Shiraz is the most adaptable red wine grape to different climatic and soil conditions.This was very obvious in this tasting of seven Shiraz. There were wines with big fruit weight and less fruit weight, very peppery wines, powerful and elegant wines, and wines with dark fruit and chocolate, tannic wines, and acidic wines - and they were all excellent.
The first wine was the rare 2014 Kusuda Syrah from Martinborough. This meticulous Japanese winemaker produces a wine of intriguing complexity. This is a lighter style with red plum and forest berry flavours. There is green peppercorn spice, good natural acidity, and long stalky tannins. The wine has strong savoury characteristics (94 points).
The second wine could not have been more different. The 2004 Henschke Mt. Edelstone is a big wine, with black fruits, aniseed and strong oak influence. The fruit is concentrated and generous. Everything is balanced, though. This is a really enjoyable typical high quality Barossa/Eden Valley example (95 points).
Then we came to four wines from the Northern Rhone. The first was a mature 2001 Chapoutier Côte-Rôtie. Dark concentrated fruit was dominated by earthy and secondary flavours. Therefore, some layered fruit flavours, which would have been there 5-10 years ago, have disappeared. French oak was strong, and the tannins high. Most noticeable was the high level of acidity, which was too much for me. This wine split the tasters (93 points).
Wine of the night was the 2012 Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage Rouge. Concentrated and powerful, with blackberry and boysenberry fruit, this wine had the hallmarks of premium Shiraz: it is peppery, with some sweetness and silky tannins. At the same time, it was the most elegant wine of the night (96 points).
The 2009 Delas Côte-Rôtie La Landonne gave a really aged impression (not in a bad way). Raspberry fruit, aniseed, concentrated gamy flavours gave way to earthy and rustic notes on the mid-palate, before it finished with mellow tannins. The balance of the wine was still good (95 points).
A real surprise was the 2016 Pierre Gaillard St Joseph Rouge. This is a highly perfumed wine with fresh floral notes. Dark fruits and earthy components dominate the elegant palate. Salty and savoury flavours add to complexity. This wine shows a great balance between fruit weight, acidity and firm tannins (95 points).
The final wine of this blind tasting was an Australian classic: the 2010 Penfolds St. Henri. This wine is quite big for the brand, reflecting the excellent vintage; deep purple, concentrated, dark. This inky wine of Barossa character has licorice and meat, but is peppery as well. The large barrel used oak plays a support role. Despite its concentration, this wine invites you to a second glass (95 points).