Syrah, The Many-Faced Grape
Holiday get-togethers always are a great time to bust out some killer wines. It’s an easy excuse to try something you might not normally drink, something you’ve been wanting to try or just one of your honest to God favorites. Whichever is the path you take this Thanksgiving, I’d urge you to take one of my absolute favorite varietals for a spin — Syrah.
The deal here is that Syrah shows in a multitude of styles that leads it to be a very versatile grape. I often refer to it in my staff trainings as “the many-faced grape.” Yes, that was a Game of Thrones reference. It can stand alone, or it can make an incredible pairing. Not only that, but Syrah is a grape for all seasons with the ability to be enjoyed during the hot and cold months. This varietal has aging potential if you have the self-control to hang on to them. But who can really do that?
One area you should definitely look to is the Côte du Rhone in France. The Rhone is broken up into two different areas: Northern Rhone and Southern Rhone. Each has it’s own specialties. Crozes-Hermitage (pronounced “Crows Erm-it-aj”) is nestled in the Northern Rhone and is, geographically, the largest wine growing area there. They make fruity reds that drink super easy and won’t break the bank. Pairing-wise, this could easily go with turkey and can party with just about anything with cranberry sauce. These aren’t heavy wines so they won’t weigh you down.
Australia has Shiraz, which is also Syrah. It can be heavier and a nice alternative to Cabernet Sauvignon. Now, I’m not talking about the grocery store $5 Yellow Tail. There are some incredible wineries producing some top shelf Shiraz, like Yalumba, Penfolds and Molly Dooker. All of those wineries make consistently delicious Shiraz among other varietals. These wines are dense and chewy — lots of jammy blackberry, baking spice and a fine tannin structure that creates a soft finish. If you’re like my family and usually have some red meat on the table, this is the wine for you.
One of my favorite Syrahs comes from Santa Ynez Valley, Ca. Arcadian Winery’s Westerly Syrah is perfect for everything on your Thanksgiving table. The acidity is extremely balanced by the fruit and it sits happily in the weight class of medium bodied. This is one of those wines that is extremely complex due to the world-class wine making of Joe Davis. Due to its many layers, the Westerly Syrah lends itself to being very accessible pairing-wise. Also, this is wine that doesn’t need food to soar. It can most definitely be enjoyed alone. Make sure to chill it down for a few minutes and let it have some oxygen to open up.
Syrah is a very flexible grape. It can show as a lighter, fruitier flavor, or as bold and dense in some of the most well known Cabernets out there. There are many styles that won’t hurt the old bank account much, but there are some that are definitely worth the extra cash. This Thanksgiving, try a couple of Syrahs with your holiday gathering and don’t forget to enjoy the company of the ones you’re sharing a bottle with. Salut!
Judd Smith is a local wine enthusiast who also works as Cadre Hospitality Group’s beverage director. To read more from Smith, check out his blog at www.BeardandBarrelBlog.com.