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Because we have had persistent problems with multiple mailings of the HTML edition of The 30 Second Wine Advisor, I have regretfully decided that it's best to send the plain-text edition to all subscribers for the time being. I ask your patience if you were signed on for the HTML version, and in the meantime, I will provide a link to each week's tasting note for those of you who would like to see the formatted version of the wine report with label images.

30 Second Wine Tasting Tip:
Syrahs from two different worlds

Since the great days of exploration that began more than 500 years ago, when Columbus and his contemporaries "discovered" the Americas, Vasco Da Gama set foot on the Cape of Good Hope and Captain Cook & Co. explored the Australasian regions, humans have carefully divided the "Old" World from the New.

A similar division appears among wine lovers, many of whom take careful notice of the differences and similarities between "Old World" wines made in France, Italy, Germany and the other nations of Europe, and "New World" wines - many of them affectionately made in styles rooted in the European tradition - from the rest of the world.

This became particularly clear to me during my recent travels in Australia, where Shiraz (identical to the grape that France and the U.S. call "Syrah") is perhaps the leading wine grape. Most of Australia's wineries produce a style of Shiraz that's distinctly regional in character - big, peppery, fruity and oaky. I reported on dozens of these in my extensive Down Under Wine Diary,

They're typically impressive wines in a tooth-staining, head-spinning "blockbuster" style that takes some getting used to and doesn't always make them natural partners with food, but critical raves from around the world (and especially in the U.S.) have created a demand that has made many of them highly sought-after - and far more expensive outside Australia than when they're sold at the "cellar door."

At the same time, they are utterly different in nature from the Syrah-based wines of the French Rhone region, which are also wines that I love. Rhone reds are rarely as big and overpowering as Australian Shirazes. Where Oz offers fat fruit and sweet oak, France counters with balance and complexity, adding "organic" and "earthy" elements that may remind the taster of forest floors, mushrooms, leather, even "grilled meat" and "barnyard" aromas and flavors that might send an Australian (or a Californian) running for the exit.

I wouldn't necessarily argue that either approach is "better." But they're decidedly different, and each style certainly has its partisans.

To recalibrate my palate for France and California after my month Down Under, I set up a recent "blind" tasting between a French and a California Syrah of similar vintage and roughly similar price. The results are posted below and on Wine Lovers' Page (with label images) at

What's your opinion? Do you find a consistent difference between Old World and New World wine styles? Do you have a particular preference or find one style much preferable to the other? Or, like me, is there room in your wine world for both? If you would like to talk about it in more detail, please feel free to join in the chat on our Wine Lovers' Discussion Group, or send me a note by E-mail to I regret that the growing circulation of the "Wine Advisor" makes it difficult for me to reply individually to every note, and my travels this month will also limit my ability to respond; but I'll answer as many as I can; and please be assured that all your input helps me do a better job of writing about wine.

We hope you'll invite your wine-loving friends to register for their own free weekly copy at

30 Second Tasting Notes:
Old World and New World Syrahs
Delas Freres 1997 Les Launes Crozes-Hermitage ($14.49)
Delas FreresClear, dark garnet, with fresh, plummy fruit surrounded by characteristic aromas of raw meat and leather, plus an earthy mineral nature that I associate with the Northern Rhone. Minerally fruit and earthy notes are supported by a firm acidic structure. Good balanced, though quite young and somewhat tannic; it opens up to more layered complexity with time in the glass. (Dec. 15, 2000)

FOOD MATCH: A thick T-bone steak pan-grilled medium-rare makes a fine companion and helps tame the wine's youthful tannins.

Wine Lovers' Page logo

Beckmen Vineyards 1997 Santa Barbara County Syrah ($18.99)
BeckmenInky ruby with an orange glint. Spicy black fruit fights for dominance with oaky vanillins in the aroma, and the vanillins win. Big and juicy, peppery fruit and sweet oak. Quite "New World" in nature, with the oak qualities almost intrusive. (Dec. 15, 2000)

FOOD MATCH: Washes down a pan-grilled T-bone but doesn't really gain from the food match.

Wine Lovers' Page logo

Favorite Wine Link:
Wines World (Norway)

Morten Pedersen, the Norse owner of this appealing wine Website, dropped me a note the other day, and I'm glad! As Morten describes it, "Wines World is a friendly wineguide for amateurs, by amateurs. We do not proclaim to be experts, we just like wine and wanted to share our experiences with you." Morten and Klaus taste wines and report them (in excellent English as well as Norse) using a humorous and useful grading technique featuring DICE: A roll of 1 means "Yuck!" while a die showing 6 indicates, "This was probably expensive!"

You'll find the English pages at and the Norse pages at I recommend a visit.

30 Second Advertising Partner:
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30 Second Administrivia
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All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.

More time for wine?
You don't need to wait for Mondays to read about wine! Drop in any time on Robin Garr's Wine Lovers' Page, where we add new tasting notes several times each week and frequently expand our selection of wine-appreciation articles, tips and tutorials.

If you'd like to talk about wine online with fellow wine enthusiasts around the world, we'd be delighted to have you join the interactive, international forums in our Wine Lovers' Discussion Group.

Vol. 2, No. 48, Dec. 18, 2000

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