Syrah vs Petite Sirah

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Syrah and Petite Sirah. The similarity in the names could lead you to believe that these are the same type of wine, but you may be surprised to learn that these are two entirely different wines. 

Similarities of Syrah & Petite Sirah

Although these are two different wines, from two different grapes, they do have some similarities. 

First, the Durif grape made to use Petite Sirah is a cross of Syrah and a nearly extinct grape, Peloursin. That being said, it would be a mistake to consider these “sister” wines. 

Both of these wines are dry, high in tannins, and high in alcohol content. They tend to have medium to high acidity, which makes them great candidates for aging. They also have a similar flavour profile with notes of dark berries, chocolate and a peppery finish. 

Differences of Syrah & Petite Sirah

Petite Sirah—also known outside of the United States as Durif after its founder, Francois Durif—originated in the Rhone-Alpes region of France, but now its production is almost non-existent. Today, you will find most Petite Sirah production taking place in California. 

Don’t let the name fool you, Petite Sirah is a bold, intensely flavoured wine with a rich, velvety texture. This wine is best enjoyed in a Bordeaux glass used for full-bodied wines to direct the wine toward the back of the mouth.

Syrah is a cross of the Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche grape varieties. Syrah was also founded in France, but unlike Petite Sirah, this grape has been a staple in the Rhone Valley for centuries and has also achieved growing success in California and Australia. 

Syrah tends to be lighter in body and is easier to drink. It is also a better match for food pairing. This wine is best served in a Burgundy wine glass to enjoy the aromas. 

How to Distinguish Between Syrah & Petite Sirah

Petite Sirah grapes are very small, hence the name “petite”, and thus create a high skin to juice ratio which not only contributes to the high tannins, but also its dark, purple inky color.  It also has bold spicy, peppery tasting notes making its flavour profile anything but petite.

Syrah is made from red-skinned grapes and is generally a dark, ruby-red color. You may find it to be quite dark in its youth, but aged bottles will lose some of their concentration and fade to a lighter shade of red.

Syrah & Petite Sirah Comparison Chart

Characteristic Syrah Petite Sirah
Sweetness Dry Dry
Acidity Medium – High  Medium
Tannins High High
Body Medium – Full  Full
Tasting Notes Blackberry, Black Plum, Tobacco, Green Pepper, Chocolate Blueberry, Black Pepper, Plum, Dark Chocolate
Popularity 12,100 Monthly Searches 8,100 Monthly Searches
Calories Per Glass 122 127
ABV % 13 – 15.5 13 – 16 

Pairing Food with Syrah & Petite Sirah

Bold, high tannin wines are softened by rich, fatty meats. Syrah is no exception. Steak and other beef dishes, grilled pork, sausages, and ribs all make great pairings with Syrah. You also cannot go wrong with fragrant herbs like oregano, thyme and rosemary and vegetables, such as beans and mushrooms. It is also a wonderful complement to rich, fatty cheeses. 

Similarly, the intensity of Petite Sirah dictates that beef will always be an excellent pairing. Whether grilled, barbequed, or roasted, it’s important that meat be well-spiced to stand up to the intensity of the wine. Heartier vegetables like mushrooms and peppers are also well-suited for this wine. 

Lighter meats, like chicken and pork can be elevated by a Petite Sirah, just take care that the preparation of the dish is heavier in seasoning or rich sauces. This wine will not be a go-to for cheese pairings, but could work with strong-flavoured cheeses like blue cheese or camembert.