Five Fun Facts About Petite Sirah

Big, bold and powerful, Petite Sirah is a wine that should be experienced. However, this full-bodied beauty is somewhat misunderstood and receives little recognition in the marketplace. While many of us in the wine industry love Petite Sirah, especially Frank Family who dedicates a single bottling to this variety, it still represents just a tiny blip of plantings and production in the world. In honor of the release of our 2016 S&J Vineyard Petite Sirah, we are sharing some fast and fun facts about this under appreciated grape that has stolen our hearts. 

1. “Durif” is Petite Sirah’s original name.

In the 1880s, French botanist François Durif crossed the Syrah and Peloursin grapes and created a new variety that he hoped would be resistant to mildew. He called this grape, Durif after himself. The Durif grape was imported to America in the mid-1880s where it received its new name “Petite Sirah.” Despite its origins being in France, Petite Sirah never really took off there and is essentially nonexistent in the country today. But it thrives in California weather, where it has a strong following among fanatics.

2. There is nothing ‘petite’ about Petite Sirah.

Contrary to its name, Petite Sirah is not petite at all. This wine is substantial, inky black in color, and high in tannins. It’s also delicious, eminently drinkable, and is quintessentially Californian. 

3. Petite Sirah is rarely seen as a 100% varietal wine. 

It’s not easy to fine a 100% Petite Sirah, especially in Napa Valley where the more popular Cabernet Sauvignon is the main focus. It is usually found in red blends, used by winemakers to muscle up the wine and to add structure when needed. 

4. Petite Sirah is a perfect wine for decanting. 

The high tannin in Petite Sirah makes it the perfect red wine to pour in a decanter and watch it evolve for 1-2 hours (if you can wait!). Follow our Guide to Decanting if you need tips and tricks. 

5. Petitie Sirah is high in antioxidants. 

Tannic red wines that are dark in color have been shown to be naturally higher in antioxidants. Petite Sirah is one of the deepest, most opaque red wines with very high levels of anthocyanin (an antioxidant).