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Syrah – ‘an intriguing variety’

The 4th annual New Zealand Syrah Workshop took place at Bayview Chateau Tongariro 14 – 16 February. Attended by a growing number of wineries, from Kaitaia to Canterbury, it was an outstanding success.

Convenor Rex Sunde was thrilled with the ever growing attendance, the quality of New Zealand Syrah, the knowledge imparted by the winemakers and the overseas guest speaker, Dr Daniel Roberts.

The New Zealand Syrah Workshop is held annually to bring together winegrowers in New Zealand to study and improve both viticultural and oenological practices as they apply to the variety Syrah.

Keynote speaker Dr Daniel Roberts is one of the world’s pre-eminent researchers in respect of the viticultural management of Syrah grape vines. He has worked with Syrah in Tuscany (Italy), McLaren Vale (South Australia) and in numerous locations in California (USA). He has visited New Zealand a number of times.

Dr Roberts called Syrah ‘an intriguing variety’. It will grow in both warm climates and in ‘cool climate’ regions. Syrah grape vines exhibit vigorous growth and are prone to severe nutrient issues partly due to this vigour. This variety is widely grown in a number of countries but is relatively new in the New Zealand Vineyards.

He spoke at length on the influence of climate, soil, and vineyard management practices in making the finished wine.

Dr Daniel Roberts concept is to specifically "develop vineyards with minimum harm to soil and environment for the creation of excellent wines." In order to achieve this, each vineyard design is unique in that each vineyard's set of parameters differ radically. Choice of soil type, Syrah clone, correct matching rootstock, vine trellis configuration, and vine row orientation North – South are all important. Functional harmony must exist between what is constructed and the eventual grape product.

Dr Roberts describes the design process as the vineyard owner's "one chance to do it right."

He also enthused about the New Zealand Syrah Workshop concept. It is unique in the world and only takes place here in New Zealand.

“One certainly gains greatly from the discussions, ideas and positive feedback from a wide range of wineries” he said. He added “I am very happy to see the rise in plantings of Syrah and to taste the excellent wines being produced.”

The success of New Zealand grown Syrah can be seen in recent prestigious competitions:

Champion Wine of 2007 Air New Zealand Show; 2006 Trinity Hill Homage.

Champion Wine of 2007 Tri-Nations Challenge; 2005 Craggy Range Le Sol.

The social highlight of the Workshop was the O-I New Zealand Grand Syrah Dinner held in the atrium of the chateau. Guest Celebrity Chef Tony Smith from Boomrock Lodge, Wellington, created a gourmet seven course dinner with wine matches for the guests.

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