Value Syrah $15 and Under

Australian Shira still dominates this market segment. How are the wines these days and should we be looking elsewhere for better values?

 


After last week’s disappointing look at value priced Zinfandel you would be right to think that this week’s take on value priced Syrah, with a focus on Australian Shiraz, might produce equally horrifying results. After all if there was a poster child for big, oaky, goopy, and slightly sweet wines in the marketplace Aussie Shiraz certainly would have been it. 
 
Due to a confluence of factors, from consumer backlash to cooler vintages, the paradigm for Aussie Shiraz has shifted. There’s nothing truly new here; the pendulum is merely swinging back toward the norm. While Aussie Shiraz a decade ago did indeed race to be bigger, badder, blacker, and bolder, today the wines are significantly more nuanced. They celebrate the ripe fruit of Shiraz and are relatively large scaled wines. But they are, as a group that can be judged from this sample set, well balanced, fresh, and interesting wines at very affordable prices.
As is generally the case with these things, success has spawned imitators. Value priced Syrah has been an important but minor player in the domestic wine scene for a couple of brief decades, and is now increasingly popping up in South America and even in Italy and of course South Africa. It seems to me that many of these relative newcomers have learned from the missteps of the Australians  in the past decades and are at least trying to bottle wines that remain true to Syrah’s character in a balanced and nuanced style. Of course there are the examples that seem to be pushing the limits of what is possible at this price, and with these fruit sources but for the most part the wines in the bottle tasted for this article were pretty good syrah, and therein lies the problem.
 
I can’t see Syrah ever becoming a mainstream wine. Make no mistake about it, it’s truly a noble variety, but with a predisposition towards gamy, savory, and spicy flavors. Not what the average consumer is looking for and more to the point not what aficionados are all that frequently looking for. The great terroir of the world in France, Australia, Washington and California do produce compelling wines that excite those in the know, and these less expensive version do capture that essence of Syrah, but unless you are particularly fond of this flavor profile or are pairing these wines with the right foods, lamb on the grill are simply smoked pork ribs spring to mind, you are more than likely to be underwhelmed by Syrah in general.
 
For consumer who enjoy Syrah that is great news. While several of my top wines flirted with the $15 mark, most sat comfortably around $11 or $12 a bottle. A relative bargain in today’s world. The difficulty Syrah presents to producers has kept the prices very reasonable and while some of the less expensive examples are less than impressive they seem to all be fairly drinkable. Something that I have rarely said for a class of value wines that I have tasted. Now granted I didn’t taste many truly cheap wines today, but you typically get what you pay for and quality wines under about $8 a bottle are few and far between. 
 
While I know that Syrah will never be the most popular wine it certainly has its place on the wine list and at the table. Once you get up to about the $30 mark you’ll find some profound examples, though you will also finds wines that are no better than those tasted today. It’s the case with all wines, that tenuous connection between price and quality.  But for those of you just trying to get a feel for Syrah, I highly recommend sticking with some of these lower priced examples to help you get a feel for what the grape is capable of. They represent, to a certain extent, the new face of Syrah, a face that will most likely be more popular than the old one. The only problem is getting people to realise that there is a difference!
 
And by the way, that old face of Syrah is still present in the marketplace and it has its place. Many people love the style, I just prefer to have variety when it comes to wine, any wine, and that is what we are finding today. Increasing variety in the style of Syrah on retailer's shelves and that can only translate into broader appeal among consumers. Something that Syrah and the passionate winemakers who continue to champion this underdog of a wine could certain use.

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7 Top Syrah Values Tasted 9/2014

1.
Corvidae Wine Company Lenore Syrah Columbia Valley (2011)
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2.
Paringa Shiraz (2013)
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3.
Andrew Murray Syrah Tous les Jours Santa Ynez Valley (2012)
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4.
Penfolds Shiraz Koonunga Hill South Australia (2012)
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5.
St Kilda Shiraz (2012)
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6.
Jacob's Creek Reserve Shiraz (2010)
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7.
Santa Carolina Syrah Reserva Rapel Valley Chile (2011)
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Comments

  • Andrew Murray makes a Grenche, Syrah & Mourvedre blend called Esperance which is a much better value for $6 more a bottle. They also have a wonderful Grenache "Terra BellaVineyard" for $9 more also a great value. The Syrah is a nice wine but invest the money get a bigger return, go with the Esperance.

    Oct 07, 2014 at 10:13 PM


  • Snooth User: Richard Foxall
    Hand of Snooth
    262583 4,002

    Good article and right on point about Syrah probably never being everyone's cup of tea. But that ability to make it, even without intervention, in two very different styles is perhaps as big a reason it won't catch on as it's flavor profile. It just hasn't got a predictable profile for most consumers. A little odd, because Chardonnay also is very much a palette for the winemaker and grower, but it is very popular at all levels. So maybe it is those two extremes--baked and blowzy, or leaner and savory--that never quite catch on. Those who love it and make it well have to sell it for less than Cab, and that means people like me are drinking world-class examples (just not from the N. Rhone) for $40, or even a lot less. Just took my delivery of 2012 Halcon, which would almost qualify for this list on price, and that will get any Syrah lover swooning.

    Oct 08, 2014 at 2:15 PM


  • Yellow Tail Reserve Shiraz competes with $ 15 bottles and it is usually under $ 10 in NJ. I've had 2 vintages. I feel most of their stuff is plonk but this is exceptional. Sedrick

    Oct 13, 2014 at 8:01 AM


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