Back in May 2011, we had our first World of Syrah tasting, where we pitted six bottles of Syrah/Shiraz from around the globe against each other, with Columbia Valley in Washington coming out on top, and South Africa coming in last. Over a decade later, would we see similar results?

No! This time, an intense, texturally wonderful Aussie Shiraz took the top podium spot, and a funky, Brett-infused Northern Rhone come across the finish line last.

Overall, this was very enjoyable, and while two bottles received no points, we didn't feel disappointed about these, with the possible exception of the Crozes-Hermitage. Except for Ali, who picked out three of them correctly (outstanding!), we were mostly terrible at figuring out what appellations these were from. We largely guessed that the Wellington, South Africa bottle was from France.

Yet again, COVID struck one of our guest tasters, so while there were only five people at the table, we decided to throw in a sixth bottle (from South Africa), so that we could taste a wider range of examples.

Photography by Andy.

First Place:  Two Hands Shiraz Gnarly Dudes 2020 (Barossa Valley). Opaque in the glass, with a brooding, dark, mysterious nose, showing scents of dusty pavement, pine needles, menthol, Tiger Balm, black pepper, dark red rose, bitter chocolate, and crushed autumn leaves. Andy felt that it had "some bad intentions", while Ali noted that it "feels like a storm, kicking up the dust." Fantastic texture. Tasters found flavors of dark chocolate, coffee, nutmeg, blackberries, and cinnamon, with some black pepper on the long finish. Very well-balanced and integrated. Seamless. A dark profile, but also had lift and refinement. Everyone's favorite of the night, for 30 total points. Andy's bottle. About $28.

Second Place: Montes Syrah Alpha 2020 (Colchagua Valley). Dark, opaque, and syrupy, this sticks on the glass after swirling. Hints of rubber tire and motor oil on the nose, but it was more about concentrated cherry juice, caramel, autumn foot*, leather, plum skin, coffee, cherries, and fresh cut grass. Tannic, but also rich and mouthcoating, with flavors of cola, plums, cherries, prunes, and a hint of baking spice. Very good balance. Licorice on the finish. 19 total points. David's bottle. About $20.

Third Place:  Bosman Shiraz 2021 (Wellington). Leaned more red than purple, and was more ruby and less opaque than many others of the night. Dusty and slightly shy on the nose, with notions of forest floor, musty books, shitake mushrooms, mug wort, asphalt, and diesel fuel. Intriguing, with David noting "a slight bit of decay", and Jo finding "the gooky part of the cantaloupe." Lovely texture, and less mouth coating than the others. Black cherry, licorice, anise, mushroom, and Band Aid flavors. Hints of oak. Jo felt that "this one draws you in", while Ali noted "something gelatin." Kristin suggested that it tasted Old World. 16 points. About $20.

Fess Parker Syrah 2020 (Santa Barbara County). Looked youthful, with an opaque appearance, leaning purple. Tasters found inviting scents of prunes, eucalyptus, coffee beans, licorice, vanilla, caramel. Smelled ripe and exuberant, with hints of blueberry and herbal notes. Rich and ripe in the mouth, and perhaps a bit hot, offering flavors of mashed up berries, prunes, balsamic vinegar, black pepper, and a hint of cilantro. Licorice and vanilla on the finish. Ali noted "ripe bananas, but not in a bad way." 5 points. Ali's bottle. About $25.

Barnard Griffin Syrah 2018 (Columbia Valley). Very dark in color, with a nose suggesting candied fruit, brown sugar, milk chocolate, cream, eucalyptus, and bare hint of spice. Jo was reminded of "those caramels with the white center." Not very sophisticated on the palate, offering flavors of freshly brewed coffee, black pepper, ripe red bell pepper, cherry cola, and chocolate ice cream. Short finish. Andy noted that "this isn't bad, it would be good with hot wings", and felt that it was "overengineered." No points, but we felt that this was better than the Crozes-Hermitage. Josephine's bottle. About $18.

Pierre Gaillard Crozes-Hermitage 2017. Ali recoiled at the nose immediately, with Jo declaring, "Oooo, yeah, that's fecal", and Andy noting, "I'm scared of this." Scents of soiled baby diaper, barnyard, and dirty hay. Jo found "freesia floating over the fecal", while Ali was reminded of "elephant dung." Likely affected by Brettanomyces. Tasted better than it smelled, but also had a canned vegetable quality, with Jo noting the "slight metallic taste that vegetables get from sitting in their own juice." Flavors of iron, body odor, rare steak, and boy's bedroom. Andy decided that "it's definitely drinkable." No points. Kristin's bottle. About $30.

*An homage to one of Ali's best wine descriptions

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