At the California Wine Experience last weekend, I had my fair share of west coast wines. But during a break in the action, I ducked into Marseille for a quick bite and found a wine on the wine list that I had to try: a Moroccan Syrah.
I’d actually had the wine before—in the Rhône of all places—and was pleasantly surprised to find it here in the U.S. market.
"Moroccan Syrah?" you’re asking yourself. "The Rhône guy wants to try a Moroccan Syrah?"
Well, it’s got a Rhône angle (as if you couldn’t sense that coming), and not just because of the grape. It’s made by Alain Graillot, whose eponymous domaine in Crozes-Hermitage is one of the leaders in the appellation. The wine, the Domaine des Ouleb Thaleb Syrah Zenata Syrocco 2005, is the result of a joint venture between Graillot and Thalvin, a Moroccan winery that Graillot consults for.
Thalvin produces about 4 million bottles annually, mainly for the domestic market in Morocco, by sourcing grapes from their own 800 hectares of vines along with purchased fruit. They approached Graillot for help with a wine aimed at foreign markets and, after checking out the vineyards and talking to some of Thalvin’s growers who were interested in producing a quality wine, Graillot signed on.
There were 2,900 cases of the 2005 Syrocco produced, and it shows a light, silky texture, with enticing cherry, spice and mesquite notes, backed by a subtle, graceful finish. It performed equally well alongside my steak frites and Nancy’s halibut, offering quality squarely in the very good range. When I told her where it was from, she gave me the raised eyebrow of a welcomed surprise. The best part is the wine’s modest price—under $20 at retail and a modest $40 on the wine list.
You’re more likely to find the 2006 vintage now (production increased to 4,500 cases) on retail shelves. The 8,300 cases of the 2007, which Graillot describes as a "great vintage in Morocco" (the optimism of winemakers never ceases to amaze me) is set for release in the spring.
From the California Wine Experience to Moroccan Syrah made by a Rhône vigneron. The wine world really is a small place these days.
Neil Koffler — New York, NY — October 23, 2008 2:03pm ET
Steve Wooden — Montreal, Canada — October 26, 2008 9:20am ET
James Molesworth — October 26, 2008 1:00pm ET
Filippo Recchi — Florence, Italy — October 28, 2008 6:50pm ET
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