Petite Sirah

This grape variety is known as Petit Sirah in the United States and Isreal, in the rest of the world it is known as Durif.

The petite sirah grape is a red wine grape grown in Australia, California, Isreal and France. The grape is a lot different to the Shiraz / Syrah grape even though the names are similar. For most of its history, petite sirah (Durif) was only used to blend with other wines. The grape had a surge in popularity in the 1970s because of its full, tannic taste.

Petites are anything but petite - the wines they produce tend to be big, muscular, and strong. The petite part of the name comes from the small compact grapes produced by this variety.

Typical flavors of Petite Sirah include blackberries, plum, raspberry, and black pepper. The wine tends to pair well with stronger meats - game, lamb, beef, and spicy sauces. When aged Petite Sirah takes on a more mellow flavor

Petite Sirah History

The grape is named after Francois Durif, a botanist at the University of Montpellier. It was in a Peloursin vineyard near the university that he discovered the unique vine that he named for himself in 1880. As a conclusion of DNA fingerprinting at the University of California, Davis in 1997, Syrah was identified as the source of the pollen that originally crossed with Peloursin flowers. The grape's high resistance to downy mildew encouraged its cultivation in the early 20th century in areas of France like Isere and Ardeche, but the relative low quality of the wine produced, and the tightly bunched grapes tendancy to rot in rainy environments, caused the grape to fall out of favor with local wine growers and today, this grape is almost nonexistent in France.

The grape faired better in dry conditions in The United States, Isreal, and Australia, first arriving in the later in 1908.

Petite Sirah Regions

Australia and California are the two leading producers of Petite Sirah/Durif. Smaller plantings of the grape can also be found in Isreal, Argentina, Mexico, Chile and Brazil.

Australia: Petite Sirah/Durif was first brought to Australia in 1908, by Francios de Castella. Following the Phylloxera outbreak of 1894, the Victorian wine industry was close to collapse. De Castella was appointed viticultural expert with the department of agriculture. He was sent to Europe to obtain information on the control of phylloxera, and returned with Durif grafted to phylloxera resistant vines from Montepellier. These vines were planted at the Rutherglen Viticultural Research station and then spread around the region, replacing phylloxera affected vines. The grape spread to other Australian wine regions including Riverland and the Riverina districts. As of 2000 here was over 740 acres of Petite Sirah/Durif under cultivation.

California first started growing Petite Sirah in 1884. By 1960 this grape accounted for 60% of all grapes grown in the Napa Valley, with 4500 acres under vine.

Up until this point, Petite Sirah has primarily been used as a blending grape. In 1961 Concannon Vineyards, who had been growing Petite Sirah since 1904, decide to bottle Petite Sirah as a varietal. Australian Durif (Petite Sirah) By 1976 the wine had became a big success, with more than 14,000 acres under vine in California. But the arrival of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon saw this grape fall out of favor, and by 1995 Petite Sirah acreage had dropped to 1,738.

Petite Sirah has seen a resurgence through vigourous marketing by orgaizations such as PS I Love You. The marketing has worked and the grape is now under vine at more than 330 wineries in the United states with nearly 8,000 acres planted.

Petite Sirah Tasting Notes

The flavor profile of Petite Sirah is often that of blueberries, blackberries and sometimes black cherries. These wines tend to have very good structure, supported by a strong firm tannins, good acidity, with layers of ripe, sometimes jammy fruit and the occasional hint of anise and black pepper. These wines pair well with grilled beef or game, sausages, chicken, char grilled burgers and Mexican food.