Thursday, August 30, 2007

"Practically Free" Syrah Taste-Off

Many thanks to Will, Eric, Danielle and Karen who assisted with a pleasant tasting of five well-regarded "practically free" syrah/shiraz wines from CA, Australia and Argentina.

By "practically free", I mean wines that, with some effort, can be obtained in the United States for $10 US or less a bottle. By "well-regarded", I mean having bona fide ratings of 88/89 points or higher, or having strong informal recommendations that would point to that kind of score. Our tasting was essentially blind, although I didn't hide labels if someone specifically wanted to see. Special thanks to Karen, too, who pulled together an outstanding salmon dinner that kept our palates from an alcohol overload!

I have already reviewed each of these wines individually. Here are a list of the wines tasted, along with links to reviews already posted:

2001 Starry Night Syrah, Lodi, CA
2002 Cartlidge & Browne Syrah, CA
2003 Boolaroo Shiraz - Victoria, Australia
2004 "1919" Syrah, Mendoza, Argentina
2004 Stonemason Shiraz, Currency Creek, South Australia

We tasted informally, with each of us making our own notes. Then we discussed findings and came to consensus. The most controversial wine was the Starry Night. That wine was top of show for a couple of folks, and bottom of the pack for a couple of others. Its smoky, burnt characteristics were seen as either distinctive or offputting. You will just have to try it yourself to decide.

The "1919" and Boolaroo were recognized as pleasant and engaging wines by virtually every taster. Either would seem to be a safe yet interesting choice for any gathering where an economical syrah was appropriate. The Cartlidge & Browne was very close to the "1919" and Boolaroo in taster preferences. The Stonemason, however, fell somewhat lower in the pack.

All in all a pretty decent pack of wines across the board. And an even pleasanter experience because of the people involved. Thanks guys!

Following the tasting, I had an inclination to try an "in-the-glass" blend with four of the wines, which worked out quite well. You can link to a review of this "Kitchen Sink Blend" here.

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