Thursday, February 28, 2008

Reserve Henri-Marc Syrah, Vin de Pays d'Oc, 2004

My wine merchant's notes described this as "flavorful, racy, full, long, fine" and an "enormous value" at $4.49. Such wine bargains don't last long, so I signed up for half a case without tasting it.

When I got the wine home, I went to the internet, out of curiosity, to look for information about Reserve Henri-Marc Syrah. What I found was a nasty note by someone identified as "jstrutt" who gave the wine a rating of 68.0/100. Wow, maybe I didn't get such a bargain after all, I thought. So last night, I opened a bottle of Reserve Henri-Marc Syrah to see for myself.

"jstrutt" believes he has a wine that is over the hill because the label recommends drinking it within three years, and it's already four years since the wine was bottled. But the good deep color I see when I pour tells me this wine is not dying just yet. There's no amber or even the brick red that you might expect around the edges of the glass from a wine that is approaching maturity. 2004 was a cool vintage in the Languedoc, and cool weather generally produces wines with acid levels that promote good aging.

"jstrutt" finds the wine "extremely vinegary" but that's not what I smell and taste. The aromas are what I expect from a unoaked Syrah wine from the South of France: black fruits, herbs and a hint of black pepper and tobacco. The wine has ripe fruit flavors up front with a good acid lift in the middle and a long, spicy finish. No vinegar here. According to "jstrutt" the flavors are "very fake tasting," and here's where I disagree the most. Reserve Henri-Marc Syrah has the smells and flavors that Syrah should have when it is presented without the lavish quantities of new oak that many wine drinkers have come to expect. It's not a great wine but a pretty good one and a great value at $4.49. Unfortunately for readers, I'm sure all the of the eight cases offered for sale in January at Village Corner in Ann Arbor have been snapped up.

The lesson, I guess, is that a good wine merchant can be trusted. And tasting notes you'll find on the internet are not all of equal value.


  1. I'll have to track that one down.

    I tried La Vieille Ferme Rouge on your advice. It was a hit at our house.

  2. Reserve Henri-Marc Syrah is not as bright or lively as La Vieille Ferme. It's a more reserved wine, and it also may be harder to find.

    The 2006 La Vieille Ferme is on the market now. I haven't tried it, but it should be very good while it still has its baby fat. And if there are any older vintages such as 2003 or 2004 being sold at discount because they are getting "old," they're worth trying as well.