Food & Drink: Shiraz or syrah - the next big thing?

In the third and final part of our guide to Christmas wines, the spotlight is turned on New World reds.

IT'S IRONIC that having gone to great lengths to build a Fort Knox to safeguard appellation controlee, France should find the New World has burrowed under her precious earth and run off with the gold. While the French were out drawing the boundaries of vineyard and slope, the New World gratefully adopted France's classic grape varieties. A big merci, then, from the southern hemisphere, above all for Bordeaux's cabernet sauvignon and merlot, the Rhone Valley's syrah, and Burgundy's pinot noir.

Classic bordeaux styles

If instead of setting up appellation controlee, Bordeaux had managed to patent the king and queen of grape varieties and raked in a commission for every cabernet sauvignon or merlot label produced around the world, it would be richer than Croesus today. Just about everywhere grows these grapes successfully with increasing good value from South America and South Africa.

Chile has proved itself to date the most adept at reproducing the bordeaux style at a fraction of the bordeaux cost. Typical of the value on offer are wines such as the attractively textured, blackcurrant-centred 1998 Isla Negra Cabernet Sauvignon (pounds 4.99-pounds 5.49, Waitrose, Oddbins, Thresher, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up, Victoria Wine, Tesco) and the brambly, spicy 1997 Cono Sur Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (pounds 5.99, Asda, Oddbins).

Fuller's has slashed the pounds 7.99 list price of the 1997 Porta Cabernet Sauvignon by pounds 2, making it a snip. For pounds 1 more, the 1996 Santa Carolina Cabernet Sauvignon Gran Reserva (pounds 6.99, Unwins) is a sumptuous Chilean red with the distinctive herb and fresh mint character of Maipo Valley cabernet.

Quality cabernets and merlots are at last emerging from the Cape, too. Try the 1998 A Few Good Men Merlot (pounds 5.99, Safeway), a spicy, black-fruits and damson-like blend. Or If you're prepared to risk just over a tenner, the 1996 Beyerskloof Cabernet Sauvignon (pounds 11.99, Oddbins) is well worth the outlay for an impressively concentrated, opulent red with refined, cedary notes.

Red burgundy lookalikes

The pinot noir grape of red burgundy is an infuriating tease, far harder to get right than its Bordeaux or Rhone (syrah grape) counterparts, not least on the slopes of Burgundy's Cote d'Or itself. Its simpering prima donna refuses to make life easy for its admirers, sulking, fussing and insisting conditions have to be just so before it performs.

The South Africans found that in their hot climate, crossing pinot noir with the Mediterranean cinsault was one solution. The result, pinotage, works well in the heat and dust of the Cape, reaching new peaks of quality in wines such as the 1996 Hidden Valley Pinotage, (pounds 14.95, Waitrose). A Devon Valley red made by Jeremy Walker of Grangehurst, it is intriguingly burgundian, but more vigorous, intensely aromatic with new oak spiciness and studded with ripe, cherry and loganberry-like flavours.

In Chile's cooler regions, pinot noir can give red burgundy more than a run for its money. Pablo Morande's 1998 Vina Morande Pinot Noir (pounds 5.99, Safeway) is an appealingly soft, rhubarb and redcurrant-style of pinot noir with a touch of toasty oak, while from the ultra-cool Bo-Bo region, as far south as winemaking goes in Chile, the 1997 Vina Gracia Pinot Noir (currently pounds 5.99 reduced from pounds 7.99, Co-op) is a succulent delight, scented and jam-packed with ripe-strawberry fruit flavours and rustic tannins.

Spicy rhone styles

Until a decade ago, the syrah grape of the northern Rhone was a bit of an also-ran. Not so today. The syrah revival in Australia (there known as shiraz), along with the huge plantings of syrah in southern France, has placed it in pole position. More stable and consistent than pinot noir, more characterful than merlot, the crown prince to cabernet sauvignon's king produces wines with rich pepper and spice qualities.

With more shiraz planted than any other premium red, Australia is still the number one venue for the Rhone Valley's best grape variety. In traditional style (for Australia), the 1997 Stonyfell Metala Shiraz/Cabernet (, pounds 6.99 Safeway; pounds 7.49 Oddbins) is a blend of mainly Langhorne Creek shiraz (for Australia) from Nigel Dolan, showing smoky oak and sumptuous red-berry flavours suffused with a eucalyptus herbiness. And from Victoria, the 1996 Seppelt Chalambar Shiraz (pounds 8.99, Unwins) packs a punch of spice and pepper with oak-infused blackberry fruit.

From South Africa, the 1998 Stellenzicht Syrah (pounds 8.99, Oddbins) is a double gold Veritas winner (South Africa's top award) from Stellenbosch vineyards with relatively silky tannins for such a young red, and great spiciness, superbly integrated oak and fruit richness.

Chile, keen to get in on the act as ever, has a worthy rival in the 1997 Errazuriz Reserve Syrah (pounds 9.99, Oddbins, Tesco, Safeway, Fuller's), an Aconcagua red with a touch of herb and mint and a very juicy, rich, concentrated blackberry-like fruitiness.


What happened to Wines Of The Month last week? Look no further than today's The Information, where you'll find Anthony Rose's guide to the Best 50 Wines. From good value wines under pounds 5 to a host of glamorous and exclusive styles - red, white and sparkling - you'll find all you need here for festive season drinking and presents. Go on, treat yourself.

Arts and Entertainment Musical by Damon Albarn


Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment


film review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'