A Guide to Petit Syrah Grapes: Understanding its Flavors, Characteristics, and History
Although it goes by the name “Petite Syrah,” this wine is anything but tiny and fluffy. It is a wine that is best suited for barbecues, parties, and family gatherings because of its dark, inky color, plush tannins, and rich flavors of plum, chocolate, and black pepper.
This guide will tell you everything you need to know about Petite Syrah, including how it is different from its parent grape, Syrah, and where it is grown, how it tastes, how to serve it, and, of course, what foods go well with it.
Petite Sirah’s Distinct Traits and Qualities
The wine known as Petite Syrah is dense, dark, and full of complexity. It is derived from the Durif grape, which was named after the botanist who was responsible for developing it by crossing Syrah with Peloursin, a grape that is now nearly extinct.
This wine has a high tannin content and a medium level of acidity, and it has a deep purple color. It typically contains a higher percentage of alcohol, somewhere between 13% and 15%.
Because Petite Syrah has a lot of tannins, the wine needs to age in oak to make it smoother and softer. It is possible for these wines to age, but due to the moderate acidity of the grape, it is recommended that they be consumed within 5-7 years of making.
The flavor of Petite Syrah will change depending on the environment in which it was grown as well as whether or not it was made from a blend of different varietals. As a result of the exceptionally robust tannins found in Petite Sirah, other red wines are frequently blended in with it in order to mellow them out, add acidity, and produce wines that are better suited to aging.
In general, you should expect the Petite Syrah you buy to have aromas of black fruit, black tea, and pepper in it. There are many different parts to the flavors, like bramble, espresso, and dark chocolate.
Petite Sirah Versus Syrah
As was just mentioned, Syrah is one of the parents of Petite Syrah, along with Peloursin. Even though the two wines have some similarities, it is important to know that they are also very different.
Petite Syrah has a higher level of tannins and usually has stronger flavors, like those of black plum, black pepper, and chocolate.
Syrah can last a little longer than other red wines because it has less tannins and more acid than other red wines. Also, compared to Petite Sirah, Syrah usually has a higher concentration of flavors like red plum and mild pepper.
Petite Sirah Tasting Notes
As was just mentioned, the climate and the decision as to whether the wine will be made from a single varietal or a blend will be the primary factors influencing the flavor differences.
The best examples of Petite Syrah are found in regions with warmer climates, like the Lodi Valley in California. Dark fruit, dried fruit, vanilla, and blackberry bramble are some of the strong flavors in these wines. Petite Syrah grown in a cool climate, like that found in Sonoma, will typically have flavors of red fruit and chocolate.
When Petite Sirah is mixed with other wines, it adds body and depth of flavor. Other wines, like Cabernet Sauvignon, add the acidity that is needed for the wine to age well.
How to serve it?
At room temperature (between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit), with a standard red wine glass, Petite Syrah is at its best. Serving the wine at a temperature that is closer to 60 degrees Fahrenheit will help to bring out the wine’s more fruity flavors and will also help to smooth out the wine’s rich tannins.
When it comes to decanting, all Petite Syrah wines will reap the benefits of decanting for at least an hour, though there is no downside to letting it decant for a longer period of time.
Dr. Francois Durif, a French botanist, crossed the grapes Syrah and Peloursin around the middle of the 1800s. This is how Petite Syrah was made.
The Durif grape that was produced as a result had dense clusters and a high ratio of skin to juice, which resulted in wines that were high in tannins and had a robust flavor.
Petite S. is the name given to Durif after it was brought to the United States in the late 1880s and renamed there because of the small size of the berries. Grapes are naturally resistant to mildew, which contributed to their rapid rise in popularity. Even though there has been a slight decrease in the demand for grapes in the United States, they are still very popular in the state of California.
Petite Syrah is the name given to the wine in both the United States and Israel. It is still referred to as Durif in other parts of the world.
The question is, which region produces the best Petite Syrah wine? Some places are undeniably more popular than others, and these are the places you should try to see first.
Lodi Valley, California
It should come as no surprise that a region that is so well known for producing Zinfandel would also be equally adept at producing Petite Syrah given its location in the middle of California’s Central Valley. Because of the region’s larger size and slightly higher average temperature, Lodi Valley red wines are known for their intensely concentrated flavors.
The sandy soil of Lodi Valley is known for its ability to quickly drain water while also retaining heat. Because of this, the region’s historically old vines can grow well and make wines with strong flavors.
It is reasonable to anticipate that this Petite Sirah will have more flavors of dark fruit, cooked fruit, and jammy flavors, along with acid that is mellow and tannins that are luscious.
In comparison to Lodi, the atmosphere in Sonoma tends to be a little bit chillier. Sonoma makes Petite Syrah with a slightly sharper acidity because the days are warm but not too hot, the nights are usually cool, and there is always a breeze from the ocean. Generally speaking, these wines have a greater capacity to age.
Although the best Petite Syrah can be found further inland in Rockpile or Dry Creek Valley, the climate and soil of Sonoma County change significantly depending on where you are in the vast county.
Sugar plum, earth, dark chocolate, and blueberry are some of the flavors you can anticipate tasting.
The United States is the only other country that makes as much Petite S. as Australia does. This wine is called Durif in Australia. In the early 1900s, the first Durif plants were planted in Victoria. Today, this plant is most often found in the state of Victoria.
Victoria is in the second-smallest and most southern wine-growing region on the rest of the mainland. Because of its warm climate and constant ocean breezes, it seems likely that Durif will have flavors like blackberries, chocolate, menthol, sugar plum, and mocha.
Petite Sirah has been a success in both the Carmel and Tishbi regions, even though Carmel is still considered an emerging wine region. In the 1970s, graduates of the University of California, Davis, brought the grape to Israel because they saw its potential in the country’s climate, which has hot summers with little rain and cold winters with lots of rain.
In this region, winemakers produce Petite Sirah both as a single varietal and in blends with other reds, such as Carignan. You can anticipate flavors of dark chocolate, black plums, cherry, and black tea in this beverage.
Petite Sirah Food Pairings
Petite Syrah wine, which is known for its robust tannins, moderate acidity, and a hint of smokiness, is best paired with foods that are also particularly rich and flavorful. When it comes to pairing wine with smoked meats, barbecue, or salty fried dishes, Petite Syrah is an excellent choice.
You should avoid dishes or seafood with delicate flavors because the strong flavor of the Petite Sirah will overpower them.
Roasted pork tenderloin: the combination of tender, flavorful pork with fresh herbs will pair perfectly with Petite S. and allow the wine’s dark fruity flavor to shine through.
Fried mushrooms are the best thing to eat with a Petite. They are salty, crispy, and have a hint of umami flavor. When paired, the wine will taste sweeter and more fruit-forward than it did on its own.
For hearty, tomato-based dishes like spaghetti and meatballs, you need a wine with enough tannins and acidity to balance the tastes of the different ingredients.
Petite S. is one of the few wines that successfully conveys the luxurious flavor of dark chocolate. If you enjoy both chocolate and red wine, you should try this noble wine.