Petite Sirah is a wonderful BBQ and campfire wine. Its smokiness and deep berry notes make it, along with its cousin Syrah, the perfect red wine for these summertime settings.
Petite Sirah is a relatively new grape. In the late 1800s, a French botanist named François Durif set out to create a Syrah grape that wasn’t prone to mildew. He crossed Syrah with Peloursin and named the new grape Durif grape (pronounced Dureef). The new grape was mildew resistant but produced mediocre wine, at least in France. So within a few decades it all but disappeared.
Or so we thought.
It turns out that the Durif grape quietly made its way to CA, where the environment was much more to the grape’s liking. But nobody realized that this was the Durif grape, because it was being grown under the name Petite Sirah. It wasn’t until 2003, when UC Davis did some fingerprinting, that the mystery was solved. Petite Sirah was in fact the Durif grape.
Laurie Daniel, one of my favorite wine journalists, recently had a great article in the San Jose Mercury News called “Petites anything but small.”
From the article’s title, you can guess that Daniel highlights the grape’s oxymoronic name. She says, “The grape isn’t a dimunitive version of syrah. To the contrary, wines made from petite sirah are usually inky-dark, full-bodied and sometimes very tannic.”
Daniel argues that Paso Robles is the best appellation for Petite Sirah. She recently participated in a local judging and described the top pick, Broken Earth Winery’s 2011 Petite Sirah, like this. “Although Petite Sirah can sometimes be big, bruising and a little one-dimensional, this one is spicy, floral and structured, with ripe black fruit, a note of lavender, some spicy oak and firm tannins.” YUM!!!
If you are a Petite Sirah fan, I encourage you to become a member of P.S. I Love You, a wonderful non-profit organization devoted to Petite Sirah.