Questions & Answers: Petite Syrah

9 Dec

A friend emailed me the following question, which I figured might be a useful addition to the stream of wine reviews. I hope you enjoy!

“JvB, Question: What is petit sirah? Follow Up: Why is it so delicious?” -Julia (lawyer & wine lover from Long Island, NY)

Great Question, Julia. Here’s my take on the grape, and its character.

“Durif” is the original name for the grape we call many things: Petite Syrah in France, here in the USA and in Australia it’s slightly adapted to petite sirah. The ‘e’ at the end of petite is correct form with either syrah or sirah.

This is a grape strain that was cross-bred in the Rhône valley of France in the 1880’s between the grapes Syrah and Peloursin, with the specific intention of being impervious to a mildew strain that was killing off entire syrah crops in the region.  The attempt was only partially successful as while the petite syrah grape is resistant to one form of powdery mildew, it succumbed to another grape disease known as gray rot. To make matters worse, the surviving grapes were considered to be of sometimes dubious quality by the region’s winemakers. But what was viewed as a failure in the moist Côtes du Rhône was a huge success in the drier areas of California and the Victoria region of Australia and is popular in arid vineyards in other locations such as Israel, Arizona, Washington to name but a few.

WHY the name? Well, the word ‘petite’ in the name refers to the small grapes on the vine, which have a high skin to juice ratio.


WHY is it so tasty? Great question. So here’s answer version one, from a technical standpoint: When given long maceration, it can be very tannic- which, then aged in new oak, gives off a nose of melted chocolate, among other delicious aromas. The fully fermented and aged wine is often very dark purple to black in color,  “inky” as it were, with blue and black fruit flavors dominant on the palate with herbal and black pepper notes. It blends well, can be drunk young or aged to great depth and complexity, and with good acid and tannin provides a great opportunity to create a full, well-rounded wine with lots of character. As a blending wine, it’s often used to make a well-rounded wine by adding length to the finish, and charm or depth to the palate. It pairs well with game and red meats or spicy foods.

OK, why does it taste so good, from a NON-TECHNICAL standpoint?  Well, a wine that has an herbaceous and fruity nose with blackberry, blueberry and black plum flavors, notes of spicy black pepper, an elegant mouth feel, and a long, charming finish that recalls toasted oak and melted chocolate- who wouldn’t like that?

I hope this answers the question to your satisfaction. I have to say, I’ve been tasting two gentle whites for the last two evenings, but I think I may have to open a bottle of petite sirah!

Here are a few links for your continued reading enjoyment:

Top Petite Sirah Best Wines Ratings Prices

Best American Wines $15 & Under: Syrah & Petite Sirah

Petite Sirah Wine Reviews and Prices | WineAccess Search


à votre santé!

2 Responses to “Questions & Answers: Petite Syrah”

  1. jimvanbergen December 13, 2012 at 10:39 pm #

    Thanks for the question, and glad you found a petite syrah you enjoy. Feel better soon!


  2. Julia December 12, 2012 at 9:57 pm #

    I really like the Bogle Vineyards Petite Syrah. Yummo! Cant wait to get off these flu meds and drink some more!


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: