I don’t love Petite Sirah but I don’t hate it either. There are few varieties that I simply don’t like. I updated my wine sample policy where I stated that I will no longer review Petite Sirah wines–I will continue to review where PS doesn’t take an overwhelming percentage and where overall I feel the wine needs a review. Like many wine writers I don’t promise I’ll review all wines I receipt as samples or even that which I purchase.
There is an organization called PS I Love You which I personally have never uttered those words. I had attended one of their Petite Sirah Symposiums and tasted a number of the presenters Petite Sirahs. It was a good symposium but it didn’t bring me closer to the words “I Love Petite Sirah.” Petite Sirah for me tastes very linear–dense, inky, high alcohol and a narrow range of notes–if blind tasting Petite Sirah from across California I and anyone else would be hard pressed to pick up where the wines came from because of its low frequency of regional characterisation. I think what I find interesting is that Petite Sirah can truly over take a cuvée even at small percentage levels say in the 25 to 40% levels which I think re-characterises the wines considerable and take a commanding lead anything at any level of 40% can only be thought of as a Petite Sirah wine.
I like a wine variety that can express its region, its site and has a vast variation and complexity both by earth and winemaker. I know that some people think of PS as alluring and seductive. I think high alcohol can sometimes add to seductiveness of a wine. Also a wine that can be drunk without food can be a good thing but I have not had my enjoyment of meal where Petite Sirah was the featured wine. I felt that PS overtook the lead even in the food-wine pairing zone and for me I would have preferred another wine variety.
Consumers have had a love affair that is quickly dashed over the historical period of a couple of decades. In the 1980’s there was approximately 14,000 acres in California going down to 2,000 in the mid-1990s. Today the current acres planted to Petite Sirah are approximately 6,584 acres in California according to Wine Grapes (Robinson, et al.). I look at Zinfandel which has approximately 47,000 acres planted in California as a grape that has a firm foothold as a variety. I can say easily that I do love Zinfandel–it is a wonderful variety that has a vast range of variation. Interesting a lot of Zinfandel producers might add single digit percentage of Petite Sirah. Zinfandel can hold its own especially with a dash of Petite Sirah. This I am not bothered by–if a wine is varietally labeled Zinfandel that is the chief expression that I am seeking. Above single digits can overly influence the wine. Back to Zinfandel–Zinfandel has had it’s ups and downs but I do think it is a cornerstone wine grape in California. I think people who are fans remain a fan for the long run unlike Petite Sirah. I do not think that is the case with Petite Sirah drinkers–someone and I hypothesize many people start here and go to other varieties – Bordeaux, Burgundy, Iberian and Italian varieties and stay in those camps. If Petite Sirah had a base that consumed it year over year there would be many more acres planted. Will we hit 18,000 acres in the near future? No. Will we hit this in the mid-term: No. And the long run: most likely not.
Petite Sirah if not nearly extinct it is most likely extinct in it’s birthplace of France. If this wine grape had been loved there there would be many examples of Petite Sirah or Durif (synonym) today in France. I have had many samples run across my desk and I have decided to not review that which I do not love. Also read into this that I do not hate Petite Sirah either. I thought it was important to highlight my revised sample policy.
Let me know your thoughts on Petite Sirah–like, love, indifferent or hate the variety?
James the Wine Guy
Demystifying Wine…One Bottle at a Time from all wine regions around the world.
© 2016 James Melendez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, logo, brand name, rating, rating graphic and award and designs of James the Wine Guy.
James the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.
Follow, subscribe, like, browse: