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Varietal character (Appellation America) | P.S. I Love You: A Petite Sirah Advocacy Organization
Petite Sirah is a variety of red wine grape grown in France, California, Israel and Australia. Recently, wineries located in Washington State's Yakima Valley, Maryland, Arizona, West Virginia, Mexico, Chile's Colchagua Valley and Maipo Valley, and Ontario's Niagara Peninsula have also produced wines from Petite Sirah grapes. Though developed in France, it is nearly extinct there as of 2002, hanging on in limited plantings in the Isère and Ardêche regions of the Rhône Valley and in Palette, a tiny appellation in Provence. It is the main grape known in the US and Israel as Petite Sirah with over 90% of the California plantings labeled "Petite Sirah" being Durif grapes; the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms recognizes "Durif" and "Petite Sirah" as interchangeable synonyms referring to the same grape. The grape originated as a cross of Syrah pollen germinating a Peloursin plant. On some occasions, Peloursin and Syrah vines may be called Petite Sirah, usually because the varieties are extremely difficult to distinguish in old age.
The 'petite' in the name of this grape refers to the size of its berries and not the vine, which is particularly vigorous. The leaves are large with a bright green upper surface and paler green lower surface. The grape forms tightly packed clusters that can be susceptible to rotting in rainy environments. The small berries creates a high skin to juice ratio which can produce very tannic wines if the juice goes through an extended maceration period. In the presence of new oak barrels the wine can develop an aroma of melted chocolate.
Petite Sirah produces dark, inky colored wines that are relatively acidic with firm texture and mouth feel. The bouquet has herbal and black pepper overtones, with plum and blackberry flavors on the palate. Compared to Syrah, the wine is noticeably more dark and purplish in color. The wines are very tannic with aging ability that can eclipse 20 years in the bottle.
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