Petite Sirah, the re-emerged bastard French wine child from royal pedigree, is called Durif in many parts of the world. It was engineered in the late 1800s by a French guy named — you guessed it — Durif. He cross-pollinated the venerated syrah grape with an obscure French peasant grape called Peloursin and created a highly marketable, mildew-resistant variety.
The French winemakers admired its pest-resistance properties, but finicky French wine drinkers rejected the flavor and it almost died out. Many years later, Petite Sirah, which quite likely migrated to the U.S. via Ellis Island, found its name when American growers used it in their “field blends,” along with several other grapes that were unknown but popular now, like Carignan and Grenache.
With its dark, inky color and often-astringent tannins, Petite Sirah gives a wimpy blend some oomph. It wasn’t until relatively recently that winemakers began bottling Petite Sirah as a single varietal wine, and the American public, oft contrary to French opinions, began a discreet love affair with this rejected soul. (More on Petite Sirah)
Foppiano Vineyards has been growing and bottling Petite Sirah in the Russian River Valley since 1964, so they’ve had a few years to get it right. They thankfully know how to tame the beastly tannins, crafting an elegant, full-bodied, raspberry jammy wine with spicy cinnamon, cherry cola, cassis, concentrated blueberry and sweet tobacco. On the finish is toasty oak and a swath of soft leather. Lots going on and this was a huge crowd pleaser at a recent blind tasting.
Sweetness: 2 out of 10
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Occasion: Tasted blind at an in-home wine tasting
Availability: High end wine shops
Food pairing: Fatty grilled meats, slow cooked roasts and stews