Petite Sirah, in all actuality, is anything but petite. With its dark and inky color, velvety tannins, and complex flavors of plum, smoke, and espresso, this beast of a wine is a red wine lover’s dream come true.
In this guide, we’ll take a deep dive into Petite Sirah wine, its growing regions, tasting notes, serving recommendations, and of course, plenty of food pairings.
Characteristics of Petite Sirah
Petite Sirah is a dry red wine made from the Durif grape, invented by crossing Syrah with Peloursin. The resulting tightly-clustered and thick-skinned grape was prized for its high skin-to-juice ratio, making for wines with bold tannins and concentrated flavor.
This dry red wine is full-bodied, with high tannins and moderate acidity. It is typically higher in alcohol, around 13-15%.
Due to its rich berry and cooked fruit flavor, it is favored as a blend with other bold reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon and or Merlot. While Petite Sirah adds complexity, other red wines impart crucial acidity that Petite Sirah lacks.
Oak aging is necessary to soften Petite Sirah’s plush tannins, and aging of around 5-7 years is common. Blends with higher acidity will generally be more age-worthy.
Petite Sirah Versus Syrah
While Syrah is one of the parent grapes of Petite Sirah, it’s important to note some stark differences between the two.
Petite Sirah is high in tannins than Syrah and typically has stronger flavors of black plum, black pepper, and chocolate.
Syrah, on the other hand, is slightly lower in tannins and higher in acidity. In addition, Syrah typically has more red plum and mild pepper notes as compared to Petite Sirah.
While both red wines are dry, full-bodied, and rich with complex dark fruit and peppery flavors, a quick side-by-side comparison will expose the nuanced differences between the two.
As for food pairing, Syrah tends to be less fruit-forward, so it is best for pairing with herb-focused, smoked, and barbequed dishes. While Petite Sirah would also be a fit pairing, it is best suited for dishes with a subtle fruit addition, such as roasted duck with plum sauce.
How to Serve
Petite Sirah is best served at room temperature (60-68°F) in a standard red wine glass or Bordeaux glass. As for decanting, all Petite Sirah wines will benefit from at least 30 minutes of decanting to allow those deep fruit flavors to unravel.
The Petite Sirah Grape
As mentioned earlier, the Durif grape’s story begins in a laboratory, where it was developed by French botanist François Durif by crossing Syrah with Peloursin. Petite Sirah is still referred to as Durif outside of the United States and Israel.
This rot-resistant, tightly clustered grape was a moderate success in France, but it wasn’t until it was introduced to the United States in the late 1800s that it quickly found its home.
In California, the grape was renamed Petite Sirah, and it was routinely incorporated as a cheap addition to field blends and low-priced jug wines.
Luckily, winemakers have since wised up to the delicious potential of this grape, and it is now singled out or thoughtfully incorporated into excellent California red blends.
Notable Regions for Petite Sirah
While Petite Sirah is mostly found in California, it’s worth noting the differences between California’s widespread and diverse wine-growing regions. As the rest of the world begins to follow suit, more obscure wine-growing regions are beginning to experiment with this voluptuous grape.
Lodi Valley, California
Located precisely in the center of California’s Central Valley, this region is known equally for making delicious Zinfandel as it is for making Petite Sirah. Lodi Valley is twice the size of Napa and is slightly warmer, making for intensely focused and complex red wines.
With quick draining and heat-retaining soil, the vines in Lodi are used to struggling, which only helps make even more concentrated wines. Expect flavors of dark fruit, cooked fruit, and jammy flavors with smooth acidity and velvety tannins.
Sonoma is slightly cooler than Lodi, with a more Mediterranean climate. As a result, the days are warm but rarely scorching, and with cool evenings and a constant ocean breeze, Sonoma makes Petite Sirah with a more crisp flavor and greater aging potential.
Sonoma does have broad landscapes, though most premiere Petite Sirah can be found more inland. Here you can expect flavors of sugar plum, forest floor, dark chocolate, and blueberry.
While Israel’s winegrowing scene is still in its early stages, Petite Sirah has found moderate success, specifically in the Carmel and Tishbi regions. Due to Israel’s warm and rainless summers followed by cool and moist winters, there is much promise that Petite Sirah will fare well there.
Winemakers in Israel typically make Petite Sirah both as a single varietal and as a blend with other red wines such as Carignan. Expect flavors of cocoa, sugar plum, black cherry, and black tea.
Petite Sirah Food Pairings
Petite Sirah is a berrylicious, delicious red wine that is perfectly suited for your most richly flavored courses. The pairing of Petite Sirah wine with more fatty foods helps to create balance. It’s the ideal dancing partner for everything from roasted pork to piles of spaghetti and meatballs. Try it with our Stuffed Pork Tenderloin or our family’s absolute favorite ricotta meatballs at your next pasta night — divine.
Skip the lightly-seasoned and delicate dishes, as they’re no match for Petite Sirah’s voluptuous flavor and will easily be overpowered.
Be sure to shout out below any favorite food pairings or specific Petite Sirah wines you’ve tried and loved!