Syrah is often considered the workhorse of the vineyard – tough and easy to grow, able to withstand robust treatment in the cellar and consistently producing quality wines. “Here at Creation however, we see a far more delicate side of Syrah,” says co-owner, cellarmaster and viticulturist, Jean-Claude Martin. “It is an expressive cultivar, showing very different personalities when grown in different conditions, and there is an especially noticeable stylistic difference between Syrah from a cool climate and examples from warmer climates.”
In any climate there are several processes which occur during ripening: sugar accumulates and acidity tends to decline while pigment and phenols develop and tannins mature. These all occur at different rates and are influenced by a number of factors, climate being the most significant. The aim of the winemaker is to harvest the grapes just as these elements are in balance.
In warm climates sugar levels rise fairly quickly while acidity declines – and with sugar determining the potential alcohol of the finished wine, sometimes warm climate Syrah needs to be picked with unripe phenols or else there’s a risk of excessive alcohol and flat acidity. Syrah from warm areas tends to exhibit a riper plummy fruit note, it is often fuller and richer than cool climate Syrah.
In cooler climates Syrah tends to be a leaner wine, lighter and more defined with excellent acidity. Spicier notes like white pepper, floral notes like violets and earthy savouriness and leather are common flavour profiles. However, in extremely cool climates ripening can be too lengthy and one or more of the processes may not be completed, leading to a fundamentally unbalanced wine.
According to Jean-Claude the secret to producing excellent Syrah seems to be, paradoxically, a combination of warm sunny days for ripening and tannin development, and cool nights to retain natural acidity and to keep an even pace. “These are precisely the conditions found here on the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge in the Walker Bay region,” he says. “The unique microclimate is a combination of continentality due to elevation and proximity to the ocean, resulting in a cool night index of 12 degrees Celsius. This means that during the ripening of the grapes the average night-time temperature is 12 degrees cooler than the day-time temperature, a critical factor in the growth pattern of the vine.”
It is interesting to note what Pete Stolpman of Stolpman Vineyards, California recently wrote in his widely read Stolpman Vineyard Wine Journal under the title ‘Cool Climate is Perfect Climate for Syrah. Period’. “Late last year I came across a Heredity Article finding that Syrah is a third degree relative of Pinot Noir. Genetically, Pinot Noir is either Syrah’s great-grandfather, great-uncle, or cousin. The fact that Syrah is a descendant of Pinot Noir proves to me that Syrah should be made in a cool climate style. Nobody in the New World will argue that Pinot Noir should be planted in warmer climates, and neither should its close relative.”
WINE AND THE MECHANICS OF FLAVOUR
Taste and flavour are concepts which we understand through experience, and which undoubtedly contribute to our enjoyment of life on a regular basis. Each meal we prepare is seasoned to our personal taste and we experiment with exotic ingredients and new techniques to improve the way our food tastes, journeying on culinary voyages of discovery. Click to read more.
CREATION HOSTS WOSA USA
Wines of South Africa (WOSA) is a not for profit industry organisation which promotes the export of South African wines to foreign markets. A WOSA USA delegation of buyers recently visited the Cape Winelands, and Creation Wines was chosen to host the Hemel-en-Aarde tasting with these influential industry representatives on Thursday 3 April. Eight wineries from the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley and Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge were in attendance and after the tasting everyone sat down to enjoy a three course meal prepared by Creation chef Warwick Taylor. The menu was as follows:
Seared scallops, braised pork belly, cauliflower, apple, cream
Recommended with Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon blend
Grilled Springbok, snail and blue cheese ravioli, shitake purée, thyme jus
Recommended with Pinot Noir, Syrah and Syrah, Grenache blend
Honey and rosemary crème brûlée, bee pollen, almond sticks
Recommended with Chardonnay
The evening was a huge success: there were lively discussions and firm relationships were built. A big thank
you to WOSA USA, the Hemel-en-Aarde Wine Growers Association and all the delegates who attended the
tasting – we look forward to seeing the wines of the Hemel-en-Aarde taking the American market by storm!