When is a syrah not a syrah? When it tastes a little like a Cru Beaujolais. I had this preconception bending drop in the quirky surrounds of Kyoto's premier oddball wine bar, Pinot Taro.
Rene Jean Dard Francois Ribo Les Rouges Batie Croze Hermitage certainly surprises. Even if you knew that this was from the Rhone it would be difficult to pick this as a monovarietal syrah. Don't ask me about the colour (Pinot Taro is purposefully Stygian in it's lighting gloom), but the nose on this suggested a very different spice profile to that which might be expected. Bright, but not in any way Christmassy or peppery. The best I could come up with at the time was a resinous, seed like quality with hints of caraway. It's the floral component that really drives the nose. Wafts of peony that one might expect in a glass of Julienas or Chiroubles that are also heady with some noticeable alcohol.
The palate is dominated by dark fruit, but this still leads us to the unexpected. Not the bramble and pepper driven hit of syrah, but the volatility of a young Cru Beaujolais and somewhat like a fruit sauce to be served with game containing a good balance of acid and dried characteristics. Not overly long and not answering a question that anyone's asking, this wine engages on its own terms. Drink at the right price.