Petite Sirah Wine
Petite Sirah is actually a grape called Durif that was discovered in France in the 1860s by the botanist Francois Durif. In Durif’s greenhouse, a Syrah vine crossed with another vine during pollination, and the resulting grape was a small, intensely colored berry that was high in tannins and acidity. The new grape was thus named Durif Francois. However, to clarify. Petite Sirah Wine is not the same as Syrah (Shiraz).
At some point, the grape traveled to California, where winemakers recognized the grape had many similar features to the Syrah(Shiras). While they recognized the grape was not Syrah, it was given the lasting name of Petite Sirah Wine.
European settlers brought the Durif vine to the United States in the 1880s. The petite sirah was planted in vineyards in which many other varieties of black grapes were grown together. Because of this, four different grape varieties, including durif and its parents, syrah and peloursin, as well as pinot noir, were all called petite sirah in California.
Today, hundred-year-old petite sirah vineyards in Sonoma and Mendocino California produce complex, age-worthy wines from gnarled, old vines. Plantings of petite sirah have more than doubled in the last ten years, driven by younger growers who are interested in grapes that were part of California’s early heritage of grape growing.
The “petite” in the name of this grape refers to the size of its berries and not the vine, which is particularly vigorous. The leaves are large, with a bright green upper surface and paler green lower surface. The grape forms tightly packed clusters with small berries to create a high skin to juice ratio, which can produce very tannic wines if the juice goes through an extended maceration period. In the presence of new oak barrels, the wine can develop an aroma of melted chocolate.
Petite Sirah produces dark, inky colored wines that are relatively acidic, with firm texture and mouth feel; the bouquet has herbal and black pepper overtones and typically offers flavors of blueberry, plum, blackberry, dark chocolate, espresso, and black pepper. Compared to Syrah, the wine is noticeably more dark and purplish in color, and typically rounder and fuller in the mouth, and offers a brightness that Syrah lacks. The wines are very tannic, and can be successfully aged for more than 20 years in the bottle. Petite Sirah can sometimes not linger in the mouth, and could benefit from blending with another grape to give more palate depth and elegance.
Petite Sirah vs. Syrah Wine
Petite sirah is not just a version of syrah, but rather an entirely different grape with syrah as one of its parents. Petite sirah wines are more tannic and deeper in color than syrah. Syrah is famous as a varietal wine in the northern Rhône, while petite sirah is more notable for being a blending grape in California and is not grown in France.
Scientists using DNA profiling finally differentiated these vines in the 1990s. DNA fingerprinting at the University of California, Davis in 1997, identified Syrah as the source of the pollen that originally crossed with Peloursin flowers. The grape’s high resistance to downy mildew encouraged its cultivation in the early 20th century in areas of France, although the relative low quality of the resulting wine caused the grape to fall out of favor with local wine authorities. Today, it is almost nonexistent in France.
Where is Petite Sirah Produced
Currently, California and Israel are the two places that produce the highest quality Petite Sirahs worldwide. California producers came together to create the P.S. I Love Your organization, which seeks to raise the profile of this minority wine. Their official mission is to “promote, educate and legitimize Petite Sirah as a noble wine grape variety, with a special emphasis on its terroir uniqueness.”
Petit sirah, despite originating in France, is grown in extremely small amounts there. California and Australia produce most petite sirah wine, followed by Israel, Chile, and Mexico.
DNA fingerprinting has shown that the majority of Petite Sirah plantings in California are actually Durif. Some vineyards were found to be a field blend of Durif and other varieties, but all labeled as “Petite Sirah”. The vine is a popular planting in Lake, Mendocino, Sonoma, Napa, Monterrey and San Joaquin County. In addition to being produced as a varietal wine, the grape is sometimes blended with Zinfandel. In years when heavy rain or excess sun has weakened the quality or yield of Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot noir plantings, Petite Sirah may also be used as a blending partner to strengthen the wine. The average age of Petite Sirah vines tends to be older than that of most Californian vines.
Petite sirah is most notably grown in Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley, which is also known for its zinfandel production. Petite sirah is often blended with zinfandel to add color and body to the lighter zinfandel wine. Petit sirah destined for lower-quality blending is grown around Lodi in the Central Valley. Mendocino and Lake counties are home to old vines that produce high-quality, single varietal petite sirah
Durif, which is what petit sirah is called in Australia, is popular in Rutherglen, Victoria, where highly alcoholic, tannic wines that are almost black in color are produced using the grape. Growers in New South Wales’s Riverina have recently embraced petite sirah as a blending partner to their shiraz.
In Israel, Petite Sirah had a history much like that in California—historically used as a blending grape to add body to inferior wines. However, Petite Sirah has recently experienced somewhat of a revival, both in high-end blends and bottled as a single or majority variety. In recent years Vitkin Winery is consistently producing a single-varietal Petite Sirah as a high end wine sourced from the oldest Petite Sirah vineyard in Israel. Seeing that Israeli terroir could grow great Petite Sirah, other wineries have followed suit with a Petite Sirah/Zinfandel blend, while others have made single-varietal Petite Sirah in addition to using it for blending.
Petite Sirah Food Pairing
Full-bodied red wines like Petite Sirah have high tannin (bitterness and astringency) which means you’ll want to match them up with richer, more fatty foods to create balance.
With its smoky fruit flavors, Petite Sirah will pair nicely with bold exotic spices and herbs–just avoid making the dish too sweet.
If there is one thing to know about pairing Petite Sirah with food, it is that the wine deserves food as big and as bold as it is.
Roasted Pork, Barbecue Beef, Beef Burgers, Chicken in Mole Sauce.
Wild game such as deer, elk, bear, buffalo make a great pair.
Aged Gouda, melted Swiss cheese, Fresh Mozzarella, Camembert
Black Pepper, Allspice, Clove, Sage, Rosemary, Cinnamon, Chili Pepper, Lavender, Cocoa, Juniper
Sautéed Mushroom, Eggplant, Black Bean, caramelized Onion, Stuffed Peppers, Currants (in a savory dish)
Please check out some fine Petite Sirah below or go to main site for a complete selection of fine wines and spirits
Parducci Small Lot Petite Sirah 2016
Recanati Reserve Petite Sirah (OU Kosher) 2017
Red Truck Winery Green Truck Petite Sirah 2016
Lava Cap Petite Sirah 2016
Stanton Vineyards Saint Helena Petite Sirah 2015
Once & Future Palisades Vineyard Petite Sirah 2015
Trentadue La Storia Petite Sirah 2018
OVIS Petite Sirah 2016
Cycles Gladiator Petite Sirah 2017