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Weingut Ziereisen, Syrah "Gestad", 2008

Nowadays everyone seems to expect the Spanish Inquisition. Well, maybe not exactly Monty Python's torture team with the comfy chair, but with the internet full of surprising wine finds presenting something unusual has become harder. Even so I hope that writing about German Syrah will be unusual enough to attract some attention - at least enough to keep you stuck to your chairs, trembling with anticipation, until my co-Rambler returns from his holiday to give you part two of Speak, barrel sample.

So here it is, the 2008 Syrah from a Baden producer who is at least as unusual and charming as his wines.

And that makes Hanspeter Ziereisen quite unusual, after all German Syrah is a real rarity. It is so rare that it is usually not listed in statistics and often it will have the words "Syrah aus Versuchsanbau" in small print on the label, like Ziereisen's Gestad. Translated literally Versuchsanbau stands for "trial/test growth". What it means is that the estate has been given permission to sell wines made from a grape variety that has not yet been officially certified for commercial use in a particular region - Germany, like other wine growing countries, regulates grape varieties.

Even so there are several dozen hectares of Syrah planted in Germany and the wines I have tried so far have been so good that the word "trial" is not to be used within a few hundred kilometres distance from them as far as I am concerned.

Ziereisen's Syrah has been matured for 16 months in 25% new barrique barrels and 75% large oak barrels and is unfiltered. The wine that has resulted from this process will not compete for your attention with fruit explosion aromas or muscular, animal smells. Instead its bouquet is a rather elegant blend of smoky, herbal and berry aromas with a touch of meat broth that reveals its complexity slowly. With aromas such as bramble, eucalyptus smoke or wooden spice boxes it made me think of the French country side somewhere in the south.

The woodland experience continues on the tongue with flavoursome herbs and spices and a lighter earthiness that, together with the fresh acidity reminded me almost of a Pinot Noir. Don't mistake me, the Gestad has Syrah muscles and fruit (sour cherry for instance), also tannin, but the overall impression is of a cool lightness that does not need to show much muscle to impress. I also remember a distinct dryness mid-palate followed by more fruit in a good finish and vegetable aromas that came out more on the second day.

Combined with the rather low alcohol level this makes Ziereisen's Syrah a red wine I could with much pleasure drink every day, preferably in the aforementioned comfy chair, but a normal chair on a late summer's eve terrace somewhere along the Rhone would also be fine.

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