All About Petite Sirah

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Pronunciation – Peh-Teet Sear-Ah

Petite Sirah is a red wine grape that originates from Tullins, in the southeast of France. It came about accidentally in the 1860s, in the nursery of a French botanist called François Durif, when a Syrah plant cross-pollinated with Peloursin. The grape is also commonly called Durif, after its creator. 

The name Petite Sirah refers to the grape, and not the wine – Petite Sirah is even bigger and more tannic in profile than its parent, Syrah. The vine itself forms tightly packed bunches of small grapes.

It’s important to distinguish between Petite Sirah and “Syrah” here. The spelling with a “y” refers to a different grape, which is a smaller-berried clone of Syrah that is grown in the Rhone, in small amounts. 

The varietal has been all but abandoned in France but has found a new home in regions of California, Australia and Israel. Still, it is grown in fairly limited quantities, and it is much more common to find it in a blend than as a single-varietal.

Petite Sirah Tasting Notes

Petite Sirah is one of the boldest and most powerful red wines that you can drink. It is full-bodied, dry, highly tannic and acidic, and is dark purple in color. It can range from 13% to over 15% ABV.

It contains strong dark fruit flavors, with herbal notes and a rustic, smokey profile. Plum, blackberry and blueberry are all evident in Petite Sirah, with strong herbal flavors such as liquorice, dark chocolate, black pepper and black tea.

It is notable for having an intense but slightly short finish, which is why it is ideal for blending with more elegant grapes that add some length.

Petite Sirah Styles

Petite Sirah may have stronger earthy flavors and some citrus tones when grown in the cooler French climate. However, the grape has largely fallen out of favor in its home country, so it can be difficult to find cool climate Petite Sirah.

Warmer climate Petite Sirahs, such as those produced in California, are more common by far. These styles will contain higher alcohol and richer fruit flavors, elements of menthol and some vanilla spice from oak aging.

You’re more likely to find Petite Sirah as part of a blend – it is used to provide backbone and balance to Californian staples such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Zinfandel. However, it is produced as a single-varietal wine, which can be remarkably bold and age-worthy.

When To Drink Petite Sirah

Finding an occasion for a drink as bold as Petite Sirah might seem difficult, but it is surprisingly versatile. It can serve as a warming drink on cold days, or alongside barbecued meat on a hot summer day. You should probably decant Petite Sirah and allow it to breathe for at least 2 hours. It’s massively tannic, and this will make it more approachable and enjoyable.

Pair it with big dinners – hearty stews or dense red meats. Just make sure that the food is bold, think barbecue ribs or rich sausages. It will pair well with soft creamy cheeses, like Camembert, and herby roasted vegetables.

Petite Sirah is best when served slightly below room temperature, at around 65ºF (18ºC).

Best Years To Drink Petite Sirah

When it comes to cellaring, a single-varietal Petite Sirah is almost invincible. Thanks to its high acid and tannins, it can be aged for decades, and taste even fresher and fruitier than before. Depending on the producer, it can last for 40 years or more. Some ripe styles from hot climate regions in California will only last for 7 years or so, but in general, a robust single-varietal Petite Sirah should be capable of aging for at least 15-20 years.

Petite Sirah Nutrition Facts

A glass of single-varietal Petite Sirah will contain approximately: 

  • 115 calories
  • 3.8 grams of carbohydrates

Fun Facts About Petite Sirah

Petite Syrah is only allowed to be grown in one French appellation, Palette in Provence.

When Dr. Durif accidentally created Petite Sirah, he was researching ways to make Syrah more mildew-resistant.

Petite Sirah was at its most planted in 1938, as it was particularly popular in Prohibition-era California.

Pairing Food With Petite Sirah