Petite Sirah, as it is called in the United States, is actually a red wine grape varietal known as Durif, with over 90% of the California plantings being Durif grapes labeled as “Petite Sirah”. The TTB (United States Alcohol, Tobacco, Tax and Trade Bureau) recognizes “Durif” and “Petite Sirah” as interchangeable synonyms referring to the same grape. Petite Sirah is a red variety that produces tannic wines of deep color with spicy-plummy flavor. The grape is a cross between Syrah and Peloursin, and originated from the Rhône-Alpes region in eastern France.
The grape is named after François Durif, a botanist at the University of Montpellier in France. It was in a Peloursin vineyard near the university that he discovered the unique vine that he eponymously named in 1880. As a conclusion of DNA fingerprinting at the University of California, Davis in 1997, Syrah was identified as the source of the pollen that originally crossed with Peloursin flowers.1
Petite Sirah first came to California in the late 19th century and found an early home in the Livermore Valley at Concannon Vineyard. Eventually, it made its way into the other growing regions of California, including Napa Valley. Petite Sirah is often used for blending with Zinfandel to add complexity, structure, and to tone down the “jammy” fruit and blended with Cabernet to add color and structure, but it really shines when bottled as a single varietal. Petite Sirahs from Napa Valley are particularly good examples of how great they can be.
The “petite” in the name of this grape refers to the size of its small berries, and consequently high skin-to-juice ratio, which allow Petite Sirah to produce wines with high pigment and tannin levels and the ability to age in the bottle.The vine is particularly vigorous, thrives in many soil types, and is sturdy and fairly long-lived.
Petite Sirah produces dark, inky full-bodied wines with firm texture and mouth feel. The bouquet has dried herbs and black pepper overtones, and typically offers flavors of plums, blackberries and blueberries. The wines have ample tannins, although supple, pleasant and delicious with aging ability that can exceed 20 years in the bottle.
Petite Sirah pairs well with red meat, especially beef or lamb, game, grilled mushrooms, stews and other hearty fare.
Flavor Profile: Dark berry fruit, plum, blackberry, blueberry, black pepper, spice, herbs
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