Syrah is on my mind this week, especially young Syrahs and how to best serve them. We’ve had two recently, at our house, both of which I carafed, and I recommend you go this route. The difference was noticeable and brought out much more in the wines.
The first was a St Joseph Syrah from France’s northern Rhone region, Domaine de Monteillet 2016. It is made by Stéphane Montez, who says his father taught him the “recipe” – Cuvée de Papy, or Grandpa’s wine, was created in 1989 when his father Antoine became a grandfather for the first time. It’s a delightful and very easy to drink wine despite its depth. It is made from the best vines (at least 30 years old) on the best slopes, granite soil, made in the best wooden fûts or vats. It is also made differently each year. Read this as: a wine with a lot of love behind it. I was keen to open a bottle at home after a lengthy visit with Stéphane in the winery where we tasted mainly (a lot!) of barrel samples. The winery produces 200,000 bottles a year yet Stéphane appears to have a personal relationship with each barrel (see my report on two Côte Rôtie wineries).
The problem is that Montez recommends that you drink the wine when it is older – an excellent idea except that I wanted to see what it’s like now. For impatient souls like me, and we are many, he wisely notes on the bottle that if you’re going to drink it young, and it can be enjoyed this way, be sure to carafe it for an hour or two.
I did this, and kept sipping to see how it changed. It did indeed open up nicely and was a much more complex and interesting wine after the oxygen went to work on it. Deeply juicy and spicier after time in the carafe, with a long finish. We had roast chicken and potatoes plus pumpkin cubes with slightly caramelized onions. A nice combination all around. €22.50 cellar price
Our second bottle was from the north of northern Syrah wines region: Valais, which is creating some seriously good Syrah wines. A wine producer in Côte Rôtie told me he admires these Swiss wines which are more delicate and discreet yet very elegant.
Christophe Abbet from Martigny has been making a name for himself over the past 20 years and has become one of the new darlings of Swiss wine media as an “artiste” and unpretentious wine producer. He deserves the acclaim.
His unfussy 2015 Syrah might be fine without the carafe, but I decided that 3-4 years is still young for these wines that age so well. It is a perfect example of what a clean, pure Syrah can be like. The nose and mouth were all black fruit, perhaps the result of the warm summer that year. A hint of leather and prunes, but this is a concentrated and elegant wine that is very harmonious, with no heavy notes. Smooth and well-integrated tannins. CHF34 at Cave SA in Gland (which also sells Monthez’s wine)