Sunday, January 11, 2009


Perhaps it's just the geography of this business that makes things this way, but I just recently received the February 2009 issue of Wine & Spirits and on the cover is the new world of Syrah. Now, I love Syrah, but the thing I have been painfully aware of for years is that American Syrah, or any Syrah (Shiraz) for that matter has become a tough sell, particularly if it is over $15. And American Syrah over $30? Forget it! You might as well have your entire store stocked with first growth Bordeaux.

One of my favorites, one that only recently became available in this neck of the woods, Lagier Meredith, is I think indicative of this point. Here you have the 2006 Lagier Meredith Mt. Veeder Syrah, suggested retail $50, rated 94 points (and this wine usually gets high marks from Spectator and Parker as well), is one of a veritable cornucopia of over $30 Syrahs reviewed in this issue of W&S, along with high end Aussie Shiraz and French Syrahs. With the economy as damn dire as it is, will anyone bite on any of these wines? The suggested retail for 2003 Penfolds Grange (93 points) is $300! Are you f'n kidding me?! I truly believe that all of these magazines (W&S, Wine Spectator, Robert Parker, Wine Enthusiast, etc.) only cater to collectors, not consumers, and the unrealistic reviews of ultra-premium wines diminishes any potential for audience expansion.

Why not look at Syrahs under $20? I realize that the issue's content was predetermined, but even back in November, the economy was tanking - the editors should have made a better judgment call. Maybe I am being overly opinionated on the matter, but if I were to order these wines, blindly going on press alone, I would be crucified over the useless inventory, and probably fired for filling the shelves with wines that just won't sell.

Wine Spectator has been trying in vain for years to promote American Syrahs but to no avail. Maybe the current economic times will get all of these winemakers a massive dose of reality, not just the Syrah producers, but all those cult Cab producers, Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy, etc. But I doubt it. As long as there is someone gullible enough to buy them, they'll keep jacking up the prices. And the critics who review them will be nothing more than screaming groupies.

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