Petite Sirah, also known as Durif, is a red wine and grape varietal that holds a history as rich as its flavor. LeeAnn Kaufman, Concannon Vineyard’s CMSA Sommelier, recently hosted an evening for visitors to experience the wonders of the under-appreciated varietal, and we felt it important to share the experience with everyone. LeeAnn is a great person to discuss the varietal with since Concannon was the winery that bottled America’s First Petite Sirah! With no time to waste, there are a lot of questions and answers ahead…
What is the history of Petite Sirah?
Petite Sirah was discovered by botanist, Dr. François Durif, in France in the 1880’s. Dr. Durif found the grape in a field of Peloursin that had cross-pollinated with another grape varietal. It wasn’t until recently that the other varietal was revealed to be Syrah. Peloursin (the mother vine) and Syrah (the father vine) created the grape, a varietal that is similar, yet strikingly different from Syrah. In 1884, Charles McIver imported Durif to the United States for use in the vineyards of Mission San Jose, California, calling it Petite Sirah upon arrival.
What kind of wine is Petite Sirah?
Petite Sirah is a bold, tannic red wine that was originally used for blending in Zinfandel and other strong reds, but found its place as its own, unique varietal when Jim Concannon bottled it as its own wine in 1961 (later released in 1964). Jim is often referred to as the “Father of Petite Sirah.”
What is the difference between Petite Sirah and Syrah (or Shiraz)?
While Syrah (also known as Shiraz) was recently discovered to be the father of Petite Sirah, they are different grapes and very different wines. Petite Sirah grapes are thicker, making them a hardy grape that can withstand tough conditions and grow easily. The wines made from Petite Sirah grapes are big, bold red wines with strong tannins and an inky dark color. They are considered to be some of the boldest wines. Syrah, on the other hand, is a much more versatile grape that can be used for blending or as its own varietal. It can range in intensity from being similar to bold Cabernet or being lighter like a Pinot Noir. Syrah is generally accompanied by more earthy, spicy flavors, but it is a matter of perception.
What does Petite Sirah taste like?
These are very tannic wines with a full-bodied mouthfeel and dark, inky colors. The most common flavor descriptors used for these wines are: plum, blackberry, chocolate, black pepper, vanilla, and black tea. These wines are generally lower in acidity, with high alcohol content and heavy fruit flavors.
What do you pair with Petite Sirah?
A big, in-your-face wine should be paired with heavy, fatty meats like beef, lamb, veal, or pork. A hearty meal like barbecue pulled pork sliders, carne asada with chorizo black beans and avocado crema, buffalo burgers with blue cheese and Dijon mustard, or seared duck breast served in a bourbon cherry jus are perfect meals to pair with a glass.
Fun Facts about Petite Sirah
- Petite Sirah is often referred to by growers as “PETS.” Originally a shortened version of the name, it grew in popularity as the grape grows easily.
- Jim Concannon was the first to bottle Petite Sirah as its own varietal in 1961.
- Petite Sirah and Durif are synonymous.
- Charles McIver imported the grape to the United States in the 1880’s. James Concannon and Charles McIver knew each other well as they were both members of the same church.
- Petite Sirah is best enjoyed after decanting for 1-2 hours, and the optimal serving temperature for the wine is 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit.