Tasting California's "Rhone Rangers" I have been thinking that these Syrah/Shiraz (and blends) are much more "French" than their Aussie cousins. Not stylistically, but there is something different and just couldn't put my finger on it. In search of answers, I paired two good examples (blind) from California and Australia with a roast leg of lamb:
The 2004 Unti Syrah (Dry Creek Valley) was bought at the winery in October, a visit suggested by knowledgeable locals. Deep purple in the glass, it smelled of grape jelly on first pour, evolving over the evening into more Rhone-like cheese and charcuterie notes. More reserved than the Aussie below (but a touch hotter), elegantly delivering a supple dose of fine tannins and fruit that lingered long enough to suggest a few more years in the cellar.
cork. 14.8% alcohol
Price: US$26 (winery)
The 2004 Kilikanoon "Killerman's Run" Shiraz (South Australia) was a deep cherry red with great aromatics. More meaty and leathery than the Unti, with fresh blackberries, black pepper, liquorice and walnuts intertwined. Well made but predictable on the palate, with a full dose of soft, luscious, vanilla fruit and dense tannins. A long finish, this wine should be put away for a few years.
screw top. 15% alcohol
Price: C$22.95 (SAQ)
Despite the more apparent alcohol, the Unti showed a more elegant "French" touch and paired better with the meal. The higher score for the Kilikanoon reflects more depth and complexity, with the alcohol being less up front, but I found it didn't match up to the dinner as well.
When in Sonoma I recall someone mentioning that the Syrah clones in California are the same as those in the Rhone, unlike Australia. I have not verified that - anybody out there know the answer?