Petite Sirah

By Lisa Rowlands

Whilst its somewhat misleading American name suggests that it is simply a smaller version of the Syrah variety, Petite Sirah is in fact a crossing of Syrah and the even more obscure grape, Peloursin. Discovered in France during the late nineteenth century, it takes its original name from Dr. Francois Durif - the man who first identified it, and whilst the variety is now almost extinct in its native country, it has experienced something of a revival in a number of New World wine regions.

Given its intense, purplish hue and high tannins, Petite Sirah has historically been used to improve the colour and structure of blends. However, in recent years it has increasing been vinified as a mono-varietal (or as a major blending partner), delivering rich, luscious wines with an abundance of flavours ranging from blackberry and plum to black pepper and liquorice. Wines from this variety are also noted for their ability to age.

Little known outside the wine world, this curious grape remains rare - even in California where its around four-thousand hectares is dwarfed by the state’s most popular dark skinned grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Zinfandel. However, it does have its loyal supporters, many of whom are intent on making their voices heard and bringing overdue attention to this distinctive variety. Amongst these, California based PS I Love You is an organisation formed by producers of Petite Sirah with the aim of raising its profile and advocating its potential as a serious winemaking grape.