Thursday, April 5, 2012

Tony Terlato bets on Syrah

Syrah never had a Sideways curse like Merlot, but it also never had the same fan base. Syrah was considered the Next Big Thing in California in the early 1990s, but while winemakers love it, the public never agreed. Sales have been dropping for several years, and the situation is more bleak than even sales numbers show, because Syrahs are often heavily discounted to get them off the shelves.

It takes a contrarian to bet on Syrah at this moment. And that contrarian's name is Tony Terlato.

Terlato has been a true mover and shaker of the American wine market for decades. He tasted Pinot Grigio -- then an obscure variety -- in northern Italy in the late '70s and decided Americans would like it. He has build the market here for high-end Barolo and anticipated the renaissance of Greek whites. The man has a nose for the future. And he says Syrah will make a comeback.

That's the subject of my Wine Review Online column this week. I won't repeat the column here, but would like to share the tasting note from my favorite wine reviewed along with it, a terrific Syrah made in an out-of-the-way part of Australian by a famous Frenchman.

Domaine Terlato & Chapoutier Malakoff (vineyard) Pyrenees (Australia) Shiraz 2007 ($30)
Importer: Terlato Wines International
Point score: 94
Here's something you may not have thought possible: a Shiraz that combines the approach of France and Australia. It's from a region called the Pyrenees, northeast of Melbourne, that few outside Australia knew about, but wines like this will change that. It's earthy on the nose, with dried blackberries and plums and a strong cured meat note. On the palate, it's delightful. With a cured meat note overlaid by fresh blackberries and dried black plums, it's food-friendly but also almost like a main course on its own. Finishes with graphite minerality. It has decent acidity and a medium body (14% alcohol), but this is not a shy wine, so it needs potent foods to keep up.

Read the Wine Review Online column here.

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Garibaldi said...

Really interesting column. I think he has a valid point. Syrah could be targeted to the Cab drinkers. I wonder if it would make commercial sense for the wineries in Napa to produce Syrah. Would it even do well there?

W. Blake Gray said...

I think it wouldn't make commercial sense because the cooler spots that would be best for Syrah would probably also be good for Cab, which makes more money.

Mary Rocca said...

Syrah actually does quite well in not-so-cool spots: our Syrah vines are located in Yountville- definitely not such a cool climate! And, yes- it's a pretty awesome Syrah! (trying to be objective :) ).

I do agree though that it doesn't make sense financially- cab is the smarter play.

Rocca Family Vineyards

W. Blake Gray said...

Confidential to Washington commenter: I agree, Washington state has some great Syrahs.

I'm wary of allowing essentially anonymous people to use comments to boost products because I don't know if you have a commercial interest or not.

Given Mary's comment above, that may seem unfair, but it's not really; nobody can say there's any question whatsoever about her relationship to the wine she's talking about.

Thanks for visiting.