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by Fred McMillin
From Persia with Love...
The First Great Red Wine Grape
When wine-loving Persia became Moslem, it left Omar Khayyam with a dilemma which he described with these lines (translated):
Because I love the winejar well,
That First Noble Red-Wine Grape
Today we have an early opinion of Persian red wine (by Ahmad Damghani, 7th century) and a later opinion of Shiraz or Syrah (by Thomas Layton, 21st century - pictured).
Poet Damghani's Appraisal
In Tehran I hired a local scholar to search the Univerity of Tehran archives for ancient wine information, and translate it. He found this by Damghani.
How the Wine Was Made c. 625 A.D.
In the vineyard...
At last... The Wine!
A Twenty-First Century Shiraz
Here's what Thomas Layton thinks of today's Shiraz, alias Syrah. "It is perhaps the finest American Syrah/Shiraz I have had the pleasure of tasting. I am usually skeptical of wines with 15% alcohol because I often find them too ripe and over-extracted. However, this wine had none of those flaws It had a really nice structure to balance its intense and deep fruit."
This is the wine.
1998 Jade Mountain Syrah
Now, we've mentioned Khayyam, Damghani and Layton. Let's go back and meet...
The Cast -(In order of appearance)
Omar Khayyam, Persian poet, active 1100 A.D., born and educated about 500 miles east of Tehran, wrote of "a loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou."
Ahmad Manoochehri Damghani, Persian poet, active 625 A.D. Damghani means from the town of Damghan, about 400 miles east of Teheran. Five hundred years before Omar, Ahmad also wrote of being in a garden with "a glass of wine in your hand and a nice lady wine server beside you." Did she serve Shiraz wine? The New York Times said Omar probably drank Shiraz, so Almad probably did, too.
Thomas Layton, active 2001 A.D., Stanford MBA, advisor to technology companies. Mrs. Layton, the wine server beside him, is a Ph. D. space scientist from Syrah-Shiraz land, Australia!
Speaking of Australia, the Laytons hold that country's Shiraz/Syrah in very high regard compared to California's. Little wonder. Just 30 years ago Australia Syrah acreage was about 20,000 while official California acreage was zero.
To see how the two regions compared, we reveiwed our panel's recent picks. Two strong Aussie labels were Wyndham of the Hunter Valley and Taltarni of Victoria (named for the Queen of Great Britain who was born on this date in 1819). Highly-rated California bottles were produced by Fess Parker and Hidden Cellars. Best of all were these top four selections.
Our Top Four Shiraz-Syrah
4th—CALIFORNIA, today's Jade Mountain, described above.
Like the Laytons said, Aussie Shiraz is looking mighty good.
This page created May 2001