Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


Wine of the week… Syrah is booming or is it?

The phrase that someone’s bark is worse than their bite has taken on new meaning this year with a young puppy now part of the family and the words sprang to mind again last week when visiting Hawke’s Bay. At home I’m hearing a lot of bark and while away in the Bay, I heard a lot about Syrah, only to discover that many winemakers find it tougher to sell than the more ubiquitous Merlot. This is a shame. Syrah has far greater long term potential than mellow Merlot, much as it can impress when given the bells and whistles treatment in the winery. Syrah doesn’t need to try to impress nor to be given bells and whistles. It is innately great.

Syrah didn’t even register as a grape worth writing about back in 1996 in the New Zealand Wine Institute’s annual vineyard numbers. It finally appeared as a grape worth talking about numerically in 1997 when there were 69 hectares nationwide. Today there are over 440 hectares, 339 of which are in Hawke’s Bay where its sales are slower than the buzz around its high quality, according to several winemakers I spoke with last week.

Tough sales aside, the quality of the best Syrahs speaks for itself.

2016 Te Mata Estate Bullnose Syrah $75
Bullnose is one of the oldest Syrah brands in Hawke’s Bay, named after one of the vineyards from which the wine is made. The grapes come from two vineyards, Bullnose and Isosceles, both in the Bridge Pa Triangle; one of the warmer growing areas of Hawke’s Bay, thanks to both soil and climate there. This is a beautiful wine with its deep purple colour and impressive full bodied flavours. A keeper.
The 2016 Te Mata Estate Bullnose Syrah was an aged bottle poured to try. It demonstrates how well Syrah can age because it is still exceptionally youthful even at four years old. The current vintage available is 2018 Te Mata Estate Bullnose.