wines with a spicy, plummy flavour,relatively acidic,
with firm texture and mouth feel; the bouquet has herbal
and black pepper overtones, and typically offers flavors
of blue fruit, black fruit, plums, and especially blueberries.
meats - game, beef, lamb, and spicy sauces
California, France, Israel
tannic wines with a spicy, plummy flavour. The grape originated
as a cross of Syrah pollen germinating a Peloursin plant.
On some occasions, Peloursin and Syrah vines may be called
Petite Sirah, usually because the varieties are extremely
difficult to distinguish in old age.
is named after François 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 like Isère
and Ardèche, although the relative low quality of the resulting
wine caused the grape to fall out of favor with local wine
authorities. Today, it is almost nonexistent in France.
and Australia are now the two leading producers of Durif.
The grape can also be found in Israel,
Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Mexico.
arrived in Australia by way of enigmatic viticulturalist Francois
de Castella, a handsome man with a penchant for white suits
and broad-brimmed hats. De Castella was born in 1867 at South
Yarra, Victoria, the son of a Swiss-born vigneron, and educated
at Xavier College Kew. He left Australia in 1883 to study
natural science at Lausanne, Switzerland, and vine-growing
and winemaking in France. In 1894, following the outbreak
of grape phylloxera at Bendigo de Castella while managing
Chateau Dookie for the Bank of Victoria, he widely condemned
the Victorian government's policy of vineyard eradication.
He strongly supported regional quarantine and the introduction
of phylloxera-resistant American rootstocks, as had been done
in Europe. In 1907, the Victorian wine industry verged on
collapse. De Castella was appointed viticultural expert with
the Department of Agriculture. That year, he was sent to Europe
to obtain information on the control of phylloxera. He returned
in 1908 with Durif, grafted to phylloxera-resistant vines
from Montpellier. These were propagated at the Rutherglen
Viticultural Research Station and then spread around the region
when replanting took place after phylloxera-affected vines
were removed. Confirmed as recently as 2008, old plantings
of Durif continued to be used to produce popular wine in the
Rutherglen, Victoria region of Australia, producing dark,
inky coloured table wines with plummy, firm texture and mouth
feel, noted for their cellaring ability. They are also a prime
contributor to some of the region's outstanding vintage and
tawny fortified styles. Durif is now grown in other wine regions
of Australia, such as Riverina and Riverland, with over 740 acres
(3.0 km2) under cultivation by 2000.
has shown that the majority of Petite Sirah plantings in California
are actually Durif.
The vine is a popular planting in Lake, Mendocino, Sonoma,
Napa, Monterey and San Joaquin County. In addition to being
produced as a varietal wine, the grape is sometimes blended
In years when heavy rain or excess sun has weakened the quality
or yield of Cabernet Sauvignon
or Pinot Noir plantings, Petite
Sirah may also be used as a blending partner to strengthen
the wine. The average age of Petite Sirah vines tends to be
older than that of most Californian vines.
December 2007, the TTB lists both Petite Sirah and Durif in
27 CFR § 4.91 as approved grape varieties for American wines,
but they are not listed as synonyms. This means that U.S.
producers can produce Durif wine, but not label it as Petite
Sirah, and vice versa. The ATF proposed that they be recognised
as synonyms in Notice of Proposed Rulemaking No. 941, published
in the Federal Register on 10 April 2002, but a decision on
RIN 1513–AA32 (formerly RIN 1512-AC65) appears to be postponed
indefinitely, probably because the new regulation is tied
up in the trade dispute that would see the TTB recognise Primitivo
as a synonym for Zinfandel. While not one of the officially
sanctioned grapes of the Côtes du Rhône AOC, Petite Sirah's
linking to Durif caused the California's Rhone Rangers to
add the grape to its listings of wine in 2002.
Petite Sirah had a history much like that in California --historically
used as a blending grape to add body to inferior wines. However,
Petite Sirah has recently experienced somewhat of a revival,
both in high-end blends and bottled as a single or majority
variety. The UC Davis-trained winemaker and Ph.D. chemist
Yair Margalit, familiar with the grape from his time in California,
showed that Petite Sirah need not be consigned to jug wine
when he blended small portions into his reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.
Seeing that Israeli terroir could grow great Petite
Sirah, wineries such as Recanati followed suit with Petite
Sirah blends, while others like Sea Horse, Carmel, and Vitkin
have made single-varietal Petite Sirah in addition to using
it for blending.
Sirah and Petite Syrah
Sirah is sometimes mistakenly spelled "Petite Syrah," which
has historically referred to a small berried clone of the
Syrah grape by Rhone growers.
In California, immigrant vine growers introduced Syrah in
1878 and used the phrase "Petite Syrah" to refer to the lower
yields that the vines then were producing in California. Actual
Petite Sirah (Durif) was then introduced in 1884.
in the name of this grape refers to the size of its berries
and not the vine, which is particularly vigorous. The leaves
are large, with a bright green upper surface and paler green
lower surface. The grape forms tightly packed clusters that
can be susceptible to rotting in rainy environments. The small
berries creates a high skin to juice ratio, which can produce
very tannic wines if the juice goes through an extended maceration
In the presence of new oak barrels, the wine can develop an
aroma of melted chocolate.
Sirah produces dark, inky colored wines that are relatively
acidic, with firm texture and mouth feel; the bouquet has
herbal and black pepper overtones, and typically offers flavors
of blue fruit, black fruit, plums, and especially blueberries.
Compared to Syrah, the wine is noticeably more dark and purplish
in color, and typically rounder and fuller in the mouth, and
offers a brightness that Syrah lacks.
The wines are very tannic, with aging ability that can exceed
20 years in the bottle.
Petite Sirah can sometimes be rather "short", that is, the
flavor does not linger in the mouth, hence the benefit of
blending with another grape which may lack mid-palate depth,
but add length and elegance.