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Stark-Conde Stellenbosch Syrah 2012
I never went to school to study winemaking but rather did my time reading books and experimenting along the way. I'm pretty stubborn, which turns out to be a good thing.
Crafting wine requires patience and the crazy belief that the shortest line drawn between two points may not always be the right one. Take a simple task like fruit-sorting. That's when we meticulously go through all the de-stemmed berries to pick out any under-ripe or bird-damaged fruit, leaves, stems and other MOG (Matter Other than Grapes). During harvest. there comes a point when everyone's exhausted and baskets of grapes keep coming. It's even debatable how much difference sorting will make in the end. That's when the stubborn kicks in.
Sometimes I wonder if I'm the only one having so much fun. We stick to traditional winemaking methods; we ferment our juice in open tanks, do hand-punchdowns around the clock, basket press, and mature the wines in small French oak barrels. The name Stark-Condé is a simple marriage of my wife's family name and my own.
- José Conde, winemaker
South Africa’s most famous wine-producing district, Stellenbosch, surrounds its historic town with the same name; fine winemaking here dates back to the late 1600s. Its valleys of granite, sandstone and alluvial loam soils between the towering blue-grey mountains of Stellenbosch, Simonsberg and Helderberg have the capacity to produce beautiful wines from many varieties. The climate is warm Mediterranean, tempered by the cool Atlantic air of nearby False Bay.
Perhaps most well-known for its Pinotage and Bordeaux blends, Stellenbosch also produces noteworthy wines from Syrah, Chenin blanc, Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc. The district’s wards—Banghoek, Bottelary, Devon Valley, Jonkershoek Valley, Papegaaiberg, Polkadraai Hills and Simonsberg-Stellenbosch—all produce distinctive wines from vines with relatively low yields.
Marked by unmistakable deep purple hue and savory aromatics, Syrah accounts for a good deal of some of the most intense, powerful and age-worthy reds in the world. Native to the Northern Rhône, Syrah still achieves some of its maximum potential here, especially from Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie.
Syrah also plays an important component in the canonical Southern Rhône blends based on Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, adding color, depth, complexity and structure to the mix. Today these blends have become well-appreciated from key appellations of the New World, namely Australia, California and increasingly, with praise, from Washington.
In the Glass
Syrah typically shows aromas and flavors of purple fruits, fragrant violets, baking spice, white pepper and even bacon, smoke or black olive. In Australia, where it goes under the name Shiraz, it produces deep, dark, intense and often, jammy reds. While Northern Rhône examples are typically less fruity and more earthy, California appears increasingly capable of either style.
Flavorful Moroccan-spiced lamb, grilled meats, spareribs and hard, aged cheeses are perfect with Syrah. Blue cheeses are perfect with a dense and fruit-driven Australian Shiraz.
Due to the success of Australian “Shiraz,” winemakers throughout the world have adopted this synonym for Syrah when they have produced a plush and fruit forward wine made in the Australian style. As an aside, Australians are also fond of tempering their fruit-forward Shiraz by blending with Cabernet Sauvignon, which adds depth and structure.