Top 10 Syrah Producers

And how they put their best work into each bottle


Syrah has a problem. Actually, it’s a crisis- an identity crisis. While producing world class Syrah (Shiraz), they have failed to capture the imaginations of many consumers. But why?

Mostly because Syrah, like it’s duel name implies, is many things to many people. In fact, producers have almost tried to make it all wines to all people, from sweet to austere, fruity to meaty. And therein lies its second problem. While it is easy to produce fairly fruity Syrah, one of the variety’s defining features is the way it reveals its terroir in a generally meaty, spicy and not particularly fruity way.

That savoriness can be off-putting to people as can the overt sweetness that anchors the opposite end of the Syrah spectrum.

While you might not always be sure of what you’re getting from Syrah, you can be sure that these top 10 producers are always putting their best work in the bottle!

Photo courtesy Cortes de Cima via Flickr/CC

Edmunds St John

Steve Edmunds makes his wine in sunny California, but you’re likely to be fooled into thinking it comes from a continent away.

Always rather reserved, the Edmunds St. John Syrahs have stood as a beacon of shining light, showing what California can achieve with this rather fungible grape variety. Steve’s wines are light, elegant and transparent, with a succulence that is rare. They are often a bit angry in their youth since they carry little baby fat, but if a middle aged swimmer sounds like an attractive analogy, you should check these out.

By middle age swimmer, I’m talking Dana Torres!

Visit their web site!

Carlisle

Mike Officer makes great Zinfandels, I’ve said that before, but the first Carlisle wine I ever tasted was his Bennett Valley Syrah. Unlike Edmunds St. John, Mike’s wines embrace the power and richness that California effortlessly offers. These tend to be big wines. They are intense and not afraid of alcohol or the impression of sweetness, but at the same time, remain very well balanced and deliver an uncannily pure expression of Syrah, redolent of smoked meats and black fruits. What really seals the deal with these wines is their texture. Carlisle wines are the definition of seamless and these Syrahs carry their weight quite elegantly.

We’ve got some Vida Guerra going on here!

Visit their web site!

Betz

Washington State is emerging as a significant producer of quality Syrah. While Cayuse has received the top accolades, I’m beginning to think that Betz is the house to watch. Betz combines rich, ripe New World fruit with a deep savory core of briar, meat and pepper. The wines tend to offer up a nice combination of blue and red fruits in a firm and somewhat restrained style. Really lovely wines, and the best part is their ability to come out on top at blind tastings!

I’m feeling a little Halle Berry over this.

Visit their web site!

Penfolds

While some of the excesses of the past decade can be directly attributed to Australia, they are adept at moving with the marketplace. The wholesale shift in wine making styles of not only Shiraz, but also Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, leaves them poised to regain lost luster.

But some producers never diverged from their ideals. Penfolds has continued to turn out remarkably consistent wines as far as style goes right through the go-go nineties and ‘oughts. That might be due to Penfolds having produced one of the world’s benchmark Syrahs: Grange Hermitage. Grange is a wine that commands top dollar, but the Penfolds style and quality trickles down to their more affordable wines. St. Henri bottling is sort of a baby Grange, very pure and expressing the essence of Shiraz. I actually prefer it to Grange.

Think of it as the Evangeline Lilly of Syrah!

Visit their web site!

D’Arenberg

D’Arenberg is another of my favorite producers of Shiraz and like Penfolds, they remained true to their house style when many competitors went over the top in the hunt for points. D’Arenberg’s wines tend to deliver exceptionally balanced and intense flavors of spicy black fruit, meat and peppery spice notes. While D’Arenberg’s wines are great, it is hard to ignore their pricing structure. These are wines for everyone and as such, they have great Shiraz priced from $10 to about $60 a bottle. That high-end wine, The Dead Arm, is a top-flight example of the beauty of Shiraz!

I’m thinking Salma Hayek is in the house!

Visit their web site!

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Comments

  • missed J C Cellars Jeff Cohn's award winning syrahs

    Feb 16, 2012 at 2:46 PM


  • Snooth User: palderm
    298189 2

    Guigal where is it? Makes best shirai

    Feb 16, 2012 at 4:03 PM


  • Snooth User: palderm
    298189 2

    Syrah Guigal

    Feb 16, 2012 at 4:05 PM


  • Snooth User: EBGB
    902774 23

    Columella is fantastic, but always sold way too young.

    Feb 16, 2012 at 4:17 PM


  • Snooth User: pplants
    105989 38

    you need to try one of the best Syrahs I've ever had. A California wine by Smith-wooten I believe. Great balance and elegant power.

    Feb 16, 2012 at 5:29 PM


  • Of course enjoyed the comments about the wine but finishing them off with the ladies was fun, I particularly like the reference to Salma Hayek.

    Feb 16, 2012 at 6:27 PM


  • Snooth User: aleger
    604173 19

    What about argentina syrah like Luigi Bosca Reserva 2008?

    Feb 16, 2012 at 8:20 PM


  • Snooth User: MSG3003
    71735 15

    Do not forget about Novy Family Wines/Siduri - fantastic, highly scored, well priced Syrahs, generally in smaller lots (less than 1000 cases per bottling) with many bottlings to choose from.

    Feb 17, 2012 at 12:16 AM


  • Snooth User: whauptman
    864967 2

    Chile is now producing some very fine Syrah as well. Quantities are limited, but they are very much worth seeking out. Try Matetic which is super smooth and very tasty. Great balalnce.

    Feb 17, 2012 at 4:02 AM



  • Have had stylish shiraz from Margaret River and not that far away, Bests Great Western and Sandalford in SW corner of Oz.
    I agree with the plaudits for guigal. great Cotes Du Rhone year after year
    New zealand shiraz - they call it syrah - is a gentler, food friendly variant that gets overlooked in these discussions
    Sicily has also had success with shiraz. Planeta Syrah worked for me. Petite Syrah from north Mexico/baja california is nice wine (LA Cetto)



    Feb 17, 2012 at 4:16 AM


  • My special favorite, Syrah 2007 Planeta Sicilia igt ****♥ Rich, with a bouquet of ripe red berries and black olives with lovely accents of sweet spices and vanilla. Round, fruity and flavourful full body with well integrated tannins. A vibrant wine with a spicy finish.

    Feb 17, 2012 at 3:14 PM


  • Baffetto de Roma you have excellent taste indeed and all these people should try Planeta Syrah

    Feb 20, 2012 at 5:46 AM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 198,870

    I will be trying some Chilean Syrah soon, so look out for notes on those. And I've got notes on several New Zealand bottlings as well, which are being pulled together today! The Planeta is a fine wine, I've had it a handful of times, which is too few to include it in this list of my favorites but I'm glad you broguht it up!

    Thanks for all the great comments folks!

    Feb 20, 2012 at 1:09 PM


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