Over the years this vine with its roots in the northern Rhone valley in south-east France has become quite comfortable on Waiheke Island, achieving awards out of all proportion to the other varietals grown here.
An ideal island for wine growing
Obsidian Vineyards’ website offers a great commentary on the reasons why this varietal is enjoying great success on Waiheke Island:
“The island has ideal conditions for cool climate winemaking, with its warm summers, lean soils, and lengthy, mild autumns. Wind and soil create a low vigour growing environment where grape vines struggle and produce small but concentrated yields of ripe fruit with intense flavours."
Syrah has peppery notes and it is said that if you can taste black pepper, the grapes have been exceptionally ripe at picking. If the notes are of white pepper, the grapes have been less ripe.
The most memorable winner of Syrah awards has to be Kennedy Point Vineyard, established in 1996 and winners of the prestigious London 2009 Wine Awards – Best Syrah (in the world) with their Kennedy Point Syrah 2007.
Syrah is a sensitive vine, easily disturbed by wind, moisture and the condition of the soil. It is said that if a Syrah is unhappy, the grower will be sure to know about it! Originally it was thought that the New Zealand environment would be too difficult, however in Waiheke Island, it appears to have found a friend.
Awards, awards and more awards
For some many years, the Australians have felt they have held the franchise on wine awards for Syrah/ Shiraz, so there was a stunned response in Hong Kong when the Hay Paddock scooped the trophy for the best Shiraz/Syrah at the 2010 Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Wine and Spirit Competition. The vineyard also collected the trophy and a Gold Medal for its 2006 vintage of the same name.
Obsidian’s 2008 Syrah was awarded 5 Stars by Michael Cooper* the esteemed wine writer and regular contributor to several NZ magazines, who commented that it is a “dense, serious red, powerful, tightly structured and built to last. Deep and youthful in colour, it is fragrant, with highly concentrated plum, cassis, black pepper and nutty oak flavours and a rich, smooth finish.”
Popular Mudbrick Vineyard on the western coast of Waiheke Island is no stranger to wine awards. In 2010 the Mudbrick Vineyard Reserve Syrah 2008 was awarded a prestigious Gold medal in the Tri Nations Wine Challenge in Australia. It beat 351 other wines put forward to be judged by the ‘best of the best’ wine writers from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Wines are entered by invitation only, making the Tri Nations Wine Challenge unique and highly regarded.
Miro Vineyard, situated on the steep sunny northern terraces of Waiheke Island enjoyed success with the product of its 18-year old vines by winning the gold medal at the Air New Zealand Wine Awards in November 2009 for their 2008 Syrah. The wine is described in their own words as having “youthful ruby-hues, with white pepper and berried liquorice notes on the nose”.
Passage Rock on the southern marine coast of the island has enjoyed far too many awards to mention here, however of note Michael Cooper “In 2009 Passage Rock Wines has achieved “the” Classic Status by scoring 5 stars with both the Syrah ’08 and their Reserve 08 Syrah.” This accolade refers to the gold medal awarded at the Air NZ Wine Awards for their 2008 Reserve Syrah and the Silver Medal for their 2008 Syrah.
A day trip from Auckland
Waiheke Island is just 35 minutes by ferry from Downtown Auckland. For a great day trip enjoying some of Waiheke Island's top vineyards, take a tour with Waiheke Island Wine Tours.
* Michael Cooper was appointed Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year’s Honours 2004 for services to wine writing.
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