June 16, 2010
"Shame about syrah, really," I was thinking the other day while washing down a cheeseburger with a glass of 2003 Ojai Thompson Vineyard Syrah fromCalifornia's Santa Barbara County. The wine was big, meaty even. Yet, it was balanced, in proportion, perfect with my dinner.
Syrah is a noble grape, grown for thousands of years. It powers many of the reds made in the Rhone region of France, and winemakers the world over incorporate it into their Rhone-style blends. Yet the poor grape seems to get no respect these days.
It's often overshadowed by cabernet sauvignon or pinot noir. Boatloads of cheap, colorfully labeled syrah from Down Under (dubbed "shiraz" there) have turned off many North American drinkers to all syrah. Sales stats tell the story: Both dollar sales and the number of bottles of syrah sold fell about 7 to 8 percent over a yearlon
Yet, the Ojai syrah was so, so good with that cheeseburger.
Sharing my syrah pain is Evan Goldstein, author of "Daring Pairings."
"I want to be more bullish on syrah,'' Goldstein wrote in an e-mail from his base in San Carlos, Calif. "It goes so well with food and has so many styles to go with so many foods (cool to warm climate, peppery to jammy, pure versus blended). It provides incredible range for consumers to find wines that are different and provide amazing pleasure."
Goldstein, president of a wine and spirits education company called Full Circle Wine Solutions, spoke last January at the New Zealand Syrah Symposium about the challenges syrah has to overcome to be more widely accepted in the United States.
But Goldstein did end on a hopeful note. If syrah can meet its challenges, he thinks the wine may pop with the public.
Do your part to make that happen. Pop open a bottle of syrah tonight — with or without a cheeseburger.