsible.

Their first move was to ask already renowned winemaking consultant Alvaro Espinoza to join them and begin the conversion of a normal Chilean winery into one that was to become 100% organic and biodynamic* but at the same time producing wines at a premium level that would stand neck and neck with the great wines of the world. One taste of Coyam should allay any doubts on whether this has worked or not.

Now in 2013 everything is very much on track; over 900 hectares certified organic, of which 580 are also certified as biodynamic and a slew of international awards and distinctions has placed Emiliana at the top level, not just in Chile, but on the world stage. On top of this Emiliana are fully Fair-trade and Carbon Neutral.  

This doesn’t mean they are resting on their laurels, this dynamic producer continues to convert from organic to fully biodynamic and continue to plant and experiment with grape varieties and blends to further enrich their portfolio. Wines like the intriguing blend Novas Gran Reserva Carménère/Cabernet is evidence of this drive. Novas is a richly textured, powerhouse of a red with incredible fruit purity and freshness and has nearly sold out in its first week on promotion at 2 for €20 (was €16.00).

Viognier – a grape rarely associated with Chile – appears in their range as a stunning example of how to do it right with this tricky grape. Novas Gran Reserva Viognier is loaded with super-ripe peach and apricot and a nice lick of French oak, you could be forgiven for thinking this is a €30 Condrieu from the northern Rhône valley in France!

Coyam, however, is the flagship and even at its promotional price of €16.99 (was €20.99) it is very premium for Chile. However, unlike many of its contemporaries at the Chilean premium level, Coyam is built to age. Yes it’s delicious when young with all its rich primary fruit and toasty oak but put it away for a few years and it develops beautifully into a wine reminiscent of great Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

For a taste of Coyam magic but without the price tag look out for Etnico, a wine the winemakers dubbed “Baby Coyam”. Like Coyam, Etnico is a blend using the same vineyards (usually younger vine fruit) & it too is oak aged but not to the same extent. What you end up with is a toasty wine of a similar fruit profile – albeit not quite as rich & complex – but nevertheless very good for €13.99 and even better at €9.99 (from Monday).

One thing is for sure though; Emiliana will keep innovating, keep finding ways to be even more responsible – socially and environmentally – and will keep making world beating reds and whites.

* Biodynamic is the cutting edge of organic viticulture. The vineyard is treated and considered in its entirety. It is worked planted, pruned and harvested in accordance with nature’s cycles and raises a healthy crop without the use of chemicals. Biodynamics uses animals and beneficial plants to take the place of herbicides and pesticides.

Tags: chile (2) , emiliana (1) , organic (4)

Posted in Producer Profile | Top Tips | Winemaker Spotlight | No Comments »

Down to Earth – Angus Thomson from Urlar

Posted by Robyn on Fri, February 08, 2013

I have had a great day in a Dublin today visiting many of the O’Briens wine shops. I arrived over from New Zealand a few days ago and have loved the Irish welcome especially from the shop managers and staff. The shops are beautiful and it is easy to see why O’Briens is the leader in wine shops in Ireland.

It is great to have our range of wines here in Ireland and the opportunity to talk about them. It was always our dream when we moved from Scotland 10 years ago to be producing super premium wines. We thought long and hard about this and we felt that the only way we could honestly produce wines that spoke of where they come from was to grow them organically. In 2010 we released our collection of fully certified wines they have been received well and we love the feedback that we get about them. 

The Sauvignon Blanc whilst remaining very obviously New Zealand has barrel influence in it and this helps to fill out the pallet and gives the ability to go really well with food. Lobster or fresh Oysters are a wonder match with this wine.

The Pinot Noir is special. Handpicked, fermented in oak and stainless steel fermenters is nurtured in 25% new oak for 10 months. The result is a wine that has a wonderful aroma and is complimented by the rich, delicate flavours of Pinot Noir. 

We hope you enjoy our wines as much as we do and remember, at Urlar we believe fine wines should not cost the Earth.

Tags: new zealand (6) , sauvignon blanc (11) , urlar (1)

Posted in Food and Wine | Top Tips | Winemaker Spotlight | No Comments »

And the Doctor says…..

Posted by Robyn on Fri, February 01, 2013

Wine of the Year: Château Fontaine Audon Sancerre 2011 (Irish Medical Times)

Great to see our favourite Sancerre has got the number one spot from Giovanni Morelli in the Irish Medical Times. We can’t exactly say that the “Doctor recommends” or “medically certified” but the nonetheless we are pretty happy to see Fontaine Audon top the list with Giovanni.

Here’s what Giovanni had to say….

“My bottle of the year was definitely the 2011 Sancerre from Château Fontaine Audon. I mentioned it in my December article and must say that we consumed a lot of it over the festive season”

He tastes a lot of wines in a single year and for Fontaine Audon to shine through confirms our own high opinion of this cracking Sancerre. Every year when we taste this wine we are blown away by the classical styling and how aromatically impressive it is.

People talk a lot about great Sancerre being flinty or mineral rich, some have it, many don’t but with Fontaine Audon that mineral character is glaringly obvious and ultimately very inviting. This particular vintage (2011) should be held up as a benchmark for the region – look here to see what great Sancerre should taste like!

So you may wonder what the secret to success at this Château is. Unsurprisingly as with other great wines it is a combination of the vineyard character and the skills of the producer.

A massively high Silex or flint component in the soils combined with the estate’s northerly position within the region  make this a dream terroir for Sauvignon Blanc.

 Important too is the fact that the estate is owned by the Champagne House of Bollinger. Because of this major investment  has occurred over the last decade meaning that the winemaking facilities and the winemaking team are of the very highest order. All of these factors combine to make a wine which we (and others) think is very hard to beat.

Château de Fontaine-Audon Sancerre is available in all stores now (€18.99)

Tags: awards (6) , loire (2) , sauvignon blanc (11)

Posted in Food and Wine | Loire | O'Briens News | Top Tips | No Comments »