This North African Syrah may just be the dark horse of the Graillot portfolio, though it still delivers plenty of interest and value. For those new to this wine, it hails from the Atlantic ventilated hills of Morocco's Zenata region in the lee of the spectacular Middle Atlas Mountains. The relatively cool climate and altitude here-and the mix of red and black clay over a base of limestone and ancient ocean bed remnants-provide the right mix of conditions for scented, juicy, layered Syrah that Alain Graillot hopes will showcase the surprising potential of Morocco.
The story has it that Alain was cycling in Morocco (hence the tandem bike and palm tree on the label) when he stopped off at Domaine des Ouled Thaleb, 40 km inland from the Atlantic Ocean. A conversation with the Domaine's then oenologist, Jacques Poulaine, and a close look at sites in Rommani and Benslimane convinced Graillot of the potential for producing highly elegant Syrah.
The towns of Rommani and Benslimane lie between Casablanca on the Atlantic Ocean and the Middle Atlas mountains. As such, there is a relatively cool climate thanks to the ocean breezes and an altitude of about 500 metres.
Alain Graillot has the sort of vineyard that makes the wine traveller thirsty. It is the kind of place that simply looks like it makes great booze. Gnarled yet well-manicured vines reach up from a sea of smooth, rolled stones, each about the size of a child’s fist. At chez Graillot, the vineyards run deep with such stones, some 30m deep. It’s the kind of rocky terrain that is common in the Southern Rhône but far less so in the north. You only have to look at it to see that this was once an ancient river bed. The stones are in fact of Alpine origin, left behind when the nearby Isére River changed course in some ancient era. Anyway, it’s always refreshing when the wines live up to the scenery and round at Alain’s place, they really do.