What’s in a name? The wine is just as sweet

  • Maison M Chapoutier: the Chapoutier family have been in the Rhone Valley for 200 years (Photograph supplied)
  • Sharing time: Michel says he is a winegrower, winemaker and a wine-lover (Photograph supplied)

When asked what is the difference between syrah and shiraz, I usually reply that it is like asking what makes a German Shepherd different from an Alsatian? Same dog, different name.

This also applies to the grape question. The 4,000-year-old city of Shiraz in Iran of course lends its name to the grape; I love the story of how it all began with our very first wine grape thousands of years ago.

I quote a site called Persian Tradition: “According to an ancient Persian legend, the history of wine began with a beautiful princess who lost favour with the mythological King Jamshid.

Overwhelmed with pain and sorrow, the princess tried to poison herself by drinking juice from a jar filled with spoilt grapes. After experiencing the juice’s intoxicating effects, she fell asleep.

The next morning the princess awoke, and she discovered she no longer felt depressed but rejuvenated instead.

She took her discovery to the king who became so enamoured with this new ‘potion’ that he accepted her back and she regained his favour.

“Thereafter, the king shared this wonderful finding with his entire court and decreed that all grapes grown in Persepolis would be devoted to winemaking.”

Syrah dominates in the Rhone Valley, where it is often blended with other grapes, but our Chapoutier 2015 Crozes-Hermitage Les Meysonniers is a 100 per cent syrah from one of the largest biodynamic winemakers in France.

Its appearance is a very intense purplish red and the nose is of blackcurrant and jammy raspberry followed by violet aromas.

The finish is spicy. Like most wines from this grape, it is hearty and just fine on a cold winter’s evening. $28.95

The Chapoutier family have been making wine in the Rhone Valley since 1808.

Michel Chapoutier took over the family business in 1990 from his grandfather to create wines which really began to speak of their origin.

Michel sees himself as a “winegrower, winemaker and a wine lover”, all of which have allowed M. Chapoutier to become one of the most recognised and awarded biodynamic wine producers in the world. Chapoutier Cote-Rotie Les Becasses 2014 is another 100 per cent syrah from an area that first became popular in Rome in the latter BC years.

The ferruginous and mica-schist soils allow the grapes to express themselves with tremendous power and great elegance with lovely floral notes, sweet spices and black raspberries. For fermentation, indigenous yeasts allow the terroirs to begin expressing themselves from this key stage in the winemaking process. $71

If we travel south to Australia we will find that the preferred name is shiraz and their wines are full of New World sunshine and excitement and not as reserved as their French cousins.

In fact, as I have just returned from Christmas in Canada, let me quote their wine critic Natalie Maclean as she describes Mollydooker The Boxer 2016 Shiraz: “This kick-a** Australian red wine from Sarah & Sparky Marquis is not for the faint of palate. It’s for those who want a blockbuster experience. Pair with a pepper steak or with gourmet burgers and all the fixings heaped high. A hefty red wine with a great right hook on the palate!

“Despite high alcohol, it still comes together within the context with this towering wine. Black fruit, smoke and rich fruitcake aromas on the nose. Full-bodied and supple with generous layers of flavour. Loaded with black fruit, the 2016 vintage of The Boxer Shiraz offers blackberry jam and dark spice on the finish. 91/100.” $35.85.

You may be wondering about the name. It is derived from the fact that Sparky, sadly no longer with Sarah, was once a boxer.

I have met Luke, the blue-eyed son of Sarah and Sparky, and he gives his name to Mollydooker Blue Eyed Boy 2016 Shiraz that is dense in colour with vibrant dark purple hues. A complex, alluring and lifted nose of blueberry, dark cherry, caramel and hints of vanilla bean leap from the glass. Powerful yet delicate, the wine voices luscious layers of fresh berries, black pepper, coffee and a finishing note of chocolate cream. Full-bodied, well-defined tannins provide the backbone, as the wine fills the mouth and continues to evolve with every glass poured. Robert Parker rates it 92/100 and we sell it for $55.70.

If you are forward-thinking about a valentine gift, then let me plant the idea of Mollydooker Carnival of Love 2014 Shiraz that placed 30 on the Wine Spectator,/i>’s top 100 wines for 2016. This is how they felt: “95/100. Bold, expressive, velvety and generous, with ripe cherry and plum flavours at the core. Complex details of vanilla bean, liquorice, Earl Grey tea and gingerbread explode on the long finish. Drink now through 2030.” $84.50.

On another occasion we must travel to the Americas where this grape is very content to grow and offer us lovely wines.

This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. E-mail or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George’s (York Street, 297-0409). Visit ,/i>