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  • Jancis Robinson
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  • Jancis Robinson
13 Sep 2005

find this wine

14 sep egg on face: I mistyped the vintage of this wine as 2002 when transcribing it so have had to revise what follows accordingly.  SO sorry to have misled you

One of the most striking changes in the popularity of various grape varieties around the world in the last decade or so has been the way the world's wine producers have fallen in love with Syrah. It's everywhere! And more often than not it's called Shiraz, perhaps hoping for some of the success Australians have had in exporting their Shiraz around the globe.

For years we thought New Zealand (focus, coincidentally, of several recent contributions to your turn, Does acidity fade with age? and Strange varieties in stranger places) was too cool, and the vines too vigorous, to ripen any red grapes at all. Then they worshipped at the altar of canopy management and proved they could do a pretty good job with Pinot Noir. But there are parts of the North Island which are too hot for Pinot and just right for Cabernet, Merlot – and Syrah like this delightfully savoury, tobacco leaf-flavoured, very lightly leathery example. It's nothing like Barossa Shiraz, folks. With its marked natural acidity and lovely racy transparency, it's more like a good St Joseph. (Francophiles could alternatively try the bold and exciting St Joseph 2003 Coursodon from Berry Bros & Rudd, or the very creditable, slightly earthy St Joseph 2003 Bernard Gripa from Vine Trail, but they won't get much change out of £16 a bottle while the Vidal costs from just under £10 a bottle).

Vidal is part of the same, well-run family company that owns Villa Maria and has a particularly good reputation for its fine reds. The company, by the way, is a total convert to screwcaps. One more little bit of trivia: the wines are imported into the UK, along with those of Louis Jadot and Errazuriz, by the current chairman of the Institute of Masters of Wine (which like the WSET has just moved offices - see the directory for details).

According to this wine, a fine drink with food any time over the next two to three years, is available only in the UK and New Zealand, but seems to be no more expensive in the northern than the southern hemisphere. Apart from some good independents – best price Valvona & Crolla of Edinburgh - it's also available from Sainsburys' online wine operation (run separately from their stores) at £56.94 for a case of six – the equivalent of £9.49 a bottle, though you'd have to dedicated to order six bottles at once, I'd say. The much richer 2002 won a silver medal at last year's International Wine Challenge apparently, and is currently stocked by Sainsbury's who are moving on to the 2003 in a month or two.

Other New Zealand producers whose Syrahs have impressed me, by the way, include Stonecroft and Craggy Range.

find this wine (the Vidal)