By Bruce Cochran
This week we’ll discuss a famous red wine grape variety whose popularity has caused it to circle the globe, both north and south of the equator.
If you’re in Little Rock later this month, I have an exciting wine dinner to announce. Trio’s at 8201 Cantrell Road at Pavilion in the Park has planned a very creative menu to complement the newly arrived Washington state wines of Charles Smith’s Modernist program. This is a great match with super-creative people from the kitchen to the vineyard. I’ll be there, and so will James Cripps on April 29. Welcome wine begins at 6:30 p.m., and we’ll be seated for dinner around 7 p.m. Four courses, five wines, $70, includes tip but not tax. Call Trio’s for reservations: 501-221-3330.
Try a new wine this week!
The first grape to really capture the palates of American wine lovers was cabernet sauvignon. We were told that it was a “noble” variety, and in the early days of wine enjoyment here, that was good enough for most of us.
Then, as more Americans began to discover the joys of wine, an unlikely grape emerged as a favorite — merlot. Merlot had always been considered a blending grape, but its wine was softer than cabernet, and smoother in its youth. And we were a youthful, newly emerging nation of wine lovers.
You veteran wine lovers might have noticed that as your palate has matured you’ve appreciated bolder, more flavorful wines, wines that might have been overpowering when you first began. Many Americans have reached this point, and I believe that’s one reason for the success of syrah.
Syrah’s popularity has circled the wine world. It’s considered an “international” variety because it’s now grown in just about every country that makes wine. This dry red wine with a deep, dark color and bold, berry-like flavors is a recipe for success in these days of higher flavor thresholds.
Like most of the world’s best-loved wine grapes, it came from France. Along the northern Rhone River, the syrah grape reigns, especially for the famous wines Cote-Rotie and Hermitage. Each will often contain a small amount of white wine grapes, but the syrah is so deep in color that it adds complexity without making the wine appreciably lighter.
While Rhones can be quite expensive — there are three single-vineyard Cote-Rotie’s that can retail for well more than $150 per bottle — both Cote-Rotie and Hermitage have neighbors that are perhaps less great, but also less expensive. St. Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage are two.
And you can spend well more than $100 on an Australian syrah called Grange-Hermitage, and many have, but there are several good ones for less. Some of the least expensive, though, are much lighter. Washington has emerged in recent years as a great place for syrah, as evidenced by the expensive-yet-hard-to-get syrahs made by Charles Smith under the K Vintners label.
One new syrah that I like is Charles Smith Wines’ Modernist program. He calls it “BoomBoom!” Syrah, from Washington, one of the newest, hottest brands from one of the newest, greatest syrah appellations. It has lots of fruit in a balanced, drinkable style. Charles Smith BoomBoom! Syrah retails in the $10 to $15 range.