' A Taste of Monterey - Petite Sirah


Petite Sirah


The origins of Petite Sirah are equally as ambiguous as Syrah. We know Petite Sirah has been grown in California for at least 130 years. In fact, it was, until twenty years ago, the most planted red grape varietal in the state, mostly planted in the San Joaquin and Monterey Counties. In the early years, Petite Sirah was used for blending. The grape is thought to be a Rhône clone known as Durif, named after Dr. Durif who propagated the vines in France at the end of the 19th century. Interestingly enough, that was after the Petite Sirah was first known use in California. So what were they growing in California over 130 years ago and calling Petite Sirah? After DNA fingerprinting at UC Davis of current Petite Sirah vines, most were found to be Durif. Durif is a cross between Syrah and Peloursin (an obscure varietal planted in the south of France). This most recent study offers Petite Sirah vintners some peace of mind. No longer is Petite Sirah, Syrah's ugly step brother, it is Durif, that enjoys a long noble history in California.

The aroma, visual and flavor characteristics of Petite Sirah is just as interesting as its origins. These medium-bodied jewels are wines you can sink your teeth into. Often this wine is robust and deeply colored. In fact, this wine has been referred to as fountain pen ink. Its deep color is due to the smaller (petite) size of the berries which means a higher skin to juice ratio. Along with the color, there is plenty of flavor which is imparted into the juice during fermentation. Aromas of this wine include black pepper allspice and the following berries: black cherry, blueberry, strawberry and raspberry.

These unique and sometimes hard-to-find wines are great with a wide variety of foods. Fruitier and not too tannic wines which go nicely with hearty tomato-based sauces. Conversely, spicier and higher tannic wines will do nicely by being paired with tangy barbequed ribs.

Post By:   Steve Gunnerson