Petite Sirah: From France to California

We know France for its many wonders. From food to architecture, French culture is synonymous with fine living. We also know France for its wine. And Petite Sirah is one of the gems to come out of French wine culture. However, the Sirah tale does not have a happy ending in France.

Petite Sirah goes way back to the 1800s. Francios Durif, a French Botanist, discovered the grape in 1860 and named it after himself. The Durif grape accidentally crossed with another grape variety. The result was small, intense berries that quickly took the French wine scene by storm.
The Petite Sirah gained so much popularity it found a place in California and Israel.

Currently, these two places produce some of the best quality Petite Sirah wine. It fell in popularity in France, replaced by Cabernet Sauvignon. Let’s look at why Petite Sirah is a favorite among wine lovers.

The Petite Sirah resulted from an experiment. Durif, the Botanist, noticed that due to mildew, the Syrah grape becomes susceptible. He began looking for a way to make it hardy against decay. He crossed the Syrah with Peloursin.

Not only did he get a grape that was more resistant to mildew, but the new strain also produced a variety that was acidic and had more tannin. The berry was even smaller and more intense in color and body.

However, the French didn’t significantly take to the new wine grape. Still, Californian and Australian farmers picked up on it and began cultivating it. It thrived in these areas due to their dry conditions. Growers noticed wet weather spoiled whole batches since they grow so close together.

Petite Sirah, a rare Grape wine
Petite-Sirah-WOMT

It is infrequent

The Petite Sirah is not a typical grape. It covers about 10,000 acres worldwide, with California accounts for most of that area. Its berries are dark red. With the berries being so small, there is a smaller skin to pulp ratio. The dark color indicates its intense tastes. You can taste hints of mature red plum, blueberries, and blackberries. One of the unique features of this wine is its maturity potential. This wine can age for years. However, most of the wine is taken within seven years of its production or bottling.

For wine purists, Petite Sirah can be taken by itself. However, it is used as a blending wine in other areas such as California. Its fruity flavor and high acidity make it an attention grabber whether by itself or in blending. It doesn’t lose its tannin power even when it is incorporated.

Is it the same as Petite Syrah?

There is some confusion about the similarity of Petite Sirah and Petite Syrah. However, there is a difference. Petite Syrah was the original French grown grape and grew in the Rhode Valley in France. Sirah was the result of an experiment that made its way to California and became dominant there.
They are also different taste-wise. While there isn’t much growth of the Syrah, the berry is lighter in taste and color from the Sirah. It is bigger. There is a larger pulp to skin ratio. The Syrah is more embraced globally than the Sirah. It’s more moderate in acidity and tannins

Unlike the Sirah, Syrah is more fruity. It grows in cooler climates. You can find the Syrah in Cornas and Hermitage. Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Cotes-du-Rhône also have Syrah as a critical grape in the blend.

Petite Sirah Taste test

Petite Sirah is a fascinating grape. The wine has high tannin content that makes it great for aging. When it ages, the first scent to hit your nose is chocolate and blueberry. However, as you taste it, you will notice flowery notes in it. The chocolate lingers on the tongue, and you can still taste the berries. While it is young, it has a masculine pepper and licorice taste. However, it loses some of these tastes as it ages.

And that’s the trickiest bit.

It loses its acidity rather quickly. It becomes hard to store it for long. However, Californian growers have figured out ways to bottle it for up to 20 years. It loses most of its acidity, but it develops a robust masculine taste that grabs your attention.

Oak Barrels gives age to the wine. The oak-aged Petite Sirah gives it a hearty vanilla taste. Petite Sirah matured in California has been noted to cross past the 13% alcohol content.

Food pairing with Petite Sirah

Petite Sirah is a bold, imposing wine. Its fruity yet spicy taste makes it a great choice to end a heavy meal. It completes meat-laden meals. That means anything from steak to pork is fair game. Barbeque is an excellent base for the wine. The smokiness of barbeque meat matches the licorice and spicy flavor of the wine.

Cheese and wine go together. However, if you’re going to be pairing cheese with Petite Shira, it would be best to bring aged cheese. Bold cheeses like gouda, blue cheese, and goat cheese would go well with the wine.

Petite Sirah would go well with chocolate. Usually, chocolate and wine are not a good match, especially if the wine is sugar-rich. However, dark chocolate and this wine would go great.
Spicy food needs spicy wine. Curries and herb-heavy foods would pair excellently with this wine.

It’s not a balanced diet if you don’t eat your vegetables. Try the wine with sides of dark green vegetables, root vegetables, or mushrooms.

Next time you are in California in the Napa Valley or the Sonoma area, make sure you end the night with a bottle of Petite Sirah. A bottle from the Napa region will likely only cost you a maximum of $20.If this wine is aged, you can still get a higher-priced bottle. You can also visit the Suisun Valley. It produces excellent Sirah grapes. Serve wine at 65 ºF. The temperature is bound to bring out the full fruity and mineral taste of the wine. You can decant it to let it release some hidden notes.