Tag Archives: Rhone Valley wine

Grape of the Week: Syrah/Shiraz


Syrah, UC Davis

Since we made a virtual visit to the Rhône last week, with Viognier, we may as well stay in the neighborhood and check out the most important red grape in the region, Syrah, AKA Shiraz.

What to expect
How about a little intensity?  Expect deep, rich, concentrated flavors – nearly black in color – with spice and tannin to spare! The best will still show beautifully 20 years down the road.

Where Pinot Noir is the seductive “gateway” red, Syrah is for the convicted red-wine lover. The exception is the high production/low-end fruity, somewhat sweet versions that come from Australia. But just as White Zin isn’t representative of the best of California’s Zinfandel, these big-box store bargains don’t tell the whole story for Australia. They also produce some magnificent examples! Penfold’s Grange, for instance.

Of course, Shiraz is the name they use for Syrah in Australia. And, don’t let them hear you say “Shih-RAHZ!” They’re quite definite that it’s pronounced “Shih-RAZZ.” Continue reading


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Grape of the Week: Viognier


Viogner, UC Davis

I know we’re past Valentine’s Day now, but why not give it a long finish and take a look at this very exotic, sexy grape.

Sexy? Absolutely. Sensual? Oh, yeah…

What to expect
If you haven’t gotten around to trying Viognier, please let me encourage you to take the plunge and dive into what Jancis Robinson has referred to as “The hedonist’s white wine.”

This is one big, voluptuous kiss of ripe peaches and apricots, orange blossom, tropical fruit and honeysuckle. And heady, too. Viognier won’t let loose with all those wonderful aromatics unless it’s plenty ripe, so it’s quite common for it to be upwards of 14% alcohol. Of course, the alcohol gives it considerable heft, by white-wine standards so when you’re feeling burnt out on Chardonnay you can easily substitute the highly perfumed Viognier.

I’ve learned the hard way that It isn’t easy to get it right. Poorly made, it can remind you of the syrup in the can of fruit cocktail your Mom served you when you were a kid (I suppose I’m dating myself here.)

It’s usually dry but occasionally you’ll find a sweet one. Not my cup of tea – the sweetness can be cloying – Viognier isn’t a high-acid grape.  Some examples have oak imposed on them, which is hard to understand for a grape with so much up-front charm. If there’s a chance to taste before you buy, go for it! Continue reading

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