Petite Sirah

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Parents & Origin: Peloursin Noir + Syrah (Southeast France)
Grape: Small, spherical, dark opaque skin
Flavors: Sugar plum, blueberries, dark chocolate, black pepper, black tea, spices
Notable Regions: Australia, California, Israel
Sweetness: Medium
Body: Full
Tannins: High
Acidity: Medium
ABV: 13-16%

The History of Petite Sirah

The Petite Sirah grape was something of an accident. In the 1860s, French botanist Francois Durif discovered one day that his Syrah vine had crossed with Peloursin, producing a new and enticing grape varietal. This grape, whose official name is Durif after its creator, offered an intense, opaque color and an impressive amount of tannins. Durif originally thrived in France due to its resistance to Mildew, but before long, the wine fell out of favor in its native land due to its perceived low quality.

At some point, Durif was taken to places such as California, Australia, and Israel, where the climate was suitable for the grape. At first, Durif was used only as a blending grape to add body to lower-quality wines. However, California winemakers soon realized that Durif had similar qualities to the well-established Syrah, and they began calling the wine “Petite Sirah” to draw interest.

The Petite Sirah name stuck in the United States and Israel, and the wine quickly experienced an ever-growing presence in the wine community. While it was still held back by its low price point and lack of international recognition, the last few decades have seen producers attempt to revitalize the varietal into something high-end and well-respected. A community of producers in California even came together to create P.S. I Love You, an organization dedicated to promoting Petite Sirah, and the wine’s fanbase has grown considerably since. Some wine connoisseurs still view Petite Sirah as an unestablished grape, but its bold flavors nonetheless have propelled it into greater popularity.

Interesting Fact: Despite its recent boost in popularity, Petite Sirah is one of the world’s rarest grapes, with fewer than 10,000 acres being grown worldwide. The vast majority of this production occurs in California, where more than 8,000 acres are cultivated.

Petite Sirah Food Pairings

Due to its high tannins, high acidity, and full body, Petite Sirah pairs best with foods as bold and rich as itself.

The Best Petite Sirah Food Pairings

Petite Sirah pairs excellently with spiced dishes such as curries, or even dishes like chicken and molé sauce (as long as the food isn’t too sweet). It also pairs well with almost any meat dish, especially when served with hearty legumes or nightshades. Strong, aged cheeses such as gouda and goat cheese can also provide a great pairing.

Food Pairings to Avoid with Petite Sirah

The boldness of Petite Sirah means it does not work well with light dishes such as fish, seafood, and some cheeses. It also does not suit a meal that is very sweet, as the bitterness of the tannins can clash with too much sweetness.

Petite Sirah Tasting Notes

Petite Sirah is seldom aged for long, resulting in bold fruitiness and acidity that definitely stand out. Common flavor notes include sugar plum, blueberry, dark chocolate, black pepper, black tea, and spice. The wine is very bitter and full-bodied due to its high tannins, flavors that can be improved with a few hours in a decanter. Growing factors such as climate can influence Petite Sirah’s flavors as well, with warmer origins resulting in fruitier and sometimes more floral aromas.

Petite Sirah's Delicate Flavors

Petite Sirah grapes are harvested through a careful process to ensure maximum flavor, including a long period of maceration to bring out the high tannins. Many of the subtleties of Petite Sirah depend on the individual winemaker’s process; for example, if oaked in new oak barrels, the wine is said to obtain a more chocolate-like aroma. Furthermore, some Petite Sirahs that use very ripe grapes and less careful cultivation can take on a sweeter, almost liqueur-like taste. In contrast, much of the recent production of higher-end Petite Sirahs have been able to apply a more delicate winemaking process and create a more subtle, food-friendly drink that can even be suitable for bottle aging.

Cool Climate vs. Warm Climate Petite Sirah

The range of Petite Sirah’s flavors is explained in part by the climates in which it is grown. Some regions, such as California’s Lodi and Central Valley, have warmer temperatures that result in bolder, more prominent notes of fruit. In contrast, the mountainside vineyards of Napa Valley have been known to produce more complex wines, more in line with the other red wines grown in the region such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir.

Our Selection of Petite Sirah

  • California: 2017 Hayton Family Reserve Petite Sirah - Petite Sirah is a rarefied red that is descended from Syrah and Shiraz grapes and is grown almost exclusively in California. Find out what connoisseurs are so excited about when you uncork 2017 Hayton Family Petite Sirah, a spicy, ruby red example of the varietal with mouthwatering aromas of red berries, and a jammy palate with notes of crushed strawberry, raspberry, and plum. Pair this under-the-radar favorite with grilled meats and strong cheeses.

Petite Sirah in A Nutshell

Since its accidental and relatively recent origins in 19th century France, Petite Sirah has quickly caught up to some of the world’s most prominent wines. Offering bold flavors, high tannins, and a full body, Petite Sirah is excellent in its own right as well as alongside spiced foods and meaty dishes. With delicious notes of plum, blueberry, pepper, and chocolate, the wine’s sudden rise in popularity comes as no surprise. And while some traditional wine snobs may still doubt Petite Sirah’s legitimacy, there is no doubt that it offers something unique, rare, and delicious to add to any wine enthusiast’s cellar.