Que Syrah Syrah

Syrah, “…the kind of guy who wears cowboy boots with a tuxedo. Rustic, manly, yet elegant….” A well put description from Karen McNeil in her book, The Wine Bible.

Syrah originated in France, specifically the Rhone region. In Northern Rhone (where the only red grape allowed is Syrah), it shows itself as an elegant and savory wine. In Southern Rhone, it is used in blends, especially with Grenache and Mourvèdre, often referred to as the popular blend “GSM” (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvédre).  Washington Syrah tends to lean more toward the style of Northern Rhone while Australia and California Syrah is often velvety with more jam and spice characteristics. In case you’re wondering, Shiraz from Australia and South Africa is in fact, Syrah, it was just renamed when it landed in those countries. Syrah is grown in many other countries such as Argentina, Spain and Chile to name a few.

Syrah is inky dark and comes with a good hit of tannin (that bitter/astringent feeling on the front of your gums and on your tongue) especially when bottled on it’s own. Any way you slice it, Syrah is showy and full bodied with fruit forward flavors of blackberry, blueberry, boysenberry, and plum rounding out with leather, tar, tobacco, smoke, smoked meat, spice and chocolate (to name a few).

It is important to note that California Petite Sirah, which has similar characteristics, is not the same as Syrah. There are a few theories but, in my opinion, the most legitimate explanation is that Petite Sirah is actually Durif, a cross of Syrah and Peloursin (both grapes from the Rhone region in France).

By the way, if you’re looking for a Valentine’s Day gift, I would like to point out that Syrah (and Australian Shiraz in particular) has the ability to pair quite well with dark chocolate.

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Pairing Wine And Food

pairingwineandfood

A friend requested I write about pairing wine and food. I was somewhat hesitant because I felt the post would either become a dissertation or be so short it would barely clear a paragraph.

There are many avenues to take for pairing, from mandatory adherence to a strict set of rules to “Vinotyping” and taste bud count affecting how a person tastes (i.e. Why You Like The Wines You Like by Tim Hanni, MW).  I lean more towards the the later.  In my opinion, there is only one thing you need to know: drink what you like, like what you drink.  Choose a wine you enjoy and desire to drink with whatever it is you’re eating.  Conceding to pairing the alleged “appropriate” wine with food will not make the pairing better if it’s not speaking to you in the first place. It will however, make for an unpleasant dining experience.

Taste is personal but I believe there are parameters we generally share. Most people establish some level of tolerance for acidity and most people like sweet food. There are even a small percentage of people who cultivate a liking to bitterness. Accordingly, consider the following basic guidelines; use them as a starting off point then follow your own personal palate preferences:

BASIC WINE AND FOOD PAIRING GUIDELINES:

Intensity: match intensity of wine and food (i.e. light wine-light food, heavy food-heavy wine)

Spicy food: pair spicy food with high acid, off dry, medium-sweet wine – try brut Rosé, Albarino, Riesling, or fight fire with fire and pair with a high alcohol spicy wine like Syrah or Zinfandel

Fatty food: pair fatty food with a high acid wine like an Vinho Verde, unoaked Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, or a tannic red like Mourvèdre, Cabernet Sauvignon or Tempranillo

Salty food: pair salty food with a high acid wine or wine with a bit of sweetness – try something sparkling like Champagne, a crisp Falanghina or a tawny port (think pretzels dipped in caramel)

Sweet food: pair sweet food with wine that has a high level of sweetness or fruitiness – try a late harvest wine, Ice wine, Moscato d’Asti, which has a slight effervescence, or for something fruity try a newer vintage Shiraz or Petite Sirah, these will probably be best for those dark chocolate pairings.

My ultimate advice is to acknowledge and embrace your individual tasting preferences. If you want Chardonnay with your steak and your friend prefers Cabernet Sauvignon…congratulations, you have both nailed your pairing!

~Drink what you like, like what you drink!~

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