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A tale of 2 syrahs: 1998 Wynns Michael & 1999 Isole e Olena Collezione de Marchi

December 31, 2010

For the year-end combined ward dinner on 29 Dec 2010 at Foo House, we thought it would be interesting to compare two syrahs from regions that are, literally, poles apart and outside of Rhone. Both have almost the same number of years of bottle age, and both are 13.5% alcohol by volume.

The 1999 Isole e Olena Collezione di Marchi (courtesy of PS), an IGT from Toscana, was aired in bottle for over an hour before being poured. Dark impenetrable red with a rather sweet attractive bouquet that reminded me of cooked bananas (no kidding!), jackfruit and sweetened plums. On the palate, the wine, medium-full, was quite open with predominantly plummy flavours peppered with a bit of spice, noticeably more dense than a true Rhone syrah, supported by a firm bed of graphite-like minerality that translated into finely-grained tannins. But it managed to avoid being heavy-footed, the wine expanding quite evenly on the palate, leading to a linear finish. You could almost drink it on its own. Quite excellent.

In contrast, the 1998 Wynns Michael shiraz, atypically from Coonawarra, was heavier in every way. Having been decanted for more than 2 hours, the wine was noticeably more rounded and softer-toned on the palate, but the hallmarks of an Aussie shiraz are unmistakable: full-bodied, plummy, strong herbal overtones, dense as a result of the very ripe fruit, coating the palate with an abundance of spice and pepper that gave the wine a warm savoury feel. I’m not sure how it’ll develop further in bottle, although it’s my guess that it’s likely to gain even greater concentration and density, not unlike some sort of distilled essence. I still swear by Rockford, but of course, nothing beats a true northern Rhone syrah.

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