Petite Sirah Wine & Grape Profile

Petite Sirah is a rather obscure and confusing grape. Originally named Durif, it’s often mixed up with Syrah and although it’s linked to Syrah, it isn’t a clone of it. More on that later.

Petite Sirah is deep, dark, and rich. It’s fruit forward to the point of being generous and tends to be easily appreciated by those just beginning to explore the world of wine. On the nose, expect sweet black berry fruit, blueberry, chocolate, baking spices, and cigar. On the palate, its rich and round blackberry, leather, cocoa, anise, and cinnamon provide a lush portrait.

Most often, Petite Sirah isn’t meant to be aged because it produces lower-acid wine and is therefore meant to be enjoyed within 7 years or so after release. It certainly has the potential to age when harvested with appropriate acid levels, though, so it’s worth seeking those out. However since it is so approachable when it’s young, it works well with barbecue, brisket, tri tip, black beans, and other smoky-spicy dishes. Think of this as a party wine that still manages to hold intelligent conversation.

Wine Growing Regions for Petite Sirah

Petite Sirah is a varietal that has a definitive birth: it was created by Montpellier-based botanist Francois Durif around 1880. It was most likely the result of an accidental crossing of Syrah and Peloursin, an esoteric grape that has almost completely disappeared. It was originally named Plant du Rif as a nod to Durif himself, but later it was just truncated to Durif.

Like so many other European varieties, Petite Sirah found its way across the Atlantic Ocean and traversed the United States before settling in California. There, it flourished and became one of the most prolific wine grapes grown up until the 1960s. It began to fall from favor as Cabernet Sauvignon took over and became the King of Napa. Petite Sirah is still grown throughout the state and can be found in Lake, Medocino, Lodi and Napa counties. It tends to thrive in places with large diurnal swings to help maintain both bold fruit and much-needed acidity. In fact, the little known wine region of Suisun Valley just east of Napa is the self-declared Petite Sirah capital of the world and the grape certainly seems to love it there.   

Beyond California, it is produced in the Carmel and Tishbi regions of Israel as Petite Sirah. Elsewhere, it’s grown as Durif in the Rutherglen and Riverina regions of Australia, the tiny Palette region of France, Chile, and the Baja peninsula of Mexico.

Since it is best known out of California, most of the following can be found there: Check out some of these Petite Sirah and Petite Sirah-based blends from California

  • Retro Cellars, Napa, California
  • Aaron Wines, Paso Robles, California
  • Shannon Ridge High Elevation, Lake County, California
  • Ramsey, North Coast, California
  • Dusted Valley, Wahluke Slope, Columbia Valley, California

Learn About These Other Wine Grape Varieties

Chardonnay

Chenin Blanc

Cabernet Sauvignon

Grenache

Nebbiolo

Pinot Meunier

Petit Verdot

Riesling


Written By Jamie Metzgar

Jamie Elizabeth Metzgar began her career in wine by pouring in a tasting room on the East End of Long Island, NY. After moving to New York City, she landed a position at Chambers Street Wines where she was encouraged to pursue wine education at the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET). She earned Level III certification there and has since earned California Wine Appellation Specialist and Certified Specialist of Wine certifications as well. After way too many moves, she has recently landed in Northern California where she is compiling an unofficial roster of dog-friendly tasting rooms.


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Petit Sirah Tasting Notes & Aromas

On the nose, expect sweet black berry fruit, blueberry, chocolate, baking spices and cigar. On the palate, Petit Sirah is loaded with round blackberry, leather, cocoa, anise, and cinnamon.

The Structure and Style of Petit Sirah Wines

Body Full

Sugar Dry

Acidity Medium-Minus

Alcohol Moderate (12% - 13.5%)

Tannins Medium-Plus

Barbecue

Brisket

Tri Tip

Black Beans

Smoky Dishes

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