WTN: Importers' Syrah Challenge - France vs US and Oz

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WTN: Importers' Syrah Challenge - France vs US and Oz

Postby Jay Labrador » Mon Jul 24, 2006 6:45 am

Manila's finest importer of French wine from the less popular appellations issued a challenge a few weeks back boasting that his new Northern Rhone wines could beat any Syrah available in the Philippine market with a price of about USD 28.00 or less. Two other importers took up the challenge, one specializing in US wines and one with a range of wines from Oz, NZ and South Africa. I was invited to join the tasting panel that would judge the wines blind and see if the French really did stand up to the New World. The three importers were also part of the tasting panel. 10 wines were presented: 4 French and 6 New World.

#1 Pale. Good, ripe nose. Sweet and a bit spicy. Very good.

#2 Very dark. Good nose with lots of chocolate. A bit earthy. Soft, sweet. Beautiful wine.

#3 Good medium color. Not much on the nose. Slightly earthy. Nutty, some citrus. Very nice with some acid lift. Tannic.

#4 Good, medium color. Chocolate nose. Very smoky. Full bodied. Very dry. Excellent.

#5 Good color. Not much of a nose. Somewhat metallic flavor. Gentle. A bit of candy. Just OK.

#6 Good color. Smoke. Sweet fruit. Ripe. Good flavor of dried fruits. Full bodied, dry, complex.

#7 Spicy nose but not much else. Very dry, soft, fruity, medium bodied. Quite good but doesn't taste like Syrah.

#8 Very dark. Nice nose. Mint. Very sweet but in a good way. Ripe. Still tannic.

#9 Black wine. Good complex nose. Some mint. Sweet and full bodied. Tannic. Perhaps a touch too much oak but still, really good stuff.

#10 Lots of alcohol. Tannic. Good flavor but a bit short. Drying, alcoholic finish.

We were told to rank only our top 5 choices. My top starting with the best: 6, 8, 9, 4, 5.

The group's ranking starting with the best: 8, 6, 9, 4, 10.

The wines from best to worst according to the overall ranking of the group were:

#8 Glaetzer The Bishops Barossa Shiraz 2004
#6 Duo Syrah Sta. Barbara California 2003
#9 Woodstock The Stocks Shiraz McLaren Vale 2002
#4 Waterford Syrah Stellenbosch South Africa 2003
#10 Summerland Syrah Paso Robles 2003
#5 Domaine Cheze St. Joseph 2004 (The only French wine in my top 5)
#7 Domaine du Colombier Crozes-Hermitage 2004
#1 Domaine Cheze Syrah VdP 2004
#3 Seyssuel Couloure VdP 2004
#2 Raka Western Cape Syrah South AFrica 2004

The French took a beating in this particular tasting. I asked the importer of the French wines (who was French) what his top wines were and he admitted that his top 2 were New World. He seemed to be quite humbled by the results but was a good sport and graciously accepted defeat.

Dinner was served after the judging and more wines were served:

Domaine du Colombier Crozes-Hermitage Blanc 2004 - I generally don't like white Rhones but this was quite good. Very gentle and easy to drink. Went well with the veal cutlet in a mushroom sauce.

Rasteau Soumade Violettes 1998 - Very dark. Had a nose like a jackfruit which is something I've never before encountered in a wine. Still young. Spicy. Drinking very well.

Rasteau Soumade Violettes 1999 - Also very dark. Muted nose. Very full bodied, tannic. Closed. Not ready. Needs a few years to open up.

A good experience for everyone. Other tastings planned are for a Bordeaux Cru Bourgeois tasting and a Bordeaux tasting of wines from minor areas such as Moulis, Listrac, Fronsac etc.
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Re: WTN: Importers' Syrah Challenge - France vs US and Oz

Postby James Roscoe » Mon Jul 24, 2006 8:37 am

My first reaction to these kinds of results is that they are rigged. Let me add that I have never participated in this type of event except in a very informal way at parties. My point is that Old World wines are made in such a way that they will not show well in this type of event. New World wines are made specifically to shine on their own. As I rarely drink wine in this manner, I wonder how this type of scoring helps the consumer? If food was paired with these wines I'll bet the outcome would have been different. As I am usually drinking wine with dinner or hors d'ourvres, I want a wine that will show well in those situations. What does this tell me about those wines in the situations in which I am likely to drink them? Whew. I'm finished ranting for now. Nice notes under trying circumstances.
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Re: WTN: Importers' Syrah Challenge - France vs US and Oz

Postby Jay Labrador » Mon Jul 24, 2006 9:13 am

I understand and appreciate your rant. The whole thing was more for fun than anything else and if the French importer hadn't issued a challenge to the others this never would have taken place. When the results were announced, I, for one, stated exactly what you say in your post: That the New World wines do show well in this sort of setting but for dinner, I don't think I would want to drink them throughout the meal. I would probably prefer the French wines with food. I was trying to let Jerome (the French importer) down easy but I'm sure it's also true. Well, like I said, Jerome took it on the chin and said that whatever we say now is after the fact that his wines lost in this tasting.
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Re: WTN: Importers' Syrah Challenge - France vs US and Oz

Postby James Roscoe » Mon Jul 24, 2006 9:29 am

Your points are also true and the results are the results. I'm sure it was a lot of fun. I just wonder why these are set up this way? Why not a more level playing field with food?
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Re: WTN: Importers' Syrah Challenge - France vs US and Oz

Postby wrcstl » Mon Jul 24, 2006 10:04 am

Jay Labrador wrote:#8 Glaetzer The Bishops Barossa Shiraz 2004
#6 Duo Syrah Sta. Barbara California 2003
#9 Woodstock The Stocks Shiraz McLaren Vale 2002
#4 Waterford Syrah Stellenbosch South Africa 2003
#10 Summerland Syrah Paso Robles 2003
#5 Domaine Cheze St. Joseph 2004 (The only French wine in my top 5)
#7 Domaine du Colombier Crozes-Hermitage 2004
#1 Domaine Cheze Syrah VdP 2004
#3 Seyssuel Couloure VdP 2004
#2 Raka Western Cape Syrah South AFrica 2004

The French took a beating in this particular tasting. I asked the importer of the French wines (who was French) what his top wines were and he admitted that his top 2 were New World. He seemed to be quite humbled by the results but was a good sport and graciously accepted defeat.


Jay,
I have no problem with the outcome but wouldn't you expect a new world wines to show better than French at such a young age? Also, although this may be true about the US and OZ, the French, being from Crozes-Hermitage and St. Joseph are not the best examples of what can be bottled. Would be interesting to do a similar tasting with 5 years bottle age.
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Re: WTN: Importers' Syrah Challenge - France vs US and Oz

Postby Rahsaan » Mon Jul 24, 2006 10:45 am

My point is that Old World wines are made in such a way that they will not show well in this type of event


I understand your point, but isn't it also important to include the importance of the taster and their openness to that style. Personally, I don't want Motor Oil Syrup Syrah before, during, or after dinner, and will always prefer a crisp Jamet VdP.
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Re: WTN: Importers' Syrah Challenge - France vs US and Oz

Postby Jay Labrador » Mon Jul 24, 2006 11:13 am

Certainly I would expect the New World stuff to show better than the French. I was a bit puzzled by the comments of one of the judges (an Englishman whom I respect and I expect would have much more experience than me in this sort of thing) who said that the New World wines weren't really showing overt New World character so that he had some difficulty distinguishing between the two. That's his opinion but I thought it was pretty clear to me although I admit I didn't say this at the time.

One other point, it was the French importer who issued the challenge and presumably agreed to the format. If he thought it was biased in favor of the New World, I suppose he could have objected and insisted the scoring would be with food. Personally, I thought he was over-confident as I had tasted the Cheze St. Joseph previous to this tasting and thought it could not possibly stand up to a New World challenger although at the time I tried it, it went very nicely with a smoked cheese ravioli.
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Re: WTN: Importers' Syrah Challenge - France vs US and Oz

Postby Jay Labrador » Mon Jul 24, 2006 11:24 am

Perhaps it would have been a more interesting contest if the major appelations (Hermitage, Cote Rotie, Cornas) were chosen but Jerome prides himself in finding wines from the paths less travelled and from producers not so famous. The wines he presented are the only Syrahs he has so I would presume he went into this with both eyes open. It seems to me he didn't do his homework and see for himself what is available in the market and try the wines for himself. Some weeks before the challenge he did ask me about some New World Syrahs. I particularly highlighted the Montes Alpha Syrah as a rather reasonably priced example available although it was not included in the tasting.
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Re: WTN: Importers' Syrah Challenge - France vs US and Oz

Postby James Roscoe » Mon Jul 24, 2006 11:25 am

Rahsaan wrote:
My point is that Old World wines are made in such a way that they will not show well in this type of event


I understand your point, but isn't it also important to include the importance of the taster and their openness to that style. Personally, I don't want Motor Oil Syrup Syrah before, during, or after dinner, and will always prefer a crisp Jamet VdP.


I was all ranted out before I could get there. My only hope is that this kind of thing brings down the price of the French wines over here. I'm afraid that the current prices of French wines has more to do w/ monetary policy. Oh, well....
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Re: WTN: Importers' Syrah Challenge - France vs US and Oz

Postby Nico Padilla » Mon Jul 24, 2006 3:17 pm

Interesting that both of the South Africans had chocolate notes. I noticed that also in the Boukenhoutskloofs I've tried: the 03 porcupine ridge, the 03 chocolate block, and to a lesser extent the 05 wolftrap.
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