There are three places in the world where my favorite Syrah wines come from: 1) the central coast of California, especially from Paso Robles and Santa Barbara, 2) Australia (where the grape is called Shiraz), especially from the McLaren Vale and Barossa, and 3) Israel. The northern Rhone Valley of France, of course, has set the standard for Syrah, but these three favorite regions of the world, to me, have raised the standard to a new level of distinction in the modern era of winemaking. Syrah, with its rich, concentrated, succulent flavor and brilliant texture, is a most deliciously approachable red wine—even more approachable than the king of reds, Cabernet Sauvignon—and, very importantly, an eminently easy companion to a variety of foods at the dinner table.
The 2013 FLAM Syrah Reserve is a prime example of why Israeli Syrah must be tasted to be believed. Winemaking has been a part of the culture for 3,300 years, and something about the incredible makeup of the ancient terrain of the Judean Hills—including a variety of clay, volcanic soil, rock and stone—brings about a beautifully complex Syrah with an exquisite sense of terroir. All the elements of a great wine are in harmony here: aroma, flavor, texture, structure, balance, complexity and length. There’s a saline quality to the texture that glides along with the wine’s expressive notes of red currant, red cherry, bacon, baking spice and cedar. The ripeness of the fruit is just right, and the smooth journey ends on a tinge of smoky pepper and spice.
Israel, despite its long history of political strife, is a land of wondrous beauty. It’s a beauty borne out of complexity. There’s a famous saying, sometimes credited to Plato, that goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” When creating beauty becomes necessary in an environment where the threat of violent upheaval is commonplace, perhaps beauty continues to reinvent itself through nature’s vines. Beauty’s persistence certainly makes itself evident in this lovely Syrah. –J.M.
P.S. The wine is kosher.