Syrah/Shiraz – 2014
The Syrah and Texas vs. The World (Syrah) categories featured 15 Syrahs from across the state including wines from the Texas Hill Country, Texas High Plains and Texoma AVAs. Several of the wines were from single vineyards including Frio Canyon Vineyard, Cedar Crest Vineyard, Newsom Vineyard, Oak Creek Vineyard and High Cross Vineyard. The prices of the wines submitted ranged from $15 to $55 with a majority falling within the $25-$35 price range.
The Syrah category tasting featured 14 wines and was held on February 18th at the offices of the Wine and Food Foundation of Texas located in Austin Texas. The Texas vs. The World category tasting took place on March 25th and featured the top rated Texas Syrah as well as the 15th Texas wine that was not included in the Syrah category tasting the month prior. The Texas vs. The World category is also a blind tasting based on peer group where the panel tastes and rates wines made of the same varietal from various regions around the world including Texas. In the case of Syrah, wines from the Northern Rhone, Columbia Valley, Santa Barbara County and Barossa Valley were featured in the tasting.
The judges panel comprises of 12 judges of which a minimum of 5 are required to reach a quorum . The Syrah category tasting included 11 of the 12 panel judges and the Texas vs The World category tasting featured 6 of the 12 panel judges.
In regards to Syrah as a varietal, it has the ability to produce wines with a wide range of aromas, flavors and structure depending on the climate, soil type and vinification techniques used, which makes typicity somewhat of a question mark for a wine region such as Texas; considering all the variance in climate across the grape growing regions in the state. When we look at Syrah from around the world however, common elements start to surface like the propensity to show black or white pepper (from the chemical element called rotundone), dark berries, violets and savory qualities of cooked or cooking meat and leather. On a structural level Syrah tends to have a strong tannin backbone, moderate acid, increased levels of alcohol due to being grown in warmer climates and tends to be dark to opaque ruby to red violet depending on the wines maturity level. For Texas to produce wines with these common elements suggests that grapes are reaching a physiological ripeness that allows the phenolic structure and the true quality of Syrah to come out in the glass; and when we look at the tasting notes from the panel it reaffirms the fact that these wines do indeed show varietal typicity.
After both categories have been tasted and rated the scores across the panel are averaged. There is no dropping of highest and lowest scores to shrink the median rating window, which creates a scenario where it is very difficult for a wine to score above 90 or below 70. Averaging the scores creates a consensus across a wide range of palates and produces a final rating that is more objective. To that point, the overall ratings for Syrah are very encouraging; not a single one scored below an 82, which according to the Journal’s rating definitions is a good, solid wine with above average character. The highest rated wine was a 91, which is defined as a excellent wine with noteworthy character and is highly recommended.