Thursday, August 30, 2007

Turning Lead into Gold: Syrah version

Some years ago, I noted an interesting phenomenon with good, though inexpensive wines: decent individual wines, when blended with a couple of others from the same general ilk, often produce an outstanding combination, better than any of the parts. It may not be quite as dramatic as producing gold from lead... but producing a four star wine from multiple bottles of inexpensive three star wines is a pretty decent feat unto itself.

I believe this phenomenon might emerge from one of the fundamental characteristics of good, inexpensive wines: their simplicity. A trule blockbluster wine will usually exhibit multiple layers of flavor and complexity - something new with each sip and with each examination. Inexpensive varietals typically cannot deliver that level of intense complexity. But by pairing like-minded, but still differing, wines, you may be able to recreate in the glass what the winemaker could not afford to create in the bottle.

From our recent "Practically Free" syrah/shiraz tasting, I thought that four of the five syrahs might meet the criteria for creating such a blend. (The fifth wine, 2001 Starry Night Syrah from Lodi, while very pleasant on its own, had a bit too unique and overpowering a style to risk in this blend.) When I make this kind of ad hoc blend, I usually term it a "Kitchen Sink Blend," first referenced from my own winemaking efforts, where I would throw together what juice was left after various preparations.

This "Kitchen Sink Blend" syrah is composed of approximately equal parts of the following components from our "Practically Free" syrah/shiraz tasting:
2002 Cartlidge & Browne Syrah, CA
2003 Boolaroo Shiraz - Victoria, Australia
2004 "1919" Syrah, Mendoza, Argentina
2004 Stonemason Shiraz, Currency Creek, South Australia

In the glass, this is dark red, almost opaque. The nose shows a candied hue, deep red fruits, just a touch of purple. Suggests a luscious, thick sip. On the palate, the fruits rule the day - thick, round, mouth filling fruit, drawn by a slightly-sweet candy pump to all corners of your mouth. Fully ripe plums, ripe sweet blueberry. Easy acids, light oak, enough tannin to draw the taste forward to the next sip. I would totally curl up with this for the evening. Four stars out of five. This is a remarkable value, given that these are all quite inexpensive wines individually!

Rating: **** 2002/3/4 Practically Free "Kitchen Sink Blend" Syrah, CA, Australia, Argentina

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