First taste: Bekkers McLaren Vale Syrah 2016
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote up a thrilling trio of new wave, finely honed, aromatic McLaren Vale Grenaches. Winemaker Emmanuelle Bekkers’ take on Bekkers McLaren Vale Syrah sings from the same hymn sheet – “[P]urposefully made to avoid overt, syrupy concentration or dominating oak aromas,” she says. Putting Syrah, not Shiraz, on the label hammers the point home.
I loved Bekkers 2015 McLaren Vale Syrah (a February Wine of the Month, reviewed here) and have high hopes of the 2017 based on those Grenaches – it was a very cool, mild year. Meantime, what about Bekkers McLaren Vale Syrah 2016, which was released this month?
I showed Bekkers McLaren Vale Grenache 2016 at a Prowein Grenache tasting earlier this year and discussed the 2016 vintage with Emmanuelle’s husband, acclaimed viticulturist Toby Bekkers. Here’s what he had to say:
“A mid to full-weight vintage which we like a lot – suits us best when we don’t have to think quite as hard about moderating density. An early harvest driven by low winter/spring rainfall, a hot October and December. November moderate so good fruit set and resulted in average to above average crop load. Temperatures moderated after New Year and a well timed 58mm at the end of January extended what would have been a very early season. It was still much earlier than average. The wines have good depth of flavour coupled with nice freshness and aromatics.”
In the press release accompanying my sample of Bekkers McLaren Vale Syrah 2016, Emmanuelle elaborates on “similarities to 2015 in that the 2016 wines sit more lightly and with more elegance on the palate than denser vintages such as 2012 and 2014, possibly assisted by some cooler nights in the run up to harvest.” For her, the 2016 “embodies my quest for finesse, delicatesse (I can’t find a suitable English translation!) and prettiness.”
Bekkers McLaren Vale Syrah 2016 (McLaren Vale)
Like the 2015, Bekkers McLaren Vale Syrah 2016 is sourced from two sub-regions – Clarendon (at 194-242m on red clay loam over siltstone, clay & gravel) and Seaview (at 102-110m, on shallow grey/brown sandy loam over calcrete and base rock). To be specific, two parcels from each, with Clarendon accounting for 52% of the blend. The grapes were picked on 15, 16 & 29 February and 2 March and (Mistral) machine-sorted to remove shrivelled berries. After a three to five day cold soak, the ferment (natural, with 15-20% whole bunches, the balance whole berry) was long, cool and gentle. The wine was aged for around 20 months in large (500l) French oak barrels, 48% new. Though the winemaking differs little from the previous year, Bekkers McLaren Vale Syrah 2016 seems more pared back than other vintages – very bright, very fresh and lifted, with attractive hints of sourness (a lively twang) and reduction (a flash of greeness) to its pippy and softer pureed melange of blackberry, raspberry and blood plum fruit (nice tension). With time in glass and on day two, the greenness resolves itself, unfurling into peppery, lavender-laced layers. Fine-grained, mocha-edged oak tannins are a subtle presence, while spicier, pithier grape tannins build in the mouth, lending light peppery grip and lift to the finish. Very fresh, lively and persistent in the mouth. Whether a function of relative youth and/or the vintage, seemingly more animated in fruit and texture than the suppler, very lithe 2015, which I tasted in January. Both quite beautiful in their own way and with plenty yet to give, they are highly accomplished wines. 14.5% £340 per 6 bottle case in bond at Atlas Wines (2015 vintage).