Wine Review: 2009 Tanins Syrah Chardonnay

19 10 2011

Syrah. And Chardonnay. Just because. You know you secretly want to try it.

I’m sorry, what?

That wasn’t a typo.  Tonight’s wine is ACTUALLY a blend of Syrah and Chardonnay.  It may not surprise you to learn that this is the first time I’ve ever had that blatantly crazy combo of grapes together.  It would not surprise me to learn that LSD was involved in the producer’s blending decisions.  But here we are.  Obviously taking their cue from the long-standing Northern Rhone tradition of blending in a touch of white Viognier with red Syrah, French producer Tanins (sic?) has put together another red-white mashup, only casting the world’s most well-known white grape in the usual Viognier role.  It’s a strange choice:  Viognier is added to Rhone reds because it is intensely aromatic and thus adds pizzazz and complexity to the blend’s nose.  Chardonnay is the exact opposite, a generally neutral varietal without any strong aromas to call its own.  I have no idea what motivated its selection, and this bottle has turned out to be nearly impossible to research electronically, so I’ll just have to take the plunge in the dark.  Morbid curiosity, prepare to be satisfied.

Cork Rating: 7/10 (Great surface area coverage, and love the "T" on the ends; would have scored higher if "Made in France" had been in, you know, French. "Made for export" much?)

This bottle of Tanins is classified as a “Vin de France” (Wine of France), a brand new legal designation introduced in 2009 that aims to replace the old French “Vin de Table” (Table Wine) classification.  I will not get into the bizarre and boring details of the pan-European quasi-wine law overhaul that is behind this change (though they are both bizarre and boring) — all that matters for our purposes is that this broad classification means that the grapes for this Syrah/Chard can come from anywhere in France and are not tied to a particular region.  This used to mean that the wine was probably cheap and of poor quality, but the hope is that it is beginning to mean that producers, freed from the shackles of France’s restrictive appellation laws and given more space and more grape types to work with, will come up with hidden-value bargain wines under the Vin de France label.  Hopefully this is one of them.  It is definitely one of those wines that tells you what it’s supposed to smell and taste like on the bottle:  I am allegedly supposed to get aromas of fennel, fig and tobacco and flavours of black fruit and lime (?) while I’m drinking (thank you, 12 years of French Immersion school).  I can’t decide whether I like or dislike labels that spell out a flavour profile for me; on the one hand, it’s fun to compare notes, but on the other hand, it’s kind of bossy.

True story: every wine I've bought from Ferocious Grape recently has had a terrible cork. Brian from FG got so fed up about this that he attached a bonus cork to this bottle, just in case. Ironically, this time, it's worse than the real cork. Extra Cork Rating: 4/10.

This Syrah/Chard Frankenwine immediately showed off its red side in the glass with a deep, thick, unrelenting garnet colour.  The nose was all over the place, though not necessarily in a bad way:  the main aromas were pennies and dusty cherries (my wife described it as “Cherries Jubilee in a clogged vacuum filter”…I can’t really top that), but there were also notes of blackberry, raisin, dill, a touch of mustiness and…watermelon?  Bubble gum?  Watermelon-flavoured bubble gum?  Every time I smell it I’m both confused and amused.  It was a little more straightforward on the palate, with the Syrah’s standard full body, high levels of smooth shiny tannins (just ask my teeth), medium acidity, and powerful flavour.  Although the label totally struck out on the nose (fennel?  seriously?), I completely concurred with it on the taste front, as the Tanins featured distinct notes of blackberry, cassis and, believe it or not, lime/citrus (thank you Chardonnay), making it fruitier and more approachable than most inexpensive French Syrahs.  The flavour profile was capped off by undertones of mint, earth, and something sweet like meringue, although it was marred somewhat by a weird, coppery/briny/Wine Gummy aftertaste on the finish.

On the whole, what can I say?  It was a bottle of wine that was part Syrah and part Chardonnay that didn’t suck, an achievement in and of itself.  If I had to sum it up in three words, they would be “loopy but endearing”, and on a weeknight, when a dash of mystery, intrigue and absurdity is more than welcome, that’s not bad at all.  When Tanins releases its Cabernet/Riesling blend, I’ll be first in line.

86- points

$15 to $20 CDN 

UPDATE:  If you’re wondering how obscure this wine really is, Google “Tanins Syrah Chardonnay”.  Once you stop Google from automatically giving you the results for “TanNins Syrah Chardonnay”, you’ll notice that the first two hits are from Cellar Tracker (which didn’t have the wine in its database until I added it back in August) and the third hit is this post (which didn’t exist two hours ago). 

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3 responses

16 12 2011
Chandra LeCompte

Have you found any others like this, my husband and i created a syrah chardoney blend at a winery blending function and loved it. wish we could find more so we dont have to take a bottle of each and blend since its not the same

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16 12 2011
Chandra LeCompte

ps I cant seem to find this anywhere to purchase can you include a purchase link? even wine search cant find it ( at least not with the free version)

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16 12 2011
petervetsch

Hi Chandra,

Thanks for reading! I can safely say that I’ve never in my life seen another Syrah/Chardonnay blend apart from the Tanins…I’m still surprised I ran across this one! The only place I’ve ever seen it for sale is at The Ferocious Grape in Calgary (8 St & 10 Av SW). If you live elsewhere, let me know and I can check with the store and see if they can find out where else their agent sells it. Cheers!

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