As the executive director of the Petite Sirah advocacy group, PS. I Love you, I get a lot of basic questions about what Petite Sirah is.
The most basic question is, “Is it related to Syrah?”
The answer is an absolute “Yes.”
So, when you read that it’s not related to Syrah, you’re reading a dated answer. Dr. Carole Meredith and her staff did the DNA fingerprinting on this varietal in the 1990s, and there is no longer a question about its lineage.
Syrah (father) + Peloursin (mother) = Petite Sirah (Son of Syrah)
What follows are the most frequently asked questions, with my most frequently given answers.
Q. Is Petite Sirah related to Syrah or Petit Verdot?
A. Petite Sirah IS related to SYRAH? Syrah is the father grape; Peloursin is the mother grape in that crossing. Dr. Francois Durif crossed Syrah and Peloursin in the late 1890’s, looking for a grape resistant to powdery mildew, and created a varietal that’s very prone to bunch rot, as the cluster is very tight… So tight, in fact, that if a day’s fog doesn’t burn off, bunch rot can begin to grow. Time line for Petite Sirah is on this page (the PSILY Web site is your best friend for info on the varietal): www.psiloveyou.org
Q. What are the most conspicuous aspects of Petit Sirah in aroma, flavor, and texture?
A. Conspicuous aspects in aroma and flavors: Big, bold berry cherry. Tannins that won’t quit, in fact, US PS ages better than US Cab, as told by many winemakers and writers… many agree on this; others would dispute that Cab is king; however, a Napa Cab costs + a bottle, while a Napa PS is more in the range of + a bottle. It’s a tasty alternative to CS, aging as well, if not better.
Q. It was long used as a blending grape to add accent to other grapes. What did/does it do best in such blends?
A. Blender — because it adds colors, flavors, textures, and tannins to otherwise lighter wines (perhaps the vineyard is just bearing fruit, needs some boost from some varietal that has all the attributes that PS offers, and has been used accordingly). In the wine spice rack, it’s the staple. Contender — On its own, it’s a joy that those who are brave enough to step outside the bounds of the “usual” will find a new friend. It’s almost a cult experience… very fun to be on the edge with this one. It’s NOT your daddy’s Merlot.
Q. PS is frequently blended with Zinfandel. What???s it primary purpose in that marriage?
A. Marriage with Zin? Zin has very little agability… the marriage is for spice and tannins.
Q. What other grapes benefit from some small percentage of Petite Sirah?
A. Cabs get a bit of PS when the wine is needing some “cftt” (color, flavor, texture, tannin)
Q. In recent years, PS is being used in stand-alone bottlings. If you turn the tables, and add non-PS grapes for accent, which would you choose?
A. PS & SY are a combination that I hear about, as is PS & CS.
Q. Are there single-vineyard Petite Sirahs?
A. Yes, there are single vineyards of PS, and more-and-more growers are planting.
Q. Will PS become more popular in the coming years? If so, why?
A. More popular, yes, as people’s palates are constantly changing. Here are some growth figures for PS that I’ve been tracking. Know that when I started this in 2002, there were only 60 growers and producers on a list for who’s who. I’ve knocked off the growers, as the most important list for me is who’s got it on their labels… again, 60 was the magic number for both growers and producers. Just over three years later, I have 274 producers (labels with PS on them) on my list. It’s all been gathered through the Wine & Vines Directory, Internet, clipping service, etc. I look daily; therefore, I dare say that this is the most comprehensive list, as no one else is living this particular passion.