The 5 best syrahs in Spain
Syrah is a grape that in Spain and in many parts of the world has solved some of the imbalances in certain blends, so much so that it lives up to the nickname given by José Peñín in one of his last posts (in Spanish), “La syrah nacional, la uva recurrente”.
Many wineries use this grape for blending, in Spain it has been common together with Tempranillo, but they have to rethink its use as a single varietal. To confirm this reality just go to the Guía Peñín database.
Looking at the digital version of the Peñín Guide 2021, we can count 163 wines made only with syrah, while the number of wines blended with other varieties reaches 708 entries. Of the former, only 54 are in the 90-100 points range, barely a third, a truly low number for the fame of this grape variety if we compare it with the single varietals of garnacha, monastrell or tempranillo with a much higher number.
As for syrah blended with other grape varieties, the 90-100 point range was reached by 289 wines, more than 40 percent of the 708 mentioned, which confirms the French variety's better disposition to accompany other grapes.
If we go to the top of the table, i.e. the exceptional wines in the 95-100 point range, only one single-varietal Syrah reaches 95 points. But the curious thing is that in this same range (90-100 = 289 wines) the blended syrahs do not overwhelm by representation either, only 4 brands with 95 points and none exceed this score.
It is as if this grape variety, together with the others, hindered the climb towards the top score of the multi-varietal wines. In all cases, syrah barely shines without any identifiable features. Practically all of them exhibit powerful sunshine with high ripeness of the clusters, some mitigated by the altitude, others by correctly working the shading with the leaf mass and, most interestingly, in most cases from vines grown in sandy-granitic soils.
We have selected the 5 highest rated single-varietal wines of this variety in the Peñín Guide. As you can see the price differences are notorious, from 110 euros to 13 euros, something that may lead us to think about the lack of pretensions and confidence of some of its producers regarding the impact and consequence that they believe their wines can have.
The Garbet estate, located almost on a balcony overlooking the sea, is a challenge to the climate but is subject to the repeated influence of the Tramontana, a wind that fortunately dries the humidity quickly, but also limits grape growth, concentrating the berries. Its characteristics are halfway between the Australian and French models. It has warmth, body, with a colour that is not very intense, but with a certain expression and complexity of ripe fruit, which is the most difficult thing. The vineyard is close to the coast in a steep and very airy area with very well drained soils.
Those who know the wines of the Duero valley know that tempranillo reigns there, a variety close in its growth cycle to syrah and cultivated in this somewhat cooler area of the Spanish continental map. This grape is rare in Castilla y León. Sandy soils with the certain thermal amplitude of the Duero basin, but very "Australian" (chocolate, very intense colour, warm, roasted, black fruit). In the mouth it is very tasty and with a certain fruity complexity.
Their work is about sandy soils and a meticulous care of the vineyard. Watching over the shading of the bunches in an area particularly scourged by the sun. Intense colour, a certain sweetness, although with good acidity, and using a bit of whole bunch to add a balsamic herbal touch. Exemplary work in the field where the draining conditions of the soil and the high temperatures make it necessary to keep a constant eye on the vineyard, bearing in mind that this is the earliest grape in the Gredos area.
700 metres of altitude where this vineyard is located, mitigates to some extent the heat of the Mancha plain. This wine was born from the methodology of Rafa Cañizares, its creator in the first steps of this winery with the Ordóñez Group. Today the Mano a Mano winery belongs to the Avanteselecta group. It is one of the very few wines in La Mancha that has to deal with the Manchego heat without a hint of over-ripeness, capable of combining power, colour intensity and alcohol with a certain freshness and varietal expression.
It has a very intense cherry colour. The aroma evokes coffee and chocolate, it's powerful, the oak shows its creamy side, wrapped by a depth of ripe black fruit. In the mouth it is persistent, with a slight smoky and toasted note in the finish and with firm ripe tannins.
Somewhat close to the sea in the lusher Lower Empordà, syrah is somewhat more comfortable. It boasts a darker colour, certain candied notes, firm yet soft tannin structure, and a more restrained ripeness that leaves a slight herbal and balsamic hint that blends nicely with the spices of an 18-month oak ageing in both new and used barrels.