18 March, 2009

WBW #55 - Part 2 - Smokin' Syrahs - Crozes Hermitage vs. Cachapoal

The North vs. South fun continues!

It has taken me a couple of years to acquire my taste for Syrah. The smokey, meaty, peppery notes and bitter finish just made my palate pucker, but as my palate develops I cannot get enough of the stuff. I just tried my first Crozes Hermitage and I knew I had to write about it for this intriguing assignment.

For my northern Hemisphere selection I tasted the Crozes Hermitage Fine Fleur de Crozes Cave de Tain 2005 ($18.99) 100% Syrah.12.5% alcohol
Crozes Hermitage AOC is in the Northern Rhone and Cave de Tain is the largest producer of wine in the appellation. Although this is Southern France I am going to call this my “cooler-climate” Syrah, especially compared to my other choice.

I was surprised by the medium garnet color (I thought it would be darker.) The nose was earthy, and contained notes of white pepper and clove. It was smoky on the nose and palate, well-balanced, tangy red fruit finish, a little chewy with food-friendly acidity. According to the winemaker this wine was aged in oak for 12 months.

I chose a Chilean Syrah for my Southern Hemisphere pick. Chile is not particularly known for it's Syrahs but the Azul Profundo 2005 will help to put it on the map. The grapes are from the Cachapoal Valley, located in central Chile about 100km south of the capital of Santiago. The climate is hot and dry in the summer/fall months.

This is definitely a warm-climate Syrah, and it is just plain voluptuous. The color was a dark, almost opaque garnet. The nose was profound with barnyardy aromas that dissipated to reveal sandalwood, stewed black berries, bits of licorice and chocolate, notes of black pepper. On the palate there were slightly chewy tannins, ripe blackberry flavor, and an almost bitter peppery aftertaste that smoothed out as it went down. Unfortunately, no technical information on this wine was found but I am certain there was aging of at least a year in older oak barrels...There was just a trace of oak on the palate. 100% Syrah, 14.3% alcohol by volume.

As I was savoring my Syrahs I developed a craving for Lamb Biryani. Well, I will be damned if this was not the perfect pairing. Common knowledge holds that sweet, acidic white wines pair much better with spicy ethnic cuisines. Well, not in my book. The clove, almonds, cilantro, raisins and the gaminess of the lamb called for the smoky and spicy notes of the Syrahs. I was in umami heaven.

To sum it all up: everything was as expected. The Southern Hemisphere Syrah was bold, inky, spicy, fruity, higher alcohol. The Northern Hemisphere Syrah was earthy, smoky, spicy, and not as intense. Both had slightly chewy tannins and complex layers of aromas and flavors. Both are under $20 and both are a good pairing for lamb dishes. No surprises here, but the next time I eat Indian I will order a Syrah instead of a Kingfisher.
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