Syrah v. Petite Sirah

What's the difference?

Petite Sirah is an entirely different grape varietal than "Syrah" (otherwise known as "Shiraz").

Petite Sirah (also spelled as "Petite Syrah") is a black grape varietal originating from the Rhone region of France.  It is a relative newcomer:  created only in the 1880s by Dr. Durif.  In creating Petite Sirah, Dr. Durif crossed 2 ancient Mediterranean varietals: Syrah (as the father plant) and Peloursin (as the mother plant). Peloursin is no longer commercially grown.

In France, Petite Sirah was commonly known as "Durif" (also spelled as "Duriff") in tribute to its creator.  Ironically, Petite Sirah did not fare well in Rhone.  Petite Sirah is a very late ripening grape with a thin skin and hence susceptible to the ravages of late season rains common in the Rhone region.  Although small quantities continue to be grown and used in such wines as Chateauneuf du Pape, it is no longer widely used in Rhone wines.

Once transported to California, Durif thrived under the new name of Petite Sirah.  It was called "Petite Sirah" because it is a far less vigorous plant than Syrah.  Otherwise Syrah and Petite Sirah do not physically look alike.  Petite Sirah is best suited for truly Mediterranean climates with long and dry harvesting seasons.  Petite Sirah is presently grown across California, but tends to do best in Mendocino, Napa Valley and in certain parts of Sonoma.  Typically, Petite Sirah creates a wine of deeper color, richer texture, stronger tannins and a flavor profile steeped more towards spice and peppery red fruit when compared with Syrah.

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