The Petite Sirah grape originates from France (where else?) in the late 1800’s. The vines produce a small grape with a thick skin. It was created by crossing the Syrah and Peloursin Grapes with the intent of producing a disease resistant grape. Farmer’s at the time were having trouble protecting their harvest from disease.
The thicker skins of the Petite Sirah grape help to produce a more tannic and deep colored wine. Differences in the temperature of wine growing regions plays a role in the flavor of the wines, but in my experience it plays less of a role in the flavor of a Petite Sirah than it does with many other varietals. Petite Sirah wines are full bodied. They coat your tongue and tend to have a long finish. They are often described as “inky” because of their body as well as their deep dark color. From a flavor profile perspective, they are often considered to be “jammy”; they are fruity with flavors of dark berries. Tannins are also a typical feature of the wine’s character. They can be more present or less present depending on the type of oak they are aged in and the amount of time they spend in the barrel. Petite Syrah typically has reserved acidity.
The majority of American Petite Sirahs are produced in the Central Coast of California. The Petite Sirahs with the best value from a price/quality ratio also seem to come from this region. The sweet spot for aging these considering the acidity and tannins in a Petite Sirah is probably between 4 and 8 years, although there are bottles out there that could benefit from aging longer. For those like me, who can’t seem to wait to drink their bottles of Petite Sirah, decanting a younger bottle works great too.
Petite Sirah in my opinion does not get the respect it deserves in the wine world. It has great character. The mix of body, structure, and depth really provide a unique wine drinking experience. When friends of mine who are novice wine drinkers ask me where to start or which wines they should try, I often recommend a Petite Sirah. These are great wines for both wine drinkers who gravitate towards dryer wine and those who like a smoother or more fruity wine.
What to pair with a Petite Sirah? Being a bigger wine, Petite Sirah holds up well against foods with strong flavors. Grilled meats, pizza, spicy, smoked, or aged cheese, dark chocolates, and rich deserts. The truth is it goes well with just about anything.