Craven The Firs Syrah was a recommendation from Helen, a wine advisor at Handford’s shop. She helped make it so I suppose she should know if it is any good!
The Craven outfit is run by an Australian chap who decided that South Africa is the place to make balanced, harmonious wines. If I may pre-empt my note, Craven The Firs Syrah 2018 shows his argument has merit.
Let us crack straight on, shall we?
The nose of The Firs Syrah is most attractive. It has black cherry fruit in abundance and a strong peppery character. As one swirls it in one’s glass the cherry fruit becomes more pronounced and a slight tinge of leafiness appears.
What is really pleasing about The Firs Syrah is that it is not heavy or overbearing in the slightest. The 12.5% alcohol level undoubtedly helps with this, but it has also been, I suspect, gently extracted using the action of Helen’s feet rather than excessive pumping over and almost certainly avoiding the horrors of a long post-alcoholic fermentation soak.
The nose of the Craven The Firs Syrah is fun, fruity and frisky. It is not going to get one monstrously pissed, but it has plenty of charm and energy to keep one engaged. This simply smells genuinely nice and enjoyable.
That impression of fun is carried through to the palate. It is medium bodied at 12.5% with no heavy tannins extracted thanks to it being vinified with 100% whole bunches. This also accounts for the delightful energy and vim that pervades the palate – it is bright, fresh and easy to drink.
The tannins on the palate of this Craven The Firs Syrah are crunchy and fresh and, as I said, far from being over extracted. There is a lot of delicious cherry fruit as well, a good grind of spicy pepper and a leafy edge that makes the palate even more sapid. You could drink this all day and not feel tired!
The Firs Syrah is all about drinking pleasure, maybe not the most scintillatingly complex wine in the world but there is more than enough in terms of real quality to keep one interested and one motors through a bottle (which is what The Editor and I did).
As I drink this, I am reminded quite a lot of Alain Graillot’s basic Crozes-Hermitage. OK, this may not be quite up to the level of sophistication of Alain’s wines, but it comes from a similar mould, albeit South African in character.
Both The Firs Syrah and Graillot Crozes are medium-bodied wines that are primarily a lot of fun to drink. They both have good fruit, are not over extracted and the tannins they have are crunchy and fresh and they are absolutely brimming with energy and vivacity. If you enjoy Graillot’s basic Crozes you will enjoy Craven The Firs Syrah. If memory serves The Firs Syrah and Graillot’s Crozes are almost identical in price and I do not think this is unfair to either wine.
I heartily recommend fans of Graillot’s basic Crozes, or any French Syrah of the medium bodied, medium tannin, nice fruit, proper quality-idiom, try this. If it is your introduction of South African Syrah, you may well be surprised by the similarities to those of the style I have described and charmed by the uniquely South African characteristics.
Go on, do your palate a favour and surprise yourself with some bottles of this!
Buy from Handford.