Most people have more questions than answers about Syrah. Are Syrah and Shiraz the same thing? And what is Petite Sirah? In this week’s Wine Wednesday, we’ll explore these three different, yet not so different, wines.
Que Syrah, Syrah
Originally from the Rhône Valley in France, Syrah is a thick-skinned grape that produces rich, flavorful wines. It is the only red grape allowed in the Northern Rhône, and is one of the core three grapes in the Southern Rhône “GSM” blend – Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre. It is now grown around the world, including Australia, Spain, Argentina, South Africa, and the United States.
Old World Syrah is typically full-bodied, with notes of blackberries, smoky meat, olives, and even graphite, with a higher acidity. New World Syrah will be more fruit-forward and spicy, with notes of blackberry, black pepper, cassis, and violet.
Syrah is often the best wine for roasting, grilling, or smoking. Bold foods can stand up to the intensity of Syrah, but it is key to remember: either the wine or the dish can have the spotlight, but not both. Syrah ideally should be served around 60-65°F – just put the bottle in the fridge for 15 minutes before serving.
Ol’ Shiraz-le Dazzle
Shiraz is the most planted grape in Australia, especially in Grange. The truth is– are you ready for this?– Syrah and Shiraz are the same grape! James Busby, father of the Australian wine industry, brought Syrah vines from Rhône to Australia in the 19th Century, but there are different stories about the name discrepancy. Some believe the name is the result of a misspelling, but others believe another story. According to local legends, the knight Gaspard de Stérimberg brought grape vines with him from the city of Shiraz in Iran, a place once known for thousands of years for fantastic wines. Furthermore, Busby supposedly noted on his trip to Australia that “the [Syrah] plant was originally brought from Shiraz in Persia.” Some people believe that this could be the origin story of the name Shiraz, hoping to add some romance and mystery to the new Australian Syrah!
What About Petite Sirah?
Petite Sirah is not a “baby Syrah,” “young Syrah,” or “small Syrah”, but its own type of grape! Also known as Durif, this grape is a cross between Syrah and Peloursin, a nearly extinct grape from the French Alps. French botanist Francois Durif created it in Montpellier around 1880, and Charles McIver brought it to the US in the mid-1880’s, where it gained the new name “Petite Sirah.” Petite Sirah is mostly grown in the United States and Australia, and was one of the most popular grape varieties in Napa until the early 1960’s. Deep in color and full bodied, Petite Sirah has notes of blueberry, plum, and black pepper. It is still very rare to find in wine, with less than 10,000 acres planted worldwide. Petite Sirah, unlike its parent Syrah, is not great for aging, as it loses most of its acidity relatively early. The high tannin in Petite Sirah makes it pair excellently with richer, more fatty foods, especially with smoky, fruity flavors. It’s best to serve Petite Sirah around 65°F to bring out its floral notes and minerality.
Hawk Haven Syrah & Petite Sirah
At Hawk Haven, we focus on producing a Rhône-style Syrah. We even add crushed Viognier skins to our fermenting Syrah, a traditional technique done in Rhône! Our 2016 Syrah has beautiful fruit character, like dried currants, cassis, and plum, as well as notes of violet, rose petal, and pink peppercorn. Medium- bodied with smooth tannins, it’s sure to be perfect for your next backyard grill-out. We also grow Petite Sirah; it is blended into our Flying Press Red and Proprietor’s Red Blend. Stop in to get your favorite today!
See Also: Our previous Wine Wednesday about Syrah by former staff member Ryan Matthews