New Zealand Syrahs – especially those from Gimblett Gravels – are consistently high quality, and excellent value compared to the Rhône. And recent vintages are the best ever. See the top five New Zealand Syrahs from our panel tasting - all scoring Outstanding.

Our experts were jubilant at the quality of these wines. ‘Top Syrah is never cheap, but the value in New Zealand is as good as you’re going to get because the quality level is so high,’ said Christine Parkinson who, along with her fellow judges, cited the Gimblett Gravels sub-region of Hawke’s Bay as the outstanding area.

‘Gimblett Gravels is probably the best site outside France not only for Bordeaux varieties but also for Syrah,’ said philip Tuck MW. Melanie Brown agreed, adding: ‘They are exceptional value compared to the Rhône.’

Despite its small size, Gimblett Gravels ‘is miles better than anywhere else in New Zealand’, said Tuck, because of its free-draining soils, which all the tasters felt contributed to an iconic style. ‘The wines had so much personality,’ said Parkinson. ‘Structure, weight, vibrant fruit, fragrance, concentration and depth.’ Syrahs from the larger encompassing region of Hawke’s Bay were ‘a step down in quality and personality but still consistently very good, particularly in terms of value’, said Brown.

Five Outstanding New Zealand Syrah wines:

The Marlborough wines divided opinion. Brown was ‘disappointed’, while Parkinson liked the ‘lighter-bodied, pretty, floral character’, which she said ‘was ideal for more immediate drinking’. Brown also singled out Wairarapa as having good potential.

Looking at vintages, 2013 is the year to buy, said our experts, particularly from Gimblett Gravels. They felt the older wines showed a more ‘heavy-handed’ approach. ‘winemaking and viticulture have improved a lot,’ said Parkinson. ‘More clever and subtle use of oak and allowing the fruit to express itself.’ while the 2012s were regarded as ‘okay’, the 2011s were roundly criticised. ‘Hopefully they’ve all disappeared off shelves and wine lists now,’ said Parkinson.

Speaking for the panel, Tuck had the last word: ‘Kiwi Syrah is sadly under-appreciated and hopefully this tasting will bring it to the attention of more wine lovers, who shouldn’t pigeonhole the country as only a producer of Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc.’