Petit Sirah in the Vineyard
December 10, 2013
The Petite Sirah grape was developed by Dr. Francis Durif, a nurseryman from France, who crossed Syrah and the Rhone varietal Peloursin. Called “Durif”, his hope was to create a Syrah that was resistant to mildew. Unfortunately, the resultant cross with its tight clusters developed grey rot as well as the original problem of mildew in the humid Rhone region. Today there is very little Petite Sirah planted in France.
In 1884 Charles Melver, owner of Linda Vista Winery, planted cuttings of Durif at his Mission San Jose vineyard (he was probably the first to call it Petite Sirah). This little grape was sparsely planted throughout California for more than a century and was used in blending because of its deep color, jammy flavors, and intense tannins.
Because of its drier climate, the Paso Robles area has carved out a niche of its own, creating Petite Sirah as a unique varietal. In April of 2002, the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) announced that Petite Sirah and Durif were synonymous and could be used on wine labels without distinguishing them separately.
The Petite Sirah grape produces small grapes with high skin-to-juice ratios that give it its dark, inky color. The Paso Robles region, with its characteristic dry, Mediterranean type climate and calcareous soils intensifies the blackberry flavor and strong tannins making Petite Sirah a very popular stand-alone varietal.