WineSmith 2004 Roman Reserve Syrah
William Younger’s “Gods, Men and Wine” offers compelling evidence that the 1,000 year Roman winemaking tradition did not involve sulfites. In 2001 we decided to undertake an experiment in ancient winemaking, vinifying this robust syrah grown in high-altitude living granite with and without the modern sulfite addition all the experts tout as indispensable. The conventional lot, we found, was indeed cleaner, and even possessed a more solid structure. But it brought to mind a perfect but sterile construction with nobody home. Without sulfites, the same grapes offered up incredibly intricate aromatics full of mystery and soul. The difference reminded us of the extra dimensionality of flavor one finds in great unpasteurized French cheeses.
Encouraged by the experimental wine’s ability to hold up in the cellar, in 2003, we abandoned the use of sulfites in our Syrah. We are learning. Since preserving the structure is critical to integrating its complex aromas, we did not fine or filter. The 2004 vintage, like its predecessors, has shown itself remarkably stable. Intriguingly, each bottle represents a different experience. Although there may be slightly more bottle variation than with sulfited wines, the wine never fails to bring delight – Ben Franklin’s “proof that God loves us and desires us to be happy.” We find that this type of wine is extremely resonant with its environment, reflecting the surroundings in which it is consumed and the moods of the people present.