Petite Sirah is a rustic grape that has found a new lease on life in the New World
Petite Sirah (also known as Durif), is a dark red wine grape that produced inky red wines that are very high in tannins. This grape is most often seen in blends (particularly as a counter to over-rich Zinfandel), but there are a few stand-out wines that feature Petit Sirah as a major component.
While it originated in France, today there are almost no vineyards that feature the grape and it is found almost exclusively in the United States and Australia.
This wine is becoming increasingly fashionable in many appellations throughout California for the complexity and rich flavors it provides. Be on the lookout for more and more Petite Sirah driven wines in the next few years coming from the New World.
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History of Petite Sirah
Petite Sirah (pronounced peh-teet sih-rah) is a wine grape that originated in France, but today has almost no presence there. French botanist François Durif did not know that keeping Peloursin and Syrah in the same location would lead to a new grape variety. For a time it was popular with farmers and winemakers in the south of France, but eventually, it declined and migrated to the new world.
Today it is found primarily in California and Australia, but there are a few other regions producing wines with the grape.
Occasionally winemakers in the Rhône Valley refer to a native grape that grows alongside their beloved Syrah as "Petite Syrah" this should not be confused with the Petite Sirah varietal.
What does Petite Sirah tastes like?
Petite Sirah is rich in fruit flavors and high in tannins. Depending on the way that the grape was grown and when it was harvested the wines are often full of dark fruit like blackberry and blueberry, but also feature savory notes alongside herbs, licorice, and black pepper. If the winemaker chooses to use new oak barrels the wines will also contain rich hints of chocolate. Petite Sirah wines that come from warm regions are often described as jammy.
The official fan club for Petite Sirah is called "PS I love you".
Petite Sirah Characteristics
The Petite Sirah grapes are small, thick-skinned berries on large vines that feature big leaves and tight grape clusters. These thick-skinned berries produce smaller than average amounts of juice and can make very, very tannic wines when used for a single varietal wine.
The rustic qualities that define this grape, including the firm texture and full mouthfeel, make it perfect as a blending grape. It is often used to supplement the structure of an over-ripe Zinfandel, but it can be used in many different styles and with many different grapes.
Petite Sirah Nutritional Facts
The nutritional value in Petite Sirah varies greatly depending on two main factors: alcohol and sugar. The more sugar present in a wine, the more carbohydrates.
The alcohol in Petite Sirah varies depending on how ripe the grapes were when harvested if the winemaker added extra sugar, and how long it was allowed to ferment. Petite Sirah wines are generally in the middle range for all of these categories.
How to Serve and Store Petite Sirah
While not common, some Petite Sirah can last a decade or two in the bottle, but like 99.9% of wines produced it is meant to be enjoyed young.
Serving Petite Sirah can be done simply. The wine should start slightly lower than room temperature. It is worth noting that this is all personal preference. Enjoy your wine how you like it.
To open you will need a traditional corkscrew.
If you are storing Petite Sirah, it should be in a cool place that does not receive direct sunlight, and preferably in a wine refrigerator or cellar. 55 degrees Fahrenheit is the median temperature wine should be stored if you wish to age the bottles. What matters most is consistency. Do not store your Petite Sirah in a place that receives direct sunlight, heat, or too much humidity and remember to enjoy it while it's fresh.
What to Pair with Petite Sirah
Pairing wine has some general rules, but we think the most important rule is to drink Petite Sirah with the food you like. High tannin wines like Petite Sirah will pair beautifully with roasted pork, barbecued red meats, and complex stews.
Petite Sirah Region Around the World
California produces more Petite Sirah than anywhere on earth. In California you can find examples that range all up and down the state, but many of the best examples come from Sonoma and Mendocino where the oldest vines are still cultivated. The resulting wines are powerful, concentrated, and expressive.
These old vine examples have struck a chord with other Californian winemakers, and examples are popping up in the Central Valley (particularly Lodi), Paso Robles, Lake County, Napa Valley, Clarksburg, and Monterey.
With the rise in plantings, some Petite Sirah is being grown in Washington state.
Some wineries in California are beginning to create reserve Petite Sirahs, showcasing the increase in quality and prestige the grape is beginning to enjoy.
In Australia, Petite Sirah is referred to as Durif but is also rising in popularity, especially for producers that have access to old vine Durif.
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