Why Is California Syrah So Hard To Sell?

by Tim Elliott on January 27, 2011

Syrah vineyard post

Photo by kasei via Flickr

I tasted today at Pax Mahle’s new venture, Wind Gap, and his Syrah stood out from the other wines, particularly from Griffin’s Lair Vineyard. That’s to be expected since his method is almost the same as when he made wine, and built his reputation, at his eponymous winery. The difference is the fruit is not picked so late to make almost over the top wines that have challenges aging and staying in balance. I was impressed with his evolution as a winemaker and will post my notes on all the wines tasted shortly.

But as I tasted the rich yet aggressively mineral Griffin’s Lair Syrah I reflected on how difficult this wine would be to sell. First, this is not a wine someone new to wine would appreciate. Complex in aroma with plenty of bacon and black and blue fruits, the flavors are tight with a minerality that make it difficult for many mainstream wine drinkers to appreciate. But this Syrah was one of the best I’ve tasted in a long time and more closely paralleled Syrah from the Rhône. And it’s price, $48, seems very fair for the quality.

Even with that going for it, Syrah at this level is challenging to sell and I can’t figure out why. So when I read Gerald Boyd’s post at winereviewonline.com today I was hoping there would be something there that explained it. Sadly, he’s as perplexed as me.

So what’s the deal?

via Wine Review Online

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  • Grub and Vine

    I am an old world syrah drinker, and what you describe in Griffin’s Lair sounds heavenly. But you’re right, this wine will be hard to sell to the masses in the US. I think the reason why is because American syrah is stuck in no man’s land. They still like Bordeaux varietals an awful lot, and meanwhile there is zinfandel and Aussie shiraz if they want something fruity. That said, I think syrah drinkers quickly find the Rhone if that style is more to their liking, and if that is the case, they cannot tolerate $48 for a bottle that isn’t perfect.

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