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It took two years to find all the desired candidates for this comparative tasting of legendary Syrahs from the old and the new world. In the end, there were even more than we reasonably wanted to taste, so that not all big names could be tasted. The aim of this tasting was by no means to determine the best of all Syrah, let alone to answer the question from which continent the finest wines of this noble variety come from. Both would have been nonsense. We were very well aware that we were comparing apples and oranges. Rather, it was about comparing a wide variety of styles at the very highest level

An Erlangen wine collector had invited the Swiss and local full-blooded hedonists to his garden already in the afternoon. What is the intelligent way to start such a tasting on a very sunny Saturday afternoon in June? Correct. A port wine riddle.

Amazingly, the 97 Quinta do Noval was even guessed by one of the participants: Exquisitely dense, glossy purple. Smoky, spicy scent of black cherries, as well as preserved red and black berries, some oak with a dark toasty aroma, clove, after a while also plums and floral notes, minerality hidden in the background. Exceptionally vibrant, fresh juicy fruit, lovely sweetness, flavors of cocktail cherries, red berries, plums and mint, crisp and very racy, smoky aromatics on the palate, present, highly refined tannins, great power and depth, ethereal notes in the beguiling finish. Until 2035. 95 points.

The refreshment that followed came in the form of an 82 Krug Vintage and a nice portion of caviar Beluga Imperial, for which even my foot-sick grandmother would have made a blissful pilgrimage to the Crimea without hesitation. The Krug, on the other hand, didn't seem to be in top form and would hardly have prompted the same lady to get up from the couch, especially if she had had to take her eyes off the Musikantenstadl for a few seconds to do so.

Well, it wasn't that bad, though. The particulars: Pale gold with the finest perlage. Woody and still slightly yeasty nose of mealy apples, some lemon, oyster shells and herbs, intense and ripe with vegetal and mineral nuances. In the mouth clear, tart fruit, fine-juicy, relatively restrained acidity, again herbal and citrus, mineral, almost smoky aromas in the background, very dry, detached style, persistent on the palate, but without the usual race, firmness and tension, yet harmonious and very long. Until 2005. 88 points.

The refusal of the brilliant afternoon sun to set gave the host an opportunity to harp a bit on his hobbyhorse: the great white wines of Alsace.

Although served undercover, the '89 Gewürztraminer Clos Windsbuhl from Zind-Humbrecht had no chance to hide its identity: light gold with green reflections. Creamy, intense and beguiling aroma: cooked peaches, mango, some green fruit, plus finest herbs and dried rose petals, mineral spice in the background. Full-bodied and juicy, creamy texture, wonderful, elegant acidity, mineral backbone, almost smoky on the palate, dense and profound, great power, tremendously persistent, absolutely harmonious, enormous length. Quite big and the ideal companion of a pearl hungalantine with marinated peperoni, zucchini, mushrooms and chanterelles. Through 2010. 96 points.

Two more classics followed the press head. First, the '89 Cuvée Frederic Èmile Vendanges Tardives from Trimbach: brilliant yellow-green. Restrained, "airy", distinctly mineral scent of herbs, lemon and some white peach with a hint of green asparagus. Very juicy and rich in the mouth, full-bodied, fine-creamy fruit, delicate sweetness, mineral spice, lively, thanks to perfectly integrated acidity, fine mineral also on the palate, very persistent, great balance, very fine finish. Until 2015. 93 points.

Its big brother, the '89 Clos Ste. Hune Vendanges Tardives went one better, as expected: creamy bouquet of peaches and ripe citrus fruits with delicate herbal aromas, carried by intense mineral spice. Firm, juicy fruit, intensely mineral, a hint of herbs, restrained, delicately honeyed sweetness, finest acidity, deep and persistent on the palate, very firm structure, it seems as if some of the most beautiful flavors are still locked in the core, like sailors in a damaged submarine, great presence and race, amazingly fresh fruitiness, perfectly balanced, forever long. A justifiably legendary Riesling, nowhere near its peak yet. 2005-2030. 95+ points.

It was time, for the main course as well as the first Syrah of the evening. The grill man solemnly declared both lamb and saddle of venison deceased, so they could be carved and served without resistance, for which the fig salad, which had already begun to bore, was grateful. It was accompanied by a 98 Cote Rotie Cote Blonde from René Rostaign, served blind, which no one took the precaution of guessing: purple with minimal lightening. Youthful, tannic, decidedly red-berry nose that became more beguiling with time; increasingly aromas of cocktail cherries, dried flowers, minerals and some toasted oak. Focuses much more on elegance than power in the mouth: fine and straightforward, very clear fruit, cool style, finest, present tannin, taut structure, seems considerably leaner than it is, delicate smoky note on the palate, very persistent, fruity and cool wood-spicy finish. Needs time. 2005-2015. 91 points.

In the break that now followed, Abendrot found the opportunity for a special performance before things got really serious. The 18 wines of the official tasting were arranged in flights of two. These were given names that had undoubtedly occurred to the host late at night after drinking a not inconsiderable number of generously sized glasses of port (and were therefore in his native tongue). The flights were served blind and revealed immediately after the tasting, which was not a problem as none of the tasters were aware of all the wines on offer and most were not aware of any at all. To avoid any major confusion, we were also not told the flight names until after they were revealed. So now let me raise the curtain.

1.Act: Underratet Authentics1
.) An astute participant tipped the '83 Hermitage by Jean-Louis Chave, giving the Swiss team a 0-2 lead (one point each for vintage and wine). The English referee smiled, which caused a heated discussion regarding his impartiality among the German players right at the beginning. The truth was - as always - in the wine: Intense, deep bouquet: smoky oak, red berries, minerals and spices; very complex. Juicy, racy and again smoky in the mouth, multi-layered fruit, tightly woven and profound, highly refined, ripe tannin, lively acidity, great persistence, complex finish. A classic in its best age. 94 points.

2.) A Penfolds Grange, there was no doubt possible, only the vintage could not be clearly determined. It was also an 83 (1:2): deep, overwhelming aromas of plums, cherries, dry flowers, some smoke, wood and liquorice with wonderful spicy aromas. Very deep, dense, concentrated fruit, juicy, with very present tart tannin, some licorice and Swiss herbal sugar on the palate (a complaint against the Swiss team to the doping commission is pending), great power and complexity, yet full of fruit, very present and incredibly long. Still a youthful masterpiece. 97 points.

2.Act: New World Dinosaurs1
.) Not for nothing does Eric S. have the reputation of a safe bank in the German team's storm
The Californian Orion Old Vines Rossi Vineyardby Sean Thackery was - albeit without vintage - mercilessly unmasked. It was the '94 (2:2): extremely perfumed aromas of clove, Irish moss, herbs, red berries, wood, eucalyptus and bay. Juicy-sweet, full-bodied fruit, perfumed again, though far less exotic than on the nose, fine, ripe, very present tannin, lining the mouth, tremendous power on the palate, a freight train runs over you at car speed and there were no barriers to be seen far and wide, very juicy, medium-long finish. 90 points.

2.) Prue and Steven Henschke's 94 Hill of Grace completed the course entirely unrecognized, but hardly less admired for that: Enormously concentrated, sweetly woodsy nose of red berries but also dark fruit, some rum pot, complex, beguiling spice with floral aromas in the background. Also of great concentration and density in the mouth, taut, juicy fruit, distinctly pure style, highly refined, present tannin, taut, with beautiful acidity, tremendously powerful on the palate, great presence and length. 96+ points.

3. Act: New Age Designer Wines1
.) Domaine Gauby's '99 Muntada was unfortunately marred by a slight hump
Nevertheless, it already let us know its extraordinary concentration on the nose: black and red berries, fine smoky wood, with time also burnt rubber. Very concentrated and juicy also in the mouth, thereby of relatively cool kind, very finest tannin, gripping structure, much strength and fat, very lasting, best balance, great length. Difficult to judge, although the Böckser evaporates in the air. (93-95 points.)

2.) A solo effort by the author now helped the German team to 3-2. The Fox Creek Reserve was hard to mistake, only the vintage (the '98) was once again impossible for me to determine with certainty: Tremendously dense, fleshy perfume of thickened, fully ripe plums, red and black berries, fine wood, and traces of iodine and licorice. Highly concentrated and juicy, deep, full-bodied, dark fruit, lush, finest tannin, very nice acidity, some wood in the background, best balance, very long. 95 points.

4. Act: The Intellectuals1
.) Immediately we followed up! No doubt, this was the '89 Hermitage La Chapelle from Paul Jaboulet: at first a clear cellar gout, which soon fades away, then red berries and dried tomatoes, oak, slightly oxidative, but very dense and intense. Juicy, dense and spicy in the mouth, fine, ripe, quite soft tannin, delicately smoky in the background, mineral note, very nice fruit, also some tomato again, grippy and very persistent on the palate, slightly oxidative touch, great length. 93 points. 5:2!

2.) The Swiss scored the final goal: 5:3 thanks to a perfectly identified 89 Cote Rotie La Landonne from Etienne Guigal, albeit without a vintage: juicy, spicy nose of red berries, smoky oak and tar with animal and very slightly lactic notes and dark toasty aromas. Juicy fruit with very present, fine, still somewhat drying tannin, behind it very nice fruit, good acidity, light herbal spice in the background, decidedly persistent, good but not great length. 94 points. According to the scorer, a bottle tasted earlier was in even more impressive condition.

5.Act: Indestructible Classics1
Jaaaaa, a Grange!" the call echoes through the sold-out Bubenreuth Stadium
At the same time, the wine is recognized by both parties, even though they can't agree on a vintage. This '90 impressively shows us why the name Penfolds Grange BIN 95 stands for one of the very great wines of this world (6:4): tremendously fine, even subtle and yet fascinatingly profound nose: red and black berries, cherries, delicately smoky oak, eucalyptus, dried fruits and complex spice aromas with delicate oxidative notes. Impressive, juicy yet cool and subtly spicy fruit, tremendous depth and presence, terrific tannin (does steel silk exist?), gorgeous, berry fruitiness on the palate, possesses race and style, perfectly built, great length. 97+ points.

2.) A classic followed, giving the German team 2 points virtually off the cuff (8:4). 1990 Hermitage La Chapelle, Paul Jaboulet: canned tomatoes! No great La Chapelle can do without them. Plus cold smoke, soup vegetables, meat stock, dark wood, red berries, plums, herbs and fresh tobacco. Very firm and very dense, juicy fruit, highly fine, present tannin, seems closed like Fort Knox on a Tuesday in August, fine tart tobacco note on the palate, very slightly oxidative, profound, a lot of pressure on the palate, which indicates enormous concentration, mineral in the background, great length. Still needs an eternity. 93 points as first bid, the award will probably be at a much higher level.

6. Act: Les Mono-Cépagistes1
) You only have to taste it once to recognise it again and again, the Duck Muck from Wild Duck Creek in Heathcote, Australia
Sadly, none of the attendees knew it before this tasting: already on the nose of blasphemous sweetness, exuberant, red and black fruits, herbs, alcohol and a botanical garden of flavours that would deprive any believer per respective gods. Very juicy, very full-bodied and very, very, very (another one? Absolutely:), very sweet, decidedly fine, ripe tannin, delicate smoky oak note in the background, fresh acidity, surprisingly taut on the palate, great power, strong alcohol, perfect wine design, just lacks a bit of character for me, long. 93 points.

2.) Another distinctive wine is Chaputier's '95 Ermitage Le Pavillon (10:4): initially decidedly sweet red berries on the nose, then tending increasingly toward wild berries, notes of pepper, juniper and Provence spices, great breed. Juicy, decidedly pure-toned fruit, very firmly structured, cool style, straightforward, tightly wrought and very racy, first-rate, highly refined tannins, juniper notes on the palate, persistent, perfect balance, very long, juicy finish. 95+ points.

7. Act: The Spice Girls1
.) Helen Turley's 96 Petite Sirah Hayne Vineyard acted more or less as a pirate, and consequently no one recognized
Totally closed nose: grass and herbs, preserved black and red fruits behind, with dark smoky wood aromas. Ultra concentrated and extremely dense in the mouth, very firm, racy tannin, lots of power and noticeable alcohol, spicy oak on the palate, absolutely unapproachable at the moment, long, spicy finish. King Kong with depression. 94-97 points.

2.) Surely this couldn't be another Chaputier? Yes, it could. It was the '96 Ermitage L'Ermite, the house's new top cuvée: tremendously impressive nose: sweet wood, juicy red and some black berries, minerals and sweet smoke. Wonderfully racy fruit, full of juice and power, lively acidity and taut tannin, smoky note, mineral, very present on the palate, gripping, of vibrating structure, very, very long. Great! 96+ points.

8. Act: The Big Hitters1
.) One point for Switzerland
The 95 Greenock Creek Barossa Shiraz Roennefeldt Road impressively proved why so much fuss is made about this site: Beguiling, very haunting aroma of varnish, red and black berries, oak and some alcohol. Enormous concentration in the mouth, racy, black berry fruit, lively acidity, taut tannin, does not seem at all clumsy or broad despite the enormous power, greatest sustainability on the palate, gripping, almost compelling presence, smoky wood in the background, greatest length. The dream of every anaesthetist. 97 points.

2.) And one for the German team. The '96 The Malcolm Barossa Shiraz by Magpie presented itself as expected: penetrating aroma: vanilla and dark toasted notes, bread crust, crude oil, liquorice, oak, raisins, herbs, chocolate and plenty of alcohol. Juicy, full and very sweet in the mouth, lots of wood, enormous power, fat and alcoholic, the tannins still behave a bit like the drunken participants of a carnival session, very spicy, great persistence on the palate, lots of sweet fruit in the long finish. One has inevitably the feeling to nibble from something forbidden. 94 points.

9. Act: Drinkable Perfume1
.) A big hit to 10:7 for the Swiss
J.L. Chave's 95 Hermitage Cuvée Cathelin, once tasted, is also likely to be recognizable among thousands of wines: Subtle, beguiling dream nose: plums and red berries, pepper, smoky oak and minerals, very fine and very racy. Clear as a bell, racy, Burgundian fruit, enormous depth and race, lively acidity, tightly woven and tightly laced by the very finest tannin, delicately astringent, still seems very closed, smoky and mineral on the palate, behind it again purest fruit, great presence, eternally long, smoky-mineral and tightly fruity finish. 98 points.

2.) The last Syrah of the evening came again from Australia's Barossa Valley. It was the 95 three rivers from Chris Ringland, released in a ridiculous quantity of 780 bottles. The bottle was captured by Vietnamese coke pirates at the risk of their lives and smuggled through the darkest channels to Erlangen: Extremely deep, sweet and concentrated nose: dried fruits, rum pot, cherries, plums and red berries, noble wood with a fine toasted note, Swiss herbal sugar (Aha! So it is!) and some alcohol. Very firm, full-bodied fruit, juicy and "sweet", lively acidity, delicately smoky, finest, present tannin, profound and immensely persistent on the palate, gripping, finest spice in the background, complex, best balance, stunning length. 98 points.

So, the Swiss team, which is under the strongest suspicion of doping, did not manage to dispute the victory despite a rapid chase. This satisfaction was mild, so we graciously allowed our guests to share in our victory celebration.

Sweet moments call for sweet wines and the following were served in order:

1990 Quarts de Chaume, Domaine des Baumard
Sweet, juicy and very smoky nose of oak, bananas, minerals, asparagus and some sweat


Creamy, decidedly juicy fruit, caramel flavors, nice acidity and fine wood spice, creamy, spicy palate, very persistent, still seems young, great length. 94 points.

1995 Ruster Ausbruch Essenz, Feiler-ArtingerFabulously
profound aroma of wax, honey, apricots and peaches with intense minerality
Creamy taste, extremely concentrated fruit with enormous, very fine sweetness, complex and profound on the palate, again a trace of wax, best balance, very long. 96 points.

1993 Tokaji Aszuessencia, Uri BorokGorgeous
aroma of grilled apricot, caramel, and traces of coffee and wax
Soft, spicy fruit, juicy, notes of bread crust and malt, pretty acidity, smoky on the palate, seems a bit uninvolved all in all, you feel like an uninvited visitor in the studio of an artist as brilliant as he is misanthropic, who acknowledges all questions asked of him with a disinterested look in some other direction, only in the interminable finish does the true greatness reveal itself. Needs time. 97 points.

1996 Kiedricher Gräfenberg Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese, Robert WeilThis
aroma shakes you to the core: creamy scents of caramel, dried apricots, roasted yellow fruits, wax and minerals with a hypnotizing intensity and delicacy
Again very creamy in the mouth, while brilliantly fruity, exceptionally present and tense, sparkling acidity, greatest race imaginable on the palate, dense and profound, completely captivates you, caramel and some toast in the everlasting finish. 99+ points.

1994 Weißer Burgunder Trockenbeerenauslese, Zehnthof / Theo LuckertSweet
, creamy and spicy nose of preserved apricots, some smoke and honey
Fat and creamy in the mouth, juicy fruit with nice sweetness, very good acidity, strong body with mineral structure, firmly wrought and persistent on the palate, notes of caramel, some oak and plums, best balance, great length. 93 points.

To end the night, there were the usual fraternization scenes and the anticipation of a reunion in Switzerland soon.

There we will win by at least 5 points.

For sure.