Top Syrah Wines $12-$25

6 wines that might appeal to your palette


So Syrah has an identity crisis, but what are you supposed to do about it? That’s a good question, and the answer is quite limited by the information that is offered to you. After all, it is with this information that you are able to make decisions and choices worth talking about.

Kudos to Cline for not only making a terrific Syrah, but for pointing out that a certain bottling of theirs is a Cool Climate Syrah. This particular bottle, I tasted three Syrah wines from Cline, turned out to be that which I preferred. Stating that something is Cool Climate is the sort of information I would like to see more of. 

Cline’s Estate Syrah also made this list. The Estate is both more expensive than the Cool Climate bottling and more intense. 

On the flip side, Excelsior, who has consistently produced a fine value, seems to have moved from using the Shiraz moniker to Syrah. While this wine is delicious, to my palate it is made more in the Shiraz style. I would appreciate knowing this sort of thing before plunking down its modest price. 

We’re going to need more help from the industry if we are to sort out this identity crisis. In the meantime, I hope the notes that follow guide you toward wines that appeal to your palate! 

Photo courtesy Le Vin Parfait via Flickr/CC

2009 Cline Cool Climate Syrah Sonoma Coast 13.5% $16

This smells a little sweet but also delivers terrific herbal, floral and medicinal spice notes, with rich black pepper and bacon fat base notes. Juicy and broad in the mouth, there’s nice energy here with lively acids and very finely polished tannins. The fruit profile offers up blueberry and mulberry notes, backed up with balsamic undertones, minty spice and a gentle underlay of toasted oak. A nice dried meat tone drifts over the fruit on the moderately long and red fruited finish. This is pretty delicious. 90pts


2008 Jaboulet Les Jalets Crozes Hermitage 12.5% $19

This smells of soil and herbs, little pebbles, green peppercorns, wild cherry and perfumed lingonberry, all framed with a gentle edge of old wood. Firmly medium-bodied, this shows off a rather stern first impression: a bit drying, rigid and tangy, with briary edges. Clear if light red fruits on the mid-palate have some bacon and speck notes adding detail on the back end. The finish is super sapid with an almost raspberry refrain. A bit small-scaled, but this is very well put together and shows a gentle elegance. 88pts. 


2008 Cline Sonoma Estate Syrah Los Carneros 15% $22

Smoky and peppery on the nose with deep plum and huckleberry fruit, framed with chocolaty oak notes and a nice thread of chorizo. On the palate, this is relatively big with noticeable tannins and fine integrated acids. The fruit is a touch matte and anonymous, though there is a light aromatic note on the mid-palate. The back end is tight and gently balsamic with emerging game notes that get slammed on the finish by the wall of drying tannins. This needs some time but could improve- or serve it today with rich, smoky food. 87pts


2009 Valley of the Moon Syrah Sonoma County 14.5% $17


This is candied on the nose with a nice initial burst of wild grape Jolly Rancher, backed by cedar and game notes. There’s also a very violet pastille-like quality here. Smooth, pretty seamless in fact, with a palate that express much of what the nose promises, though with less overt candy flavors. This actually has a rather clear and almost elegant palate, a very honest expression of fruit that is a touch simple but tasty and easy to drink. Blueberry fruit pops up on the back end and fades rather quickly on the modest finish.  87pts

2009 DeMorgenzon DMZ Syrah Western Cape South Africa 14.5% $14

Dark blueberry and blackberry fruit on the nose, with fine pepper, dried duck and mutton notes. This smells a little reticent but with some compelling details. A little soft on entry, this is broad with gentle acidity and some nicely small if angular tannins. A mouth-filling wine that could use some brightness on the palate, it nonetheless delivers some nice cotton candy-edged black berry, black currant fruit. A nice underlay of oak spice becomes a bit dominant on the modest finish. This is young and may improve in the bottle, though today it does offer a nicely restrained style of Syrah. I think this might have more to say. 87pts


2010 Excelsior Syrah Robertson South Africa 14% $8

Nicely varietal on the nose with jammy forest fruits, pepper, smoke and mutton. Soft, round and decidedly fruity with a touch of RS. This is a lovely party, easy drinking wine with Syrah character in a soft, supple package. There’s a nice touch of white pepper here and a pop of fruit, though not much of a finish. Good for a BBQ. This is a super value for a fruitier style Syrah, and unless my memory fails me, this had been labeled as Shiraz in the past. I hope Excelsior reconsiders and returns to that most descriptive term! 85pts


Want to Learn More?

Check out some delicious ways to pair Syrah in Pairing Syrah from Around the World!

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Mentioned in this article


  • Just today I found a 2005 Fess Parker Syrah at 15.7% for under $25 and I'm loving it. After I open the second bottle to see if it is consistent I'll probably buy the inventory.

    Feb 21, 2012 at 4:28 PM

  • Snooth User: homestar
    512161 83

    knowing more about the difference a cool climate makes is information I'd like to see more of :)

    Feb 21, 2012 at 11:12 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    Glad to hear it Gator!

    Homestar, it's a great topic, let me see what I can do!

    Feb 22, 2012 at 8:49 AM

  • Snooth User: arhoflh
    849708 18

    I'm a huge fan of the 6th sense syrah by Micheal and David.

    Feb 22, 2012 at 11:10 AM

  • Snooth User: gerrad
    79282 57

    identity crisis? somebody forgot to tell aussie shiraz about that..but then we OWN shiraz and u all know it- or you would if you tasted some ; 'first drop- the cream', torbreck- the gask', 'elderton- command', or even better..'seppelt- st.peter". not to mention, peter lehmann, henschke, and stuff like leeuwin estate, howard park, voyager or cape mentelle from margaret river, for a less full bodied, earthy style!

    Feb 22, 2012 at 1:32 PM

  • Snooth User: osca1600
    974102 1

    Yes I agree, what identy crises could Shiraz possibly have. As Gerrard notes, out here in Oz, we grow and produce some of the world's best Shiraz (none of this silly Syrah nonsense nomenclature please). The best regions for this include the Coonawarra, McLaren Vale, Barossa and Clare Valley in South Aus, Margret River in WA and the Hunter Valley in NSW. As for being able to purchase decent Shiraz for under $25, no dramas here, as there is plenty of choice available.

    The problem with Snooze is that you are so US focussed and the world thereafter but rarely if ever does Aus rate a mention. Give us a break for a change, we also grow and produce some of the world's best Pinot in Tassie, Sauvignon Blanc the equal of NZ etc etc.

    Feb 22, 2012 at 8:04 PM

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