Syrah has, over the last few years, become one of the darlings of the wine industry around the world, and for good reason. It can be made in a range of styles, qualities and price ranges. It is, of course, called Shiraz in Oz, where it can range in taste and quality from almost sickly sweet blackberry jam to high alcohol, licorice infused monsters. In California, it is usually called Syrah and, while ripe and fruity, isn’t usually as jammy as its Australian cousin. Italy, Argentina, Chile — these and other countries all make their own styles of Syrah, and all have their merits.
But the style of Syrah I like best comes from the northern Cotes du Rhone, where it is made into full-bodied, potentially long lived and sometimes legendary wines like Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage and Cornas. Peppery, with a sometimes “wild” flavour of meat and earth, these are “red wine lovers red wines”. And, when made well, you can never taste the oak, because the fruit is so ripe and powerful.
B.C. has also become home to a number of very good Syrahs and Shirazes in recent years, but the one closest in style to those from the Rhone is from Nichol Vineyards in Naramata. I have been drinking this wine since the 1998 vintage and never ceased to be amazed at how much it tastes like a French Syrah. And this has been the case regardless of vintage, and even through a change in ownership a few years ago.
Now, I am not saying that the Nichol Syrahs are as big or as long lasting as their Rhone counterparts, but the similarity in style is amazing. And they do age well in good vintages; I had my last bottle of the 1998 when it was ten a couple of years ago and — aside from a crumbling cork that made opening it a challenge — it was fully mature and in perfect condition.
But don’t just take my word for it. I saw an article recently that said renowned British wine writer Jancis Robinson had tasted one of the Nichol Syrahs and was very impressed.
The only downside, as usual with great wines like these, is that they are made in relatively small quantities and — except for a few speciality stores (that often have outrageous mark ups) — is only available at the winery. But it is well worth the effort to find, and last time I checked, the 2006 was still available.