For years I have listened to wine snobs say "I really enjoy dry wine." Sales figures put the lie to that statement. Most consumers enjoy and buy wines that have a little residual sugar in them. The stats demonstrate growth in our appetite for sugary fruits, and sweetened broccoli is available in the UK! Coffee, beer and spirit coolers are all sweetening up to meet consumer tastes.
If you can embrace your wine sweet tooth, look to Syrah (also known as Shiraz in New World wines). The seventh most grown variety in the world, this black grape has been cultivated in the Rhone Valley since Roman times or earlier. Top bottlings come from Hermitage and Côte Rotie. Excellent wine is also made in Crozes Hermitage, Cornas, and St. Joseph. All of them yield warm grippy wines with deep black berry fruit with black pepper spice and roast meat notes with elements of violets, bacon, iron, wood smoke, black olives, dried herbs, stones and tar. Character will vary with terroir and winemaker's tastes. Syrah pairs beautifully with grilled meats, steaks, stews and game. It also works with pizza. With age, Rhone Valley Syrah becomes even more spicy and complex. The sweetly ripe fruit persists for a decade in Rhone wines and longer in top growths. By the way, Syrah is not related to Petite Sirah.
Outside its home in the Rhone, Syrah has enjoyed huge success in the New World, with the best bottlings coming from South Eastern Australia (think of Penfolds, Wolf Blass and Wyndham Estate) and California (where Rhone Ranger Randall Grahm has vinified it solo and blends it into his flagship wine Le Cigare Volant). Chile and South Africa have been vinifying Syrah for a while now, and they're getting pretty good at it!
If you would like to use it in a cocktail, may I suggest you buy an inexpensive Syrah such as Jacob's Creek, which will fit the bill nicely.
- 1 oz. fresh lemon juice
- 1 oz. fresh orange juice
- 1/2 oz. simple syrup
- 4 oz. chilled light Syrah
- Garnish: Orange slice
- Place the citrus juices and simple syrup in a shaker with ice.
- Vigorously shake and then strained into an ice filled large wine glass.
- Pour in the wine and stir. Garnish.
I can't believe we are still pelted with icy snow and rain…one day the temperature goes up then plunges back down…will spring never arrive?
So to keep you and your guests warm try this mulled syrah cocktail. You won't care one bit what the weather is doing outside, because inside you will feel just fine.
- 1/2 bottle (375 mL) Syrah
- 2 oz. Bourbon (Four Roses or Jim Beam)
- 3 Cinnamon sticks
- 1 Star anise pod
- 1 Strip orange peel
- 1 Strip lemon peel
- 1 tsp. sugar
- Garnish: Cinnamon sticks
- Add all the ingredients to a small saucepan. Heat until warm. Do not boil.
- Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes.
- Serve in mugs. Garnish.
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