Back with a bang

An old favourite has returned

If you love your reds, it’s hard to look past a good Syrah.

And the northern Rhône does it better than anywhere else.

Welcome to holy grail of Syrah

Winemakers of Syrah (or Shiraz) from all over the world revere this place, and try to emulate the likes of Côte-Rôtie and Hermitage in their wines.

I’ll never forget my first taste of the stuff - a £50 squirt of 1990 Jean-Louis Chave L'Hermitage, from one of those enomatic machines in a posh wine shop in Islington many years ago.

You might have guessed then that the wines are expensive - the best ones cost well over €100 a bottle.

But I love a challenge! Where to find the best Syrah at a fraction of the price?

Discover Crozes-Hermitage - an unsung gem of the Rhône

Crozes-Hermitage is a big region by northern Rhône standards, and the wines aren’t known to hit the heights of their illustrious neighbours.

This is because it’s dominated by cooperatives (like Cave de Tain) and négociants (like Chapoutier and Guigal) who make big-volume blends. The sort of wines that are perfectly quaffable in a decent bistrot.

But speak to experts in the know, and they’ll tell you that the really good stuff hides out on the steep, sun-kissed slopes of the northern side of the Rhône river.

And here you’ll find a handful of smaller producers, raising the bar on quality for the region.

Enter Laurent Habrard - happy winemaker (and honourary Irishman)

Before launching WineSpark in 2021, I was tipped off on Laurent’s wines by a trusted Rhône insider.

Once I tasted them, I couldn’t believe the wines weren’t already over here.

Get to know Laurent and you’ll find the nicest guy, who happens to love Ireland, Irish history and U2.

But what makes him truly happy is spending time in his vineyards. You’ll see the words ‘le vigneron heureux’ etched on his labels.

He firmly believes that happy grapes make the best wine. So he treats his vines with the utmost respect and care, and has farmed organically for 16 years now.

This only happens in the best years - try Sylvain here

Laurent’s regular Crozes-Hermitage is delicious, but he aims to make a special reserve wine in the best years.

2018 wasn’t spectacular enough, but in 2019 it all came together.

His best barrels and tanks had the complexity, power and richness that Laurent was looking for in a top Syrah.

And so Sylvain was born, named after his viticulturist, Sylvain (got it?!)

When I met Laurent at a wine fair in Montpellier in January, he told me he was down to his last 480 bottles of it.

So I snapped up the whole lot on the spot.

Back with a bang (of white pepper and more)

I’m delighted to tell you that Laurent’s Crozes-Hermitage Sylain 2019 is back, after a long hiatus.

This wine was a huge hit when we first brought it in two and a half years ago.

It's deliciously smooth and complex, with lashings of white pepper, violets, black fruit and smoky bacon. Basically it’s a guilty pleasure in a glass.

So if a powerful red with a lovely bit of age sounds up your street, I’d grab a few bottles while you can.

Because 480 bottles won’t last for long - especially for a wine of this quality!

A dream come true

Laurent tells me that selling his wines in Ireland for the first time was a dream come true.

I’m happy to have made that happen - and even happier that you have one more chance to try this great wine!

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