Lucky to be trying Lismore Estate Reserve Syrah 2018

Lismore Estate Reserve Syrah is something I thought I would not be trying for a while. The one bottle of 2017 I had procured for myself and had saved to open with a particular guest was faulty.

Then in 2019 the winery and some of the vineyards burned down in bushfires destroying the entire 2019 vintage. This was whilst the 2018 was on a ship on its way to the UK, thus it was always going to be in high demand.

A total of 4486 bottles of this wine were produced and that had to do for the entire world. Lismore Estate Reserve Syrah has an enthusiastic world-wide following. It was always going to be difficult to secure some to review for my organ.

Consequently, I was amazed that, through the mere application of money to a wine merchant, a total of two bottles of Lismore Estate Reserve Syrah 2018 became mine! Hooray!

Before preparing to pop one for your edification I should point out that the Lismore Estate Reserve Syrah comes from the new-to-Elitistreview South African region of Greyton and it is grown in high altitude vineyards to produce an elegant style of Syrah. Consequently, it is pretty low in alcohol, as we shall discover as I pop half of my entire allocation of it. Let us commence!

Lismore Estate Reserve Syrah 2018Estate Reserve Syrah 2018, Lismore

Lismore Estate Reserve Syrah 2018 is brilliant. There are no two ways about it, it is simply superb. It is the second best Syrah I have had in this class. What class is that? The group of 12.5% Syrahs.

Actually, let us broaden that out a bit. Partly because I may be wrong about the alcohol level of the best wine in that class, but also because I remember I am not wrong about the quality level of every single other wine in the broader class.

Lismore Estate Reserve Syrah 2018 is the second best Syrah I have had that has between 12% and 13% alcohol. There, I have said it. That is a pretty fucking ballsy statement, but I stand by it.

It is easy to make such a statement because a maximum of 4484 (I have/had two bottles, you see) people will own enough of this wine to have drank a representative sample and I know only a few hundred will have tried the wine I consider the best during the appropriate window. The chances of a crossover are minimal.

Let us forget what I consider the best, which is the objective best, of course, and give you a quick low down on the Lismore Estate Reserve Syrah.

Do not drink it too warm! That would be a mistake. You will lose complex aromatics and only get a crude impression of the true brilliance of this wine.

So whip it out of the cellar, give it twenty minutes to warm up, and sniff.

Lismore Estate Reserve Syrah has the delicious cherry and pepper aromas and flavours of South African Syrah, but they are supremely elegant and poised. It is a model of beauty, harmony and perfection.

Taste and you will find Lismore Estate Reserve Syrah has refined pepper and cherry characteristics. There are some svelte tannins, but the thing I love about this wine that makes me think of the only wine possibly better is that its whole structure on the palate is not really built on tannin- (and acidity-)levels.

The delicious, nervy, edgy fineness of this palate comes from the fact that its taut structure comes from the tension between fruit (cherries, blackberries and some plummy flavours) and acidity. Lismore Estate Reserve Syrah is incredibly elegant, seems highly strung and is charged with a fresh, bright energy because of this.

This is not the kind of structure one often finds in Syrah. Indeed, it reminds me quite a lot of the de Montille Volnay Premier Crus of the 1990s. There is one Syrah that did this exciting, livid energy better, but we shall come to that.

Leave your remaining two-thirds of a bottle, ideally with your Riedel Syrah glass topped up to the correct level as well so the wine in there can have a breathe too and go to cogitate on this unusual but highly engaging structure of a Syrah wine for 20-30 minutes.

When you come back sniff and taste to discover that a new set of aromas and flavours have emerged in the Lismore Estate Reserve Syrah. There are characteristics reminiscent of burning twigs, roast chestnuts and a slight hint of charcoal-grilled steak.

These are supremely attractive and intertwine with the cherry and pepper characters to create a whole edifice that is involute, polished and graceful, yet still with that thrill of life that the acidity/fruit tension gives it.

Now I have mentioned grilled and roasted flavours, you have probably realised the comparison I am going to draw here. This is like an exceeding high-quality Côte-Rôtie.

Let me quickly explain why there is a similarity between this and a Côte-Rôtie. Côte-Rôtie, despite its moniker of the roasted slope is really quite a cool climate for Syrah. Lismore Estate Reserve Syrah has been grown in cool, high-altitude vineyards – hence the similarity.

So, Finally let me get to my comparator wine that I think is the finest Côte-Rôtie I have ever tried: Clusel-Roch Côte-Rôtie Les Grandes Places 1995 – a wine I followed from its release until it was about fifteen years old.

That wine was beyond brilliant, and soon after its release it had a similar palate built around a tension between fruity and roasted flavours in interlaced with commandingly high acidity and some noble tannins.

The Grandes Places 1995 had a real nervy edge to it, amazing vigour and a prodigious concentration of fruit, characteristics shared by this wine. I suggest that the Côte-Rôtie was better than the Lismore Estate Reserve Syrah, but memories of quality can get illuminated by distance.

If you have had both wines and have a better olfactory memory than me – unlikely, I know – drop me a line and I would be quite happy to concede that Lismore Estate Reserve Syrah 2018 is the best 12%-to-13% Syrah that we will have ever tried.

Contact Handford for availability.