Syrah is a dark-skinned red wine grape. Its origins have been popularly debated, but its modern viticultural home is unquestionably the northern Rhone Valley of eastern France. In Australia, Syrah is overwhelmingly (but not exclusively) known as Shiraz, and is regarded as the country’s national grape.
One of the world’s most diverse and successful grape varieties, Syrah wines can display myriad dark-fruit flavours. Varietal Syrah can be quite floral in its youth, developing more peppery and herbaceous notes as it ages. Some examples show tanned leather and smoky scents, while the fruit in these wines tends towards the very dark flavours of blackcurrant and liquorice.
Syrah is also an extremely useful blending grape due to its deep colour and typically high tannins. In the southern Rhone it is common for Syrah to be blended with any combination of Grenache, Mourvedre, Carignan and Cinsaut, among others.
Some of the world’s most famous Syrah wines are the peppery, earthy reds of the northern Rhone, specifically of the Cote-Rotie, Hermitage and Saint-Joseph appellations. While Hermitage has been held in high regard for many centuries, the ‘roasted slopes’ of the Cote-Rotie have emerged as a leading source of Syrah only towards the end of the 20th century.
One of Syrah’s most valued assets is its ability to produce wines capable of aging and improving over many decades. The most valued appellation in this regard is the hill of Hermitage; its name is so respected that for many years it was used as a synonym for Syrah in Australia. A well-built Hermitage requires ten years or more to relax into its plummy, spicy fullness, and will reward cellaring for a further decade at least.
Cusumano’s wines come from premium sites all over Sicily, and are produced at the Partinico (straight west of Palermo) based family winery by third generation winemakers and brothers Diego and Alberto Cusumano. They craft wines of the ‘new’ Sicily typified by outstanding varietal expression, rich flavours, and a sensuality that could only be born under the Sicilian sun. Wine insiders have long predicted that Sicily would one day become Europe’s dominant wine region. The sheer number of prime vineyard sites available, the diversity of microclimates and soils throughout the island, make it possible for Sicilian winemakers to work not only with exciting native varietals, but also with many international grapes. Cusumano is the pre-eminent producer turning that prediction into reality.