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Petite Sirah & Syrah

What is the difference between Petite Sirah and Syrah? Thank you.
Answer From Expert Roger Bohmrich MW

The two grapes have been confused for a long time. Petite Sirah has been planted in California since the late 19th century, but its true identity has often been in doubt. Grape vine researchers have indicated that some plantings may be Durif, a French variety. Some have been identified as crosses of Durif and Peloursin. Some vines called Petite Sirah may also have been true Syrah, whose genetic parents are Mondeuse Blanche and Dureza. Confusing, isn't it?

In practical terms, Petite Sirah as currently grown in California is a variety with notable fruit intensity and elevated tannin and acidity. While sometimes one-dimensional and a bit severe, good examples can be very appealing in a firm, fresh style - and are often very good values since the variety has yet to gain fashionable status. Try modestly-priced wines from Huntington or Vinum Cellars.

Syrah is by consensus one of the world's great, classic red wine grapes. Basic renditons from, for example, the south of France or Australia have a pleasing ripe suppleness. In the Northern Rhone, this variety can produce highly concentrated wines with considerable aging potential (Hermitage) along with other excellent appellations (Cote Rotie, Cornas). The identical grape called Shiraz in Australia can yield dense, opulent, and sometimes very powerful wines (Barossa) as well as firmer, more restrained versions (Victoria).

About Our Expert

Roger has enjoyed a lengthy career in the wine trade as an importer and retailer, and at present he is an educator, speaker and consultant. He set up and managed Millesima USA, a New York merchant affiliated with a leading European company. Previously, he served as senior executive of importers Frederick Wildman & Sons. In recent years, Roger has judged wine competitions in Argentina, Turkey, Portugal, China and the U.S. Roger is one of America's first Masters of Wine.

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