Monday, September 15, 2008

Little Brother?

You'd think that the grape Petite Sirah is related to Syrah, perhaps a smaller "brother" or offspring. It actually has quite a mysterious heritage. It is uncommonly seen as a varietal bottling, especially in the old world where it has been used for blending. Today it's seen mostly from wineries in the new world, especially California and oddly enough, Brazil and Mexico. Just to add to the name confusion, some wineries spell the grape "Petite Syrah" which may actually be a different species!
Enough rambling, lets taste.
I found 3 bottles of Petite Sirah and one Petite Syrah. The best two by far were from California - the Eos, Reserve Petite Sirah, Paso Robles, 2001 clocks in at 15.5% alcohol. But, like some heavy hitter zinfandels, it hides all this booze in fruit. This has an aromatic cherry-like nose followed by intense cherry and bramble fruit on the palate. Dense and full bodied with very easy going tannins, this is impressive. Wow. $30 and worth it.
Rosenblum, Petite Sirah, Heritage Clones, 2006 is a much younger wine. Surprisingly, the nose is more subtle than the Eos and shows floral notes. On the palate this is another dense, intense wine with blackberries, creamy chocolate and oranges. More tannic than the Eos but still easy going. Wow. Also worth the money at $28.
The other two wines are Australian in origin (Hopwood Petite Syrah 2004 and DeBortoli Petite Sirah 2006) and are not really worth talking about - don't buy them as they are not very good, rated as "OK".
So, if you see bottle of old vine Petite Sirah from a reputable producer, I'd say give your taste buds a interesting alternative to new world fruit bombs made from Zinfandel.
Cheers!! (oh, and this is how I felt the next morning.....)


At 4:34 p.m. , Anonymous Jo Diaz (Director of PS I Love You) said...

I'm pleased that you've asked this as a question, because it allows me to give you some answers...

Petite Sirah is NOT the little brother of Syrah, it's actually the son of Syrah (well-known Rhone cultivar) and Peloursin (obscure Rhone variety). All fo the details about Petite Sirah can be found on the PS I Love You Website at

There is no longer any mystery about this variety, because Dr. Carole Meredith of UC Davis has done the finger printing for Petite Sirah, giving us the above DNA lineage.

Also - the S"y"rah versus S"i"rah issue with Petite in front of it... Those wineries that spell it with a "y" are quick to tell you it's because of the lineage. Those who spell it with an "i" do so because that's the way Charles McIver, who brought it to the US in 1884, labeled it with an "i."

Now, the BTT will only allow labels with an "i" going forward - when ANYONE asks for a new label approval, because there needs to be seamless marketing and understanding of what it is (Petite Sirah) and what it isn't (Syrah).


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