by Fred McMillin
for September 7, 1999


A Sensational Syrah



On April 8,1995 my panel sipped a Syrah that outscored any other Syrah they had tasted before or since...UNTIL NOW. They just tried a more recent vintage of the same wine, and it tied the earlier bottle. Both were rated at NINETY THREE!

The Rosemount Winery

The Rosemount Winery

My panel is not alone. Leading Australian critic James Halliday gives this wine his highest rating, "as near to perfect as one can get in an imperfect world."

The Rest of the Story

About 10 years ago, Chief Winemaker Philip Shaw recognized that he was getting some rare Syrah grapes from a vineyard in southern Australia, west of Melbourne. They grew on very old vines in the McLaren Vale (valley). So, in 1989 he segregated the fruit and made the first vintage of what by 1992 would be named Balmoral Syrah. It quickly became the flagship red of the Rosemount Estate Winery. The vintage that first dazzled my panel was that 1992. The '93 was rated 90 by the Wine Spectator. The 1995 won BEST OF NATION at the San Francisco International Wine Competition. Here's the Balmoral we just tasted, the 1996.

Wine of the Day

1996 Balmoral Syrah, McLaren Vale, Australia
Rosemount Estates, Hunter Valley, Australia
Aging—20 months in new and one-year-old American oak
Tasty Companion—Carpetbag Steak, a dish my wife learned in Australia. Cut pocket in a 2-1/2 inch thick rump steak and stuff with oysters.
U.S.A. Contact—Office of U.S.A. president John Gay in Sonoma, (707) 996-4504, Fx (707) 996-5063.


Whence the name Balmoral? Rosemount founder-owner Robert Oatley's family built their Hunter Valley homestead in 1852. It was named Balmoral.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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