Friday, 2 March 2012

Domaine Evharis Syrah (2005)

Syrah vines at Domaine Evharis
Greece has probably the longest winemaking history of any European country. Whilst definitive empirical evidence is hard to come by (we are talking about trying to order a series of events that happened over 7000 years ago) it is fairly widely believed that winemaking began in the Middle East around 6000BC, with the knowledge then passed to North Africa (Egypt specifically), before arriving in Greece sometime close to 2000BC. The oldest evidence of winemaking in Greece has been found at a villa on the island of Crete, where a relatively sophisticated grape press was found. The relative sophistication of this device suggests that winemaking had been underway on this site for some time before that, although no definitive date can be put. Crushed grapes have been found in Greece that date back to 5000BC, however no evidence of wine production accompanied this find.

Regardless of exactly when the knowledge of wine production techniques arrived in Greece, what can be said is that this knowledge spread widely and that wine production became very popular. Worship of the god “Dionysos” (God of the grape harvest – and ecstasy!) and the prescription of wine for medicinal purposes assisted. Further, despite the large size of Greece and the varied climates experienced in its different parts, nearly all are vine friendly, which ensured a regular and plentiful harvest of the “Vitis Vinifera” vine that the Greeks cultivated. Nearly all modern grape varieties are ultimately related to this species of vine.

One such modern vine species is surely Syrah (or “Shiraz” as it is known in the “New World”). Thought to have been the result of a crossbreeding of the now obscure grape varieties Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche in the Rhône Valley in the south of France (possibly occurring around 100AD), both of these grape varieties’ genetic histories ultimately lead back to “Vitis Vinifera”. Now grown across Greece (it is one of the more popular non-indigenous grapes to be grown), Greek Syrah can range in style from an almost “New World” style, with soft black fruit flavours and high alcohol in the south of Greece, to a more highly perfumed and spiced style (reminiscent of the northern Rhône) when it is grown towards the north of Greece.

The producer of this particular Domaine Evharis Syrah, Domaine Evharis, is located in central Greece. Sitting within Sterea Ellada (around 1 hour drive north of Athens) founders Eva Boehme and Haris Antonious have around 20 hectares of land under vine. Producing a range of 16 different still red, still white, sparkling white, sparkling rosé and sweet wines each is produced in limited quantities, with around only 1200 cases of this Domaine Evharis Syrah produced each year. After hand harvesting and careful pressing and vinification, this Domaine Evharis Syrah is passed into French oak for 12 months of maturation before bottling.

The bottle of this Domaine Evharis Syrah itself is tall and weighty with high shoulders. The label is white with a purple placard at the centre of the label which denotes the Syrah grapes from which this Domaine Evharis Syrah is crafted. The foil covers a real cork, crafted from one piece of cork of excellent quality. “Domaine Evharis” is stencilled in Greek and English onto the cork along with an image of the Domaine Evharis winery.

In the glass, this Domaine Evharis Syrah is a clear, deep, ruby colour. This Domaine Evharis Syrah's period of oak maturation has barely discoloured the wine towards the rim of the glass. The alcoholic content of this Domaine Evharis Syrah certainly leans towards a new world expression of the Syrah grape (rather than an old world expression) – the alcoholic content is 14% abv.

Pronounced dark fruit leads the nose of this Domaine Evharis Syrah with blackberries and plums forming a soft and appealingly fruity bouquet. A rolling peppery spice adds interest and depth along to this Domaine Evharis Syrah with a touch of vanilla that sweetens the aromas emanating from the glass. All of the separate flavoural characteristics are nicely balanced and it is immediately clear that this Domaine Evharis Syrah is a well made wine.

Once in the mouth, this Domaine Evharis Syrah is dry and full bodied. Dark fruit and spice is again blended harmoniously, weaving a palate that is long and smooth. Moderate acidity that acts as a palate cleansing influence again marks this Domaine Evharis Syrah out as coming from somewhere a little warmer than the Rhône, where a cooler climate tends to produce wines with a little more acidity than this. The influence of oak is more apparent than on the nose, with a smoothing vanilla essence running throughout the palate of this Domaine Evharis Syrah. Whilst tending towards being lush in its fruit, this Domaine Evharis Syrah never becomes flabby or syrupy with a moderate level of tannins maintaining a structure to the palate.

Overall, this Domaine Evharis Syrah is a very accomplished offering. The warm climate of Sterea Ellada and the winemaking skills of Eva Boehme and Haris Antonious offer up ripe, but not overly ripe black fruit and controlled spice in a wine which is as highly enjoyable as it is technically accomplished. Whilst sipping this wine you can almost feel the baking sun of central Greece beating down upon the cracked earth of the vineyards, all the best wines engender a sense of place and this Domaine Evharis Syrah manages to deliver.
Domaine Evharis Syrah (2005)

Score: 85/100 – Accomplished and enjoyable warm climate Syrah

Value for Money: 7/10 – Currently without a UK agent, this Domaine Evharis Syrah would likely retail at around £15 per bottle in the UK. This is in-line with other high quality Greek Syrah.