Petite sirah is a wine. Although some may spell it as petite syrah, it is not syrah. Nor is it the reference when Doris Day sings Queue sera sera.
Petite sirah is the wine for the people loving a big wine – one delivering a full flavor – one capable of handling a sturdy set of characteristics as big, bold, tannin, and earth within its dark color.
The only thing petite about petite sirah wines is the size of the individual grapes. Compared to other varietals, it is smaller, yet it is this high skin to juice ratio that delivers the big taste that some wine lovers desire. Although petite sirah as not the same as its namesake, syrah is one of the parents that growers crossed to develop this varietal.
Although it is found in other regions across the globe, petite sirah is more commonly grown in the US, France, and Australia. The grape, actually called durif, allows winemakers to transform this grape into a dark, firm wine delivering big flavors of black fruits, black pepper, and tannin with a tendency toward earth and game.
Its California roots date back to the late 1800s and a history centered on making bulk wines. In the United States, petite sirah is most commonly found in California, primarily Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, and Monterrey wine regions. Keep in mind that in terms of acreage, petite sirah occupies only 1.6% of California vineyards, thus a reason why one may not notice many bottles on the store shelves.
On the other hand, winemakers have successfully blended petite sirah with other grapes to add color, zest, and complexity. Ridge winery creates glee across my palate with the addition of petite sirah to some of their zinfandel-based blends.
I appreciate petite sirah, but I have to know my audience before offering them a glass. A good friend of mine loves big wines and feels that winemakers have transformed too many red wines into juicy, fresh fruit flavors. Needless to say, he loves petite sirah.
Here are some of my petite sirah recommendations.
Starters ($9-12): Foppiano, Bogle, Castle Rock, Concannon, Lot 205
A Step Up ($16-20): Foppiano, Lava Cap, Marietta, David Bruce, McNab Ridge
If you are ever in Paso Robles, CA and wanting to taste version with more fruit, less tannin, yet keeping the distinct petite sirah flavor, stop by the Pianetta tasting room and tell Caitlin that Frank from Cincinnati sent you to try the petite sirah. (She may remember us) Then ask to sample Tuscan Nights. Yum! Did you get that Debra?
A short overview about petite sirah by a winemaker