This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Friday, Feb. 6, 2009 and can be found at http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor2/tswa20090206.php.
Wine Focus moves to Syrah
For February, we'll turn our online Wine Focus to Syrah-based wines from around the world. Syrah, the great grape of the Northern Rhone, has spread to many wine-growing regions beyond France.
It's a major player in California, with Washington State becoming another strong contender on the U.S. West Coast; it's turning up in Spain and in some of the warmer parts of New Zealand, among others. And of course, usually labeled Shiraz, it's a mainstay grape of Australia.
For this month we'll look primarily at the grape in its Syrah manifestation, although Australian readers who have little access to non-Shiraz Syrah are welcome to join in, preferably presenting notes on cool-climate Shiraz made in an elegant European style.
'll offer some Syrah tastings in a coming issue. For today, though, let's wrap up last month's wine focus with one more Rioja, a relatively modest but excellent bottle in the style called "Crianza."
Based on the Spanish word for "nursing" or "bringing up," the word "Crianza" on the label denotes that the wine was aged for a specific term before it can be sold, and that at least some of that aging occured in oak casks.
The time required in oak varies from region to region; in Rioja and its neighbor Ribera del Duero, the rule is 12 full months in oak. Crianzas are actually in the least-oaked category - you'll need to look for "Riserva" or "Gran Riserva" if you want still more!
Today's featured wine, Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Crianza, is a blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and Graciano grapes, aged in French and American oak casks. My tasting notes are below.
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Marqués de Cáceres 2004 Rioja Crianza ($15.99)
Dark garnet, with reddish-violet glints against the light. Bright red-cherry aromas, signature Tempranillo, with back notes of raspberry liqueur that adds a nuance of complexity and may reflect the Garnacha. Juicy cherry-berry flavors and mouth-watering acidity on the palate, invites service at the dinner table, with just a homeopathic whiff of oaky vanilla more apparent toward the long, tart finish. It takes a second taste to bring out some tannic astringency, but it's soft and easy, making for a Rioja that will cellar well but is mighty easy to drink right now. U.S. importer: Vineyard Brands Inc., Birmingham, Ala. (Jan. 26, 2009)
FOOD MATCH: Like virtually all dry reds, it's a great match with red meat; its relative elegance and grace pair it nicely, too, with lighter meats and poultry. It made a fine, if unexpected, winter-evening match with an old-fashioned chicken pot pie.
VALUE: Excellent Rioja, no value issues at this mid-teens price. Still, Louisville prices continue to appear high for Rioja; look for it in the lower teens or even close to $10 in some markets.
WHEN TO DRINK: Certainly delicious for current drinking, but typical of even the lower-end Riojas, it will surely reward careful cellar time.
The Marqués de Cáceres Website is available in English, Spanish and French:
For more information, here's the U.S. importer's site:
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