Syrah

Syrah is increasingly common in rosé blends as production shifts away from red wines across the south. Historically, it is a Rhône variety, but it takes a backseat role in Provence too. It is unlikely that it will progress much further for rosé, as producers say that it is struggling in the warmer vintages, especially in coastal vineyards. Despite this, Syrah is still often thought of as a prestige grape, and Syrah-dominant rosés can command a higher price tag and serious winemaking.

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Under-extraction and over-filtration can lead to a distinctive and (in our opinion) rather unappealing purple-blue tint to the rosé that is unique to Syrah. This is difficult to capture on camera, but is best described as having the red-purple-blue tints of a red wine, but with intensity or saturation bleached out. Unfined or unfiltered, the wines are fuller-bodied and can be quite dark, a reputation that some Syrahs wear with pride. One of the most-used methods to mitigate this intense colour is early harvesting followed by extreme chilling before pressing the grapes. Especially in cooler, ‘difficult’ vintages such as 2021, this can result in a slightly lean, austere and acidic rosé if not subsequently blended with juice from riper fruit.

Some Syrah-majority rosés exhibit intense floral thiol notes or boiled sweet character, but well-made Syrah rosés should be somewhat reminiscent of a good Syrah red – full of berry fruit, spice, gently peppery and spicy, an intense colour and stunning ripe structure that can hold up to oak. Good examples of Syrah rosés that achieve this richness include Château Rasque in Provence, whose Cuvée Clos de Madame is an unusual 85% Syrah and 15% Rolle, a rich, intense, structural rosé with plenty of black cherries and a chocolatey silkiness. In the Rhône, Domaine Mourchon’s Soubois is 100% Syrah in most vintages, and is a good example of how Syrah benefits from 5-6hrs of maceration and a few months of oak, leaving it with stunning intensity of dark fruit and a weighty structure. When allowed to take on a little colour, inexpensive Syrah rosés from top cooperatives can be stunning – Collines du Bourdic in Duché d’Uzès and Alma Cersius near Béziers both make excellent single-varietal Syrahs. There is a small trend in top rosé estates to train the variety sur échalas, as in the Northern Rhône, with each vine trained on its individual stake. This can help ventilate the rows and keep the vines healthy. Clos du Temple, Miraval and Château Cohola are the major proponents of the technique.