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Petite Sirah,Wine,Wine Blogger,Wine Writer

He Wrote, “This is troubling indeed.” I agree, it’s a sign of the times…

One of my wine writing/blogging pals sent an Email to me about an article that he had read about Petite Sirah. That same day, I also got a call from a long time producer of Petite Sirah. Both of them had read this same story, which I had also read. It was about Petite Sirah, and it was published both online and in a major metropolitan newspaper.

The story was more than disturbing for a couple of reasons.

  1. SIMPLE REASON: I had been asked to supply Petite Sirah images for it, which I did, and was told that there would be photo credits. The vintner who called me… It was his vineyards in the story, and the credit for the images was simply left out.
  2. MORE COMPLEX ONE: The author of the story hasn’t been writing about wine for about the last 10 years. It makes me suspect that this story is a recycled one. While the wine reviews are of more current vintages, the material is really dated.

Here’s the text that’s really dated:

For years, the origin of the petite sirah found in California wasn’t clear. Many old-timers felt that it was the obscure French variety called durif, but ampelographic (studying the vine’s leaves to obtain its DNA) evidence in the late 1970s showed that petite sirah is a name given to no fewer than four grape varieties: durif; peloursin, an obscure French vine of which durif is an offspring; a cross of peloursin and durif; and the true syrah itself.

This material is about the findings of Petite being related to it in the 1970s. Today’s vineyards are primarily single variety, and are planted with material obtained from a nursery. Today’s vine buyers can trace which clones they’ve purchased from credible nurseries, who know full well what budwood they’re selling, and if the vine buyer is wanting to buy Petite Sirah, that’s exactly what he or she is getting.

Talking about evidence in the 1970s dates back too far, with Dr. Carol Meredith having published the DNA results for PS’s lineage in the American Journal of Enology & Viticulture, Vol. 50, No. 3, 1999.

I feel like I now need to get this into the public record, so that anyone else wanting it doesn’t have to dig through PDFs, which might miss the sweepings of Google:

The Identity and Parentage of the Variety Known in California as Petite Sirah

by CAROLE P. MEREDITH 1., JOHN E. BOWERS, SUMMAIRA RIAZ, VANESSA HANDLEY, ELIZABETH B. BANDMAN, and GERALD S. DANGL

DNA marker analysis was used to determine the varietal identity of Petite Sirah in public collections and commercial vineyards in California. Twenty-one vines analyzed from public collections at the University of California at Davis included accessions labeled Petite Sirah, Durif, Syrah and Serine. Fifty-three vines from 26 private Petite Sirah vineyards in four California counties were also analyzed. Several accessions each of Durif,

Peloursin, and Syrah obtained from Montpelier, France and an accession of Pinot noir from the University of California at Davis were used as controls for varietal identification. Samples were analyzed with four to eight simple sequence repeat (SSR) DNA markers. Some samples were first analyzed with four DNA probes to detect restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLPs). Davis accessions labeled Petite Sirah were found to include vines that we determined to be Durif, Peloursin, Syrah, and Pinot noir. Accessions labeled Durif’ included vines identical to Durif and Peloursin. The Syrah accessions were identical to the Syrah controls. The

Serine accession was found to be Pinot noir. Forty-nine of the 53 Petite Sirah vines from private vineyards were identical to Durif. Four vines, from three vineyards in two counties, were Peloursin. Comparison of the SSR genotypes of Durif and Peloursin indicates that Durif is probably a seedling of Peloursin as reported and cannot be a selection of Peloursin (as also reported). The other parent of Durif is most probably Syrah. SSR genotypes of Durif, Peloursin, and Syrah at 25 loci are consistent with this relationship and likelihood analysis of SSR allele frequencies supports the relationship with a very high degree of probability.

There’s a huge disconnect with this new article, which stops with 1970s findings, making me very skeptical about this new story being current, as I’ve written.

Maybe I’m wrong. It’s a possibility.  Given the fact that this author used to be so meticulous, I can’t help my feelings about this one.

So, why would I get my shorts in a twit about this? Hey, “I don’t care what you say about me, just spell my name right.” Right?

I care because it’s an example of one step forward and two steps back. And it’s a sign of our current times.

Bloggers came out of nowhere with Web 2.0 as writers. I’m okay with that one; here I am enjoying the process myself. I had all but solved writers spelling Petite Sirah’s name with a “y” in the name Sirah. Then, Web 2.0 opened up a whole new can of worms on that one. New writers not even looking at the label to get it right, and writing what they believed they were enjoying… the new Syrah wine; that’s got my heartburn doing flip flops inside my chest.

To see old, recycling stories that pre-date the DNA findings of Syrah tells me that newspapers can’t afford for people to write completely original articles like they used to pay staffers to do; nor are they employing fact checkers. That, my friends, is disturbing, and demonstrates a slipping away of professional journalism. We’ve all known this was coming. When it’s in my own back yard, I can’t help but see it and bring the evidence to the attention of all who find it disturbing that newspapers don’t care about the accuracy of stories that are being written today. They’re just filling space with dated, recycled material.

If something this seemingly simple is slipping right by us, what about stories that impact people’s lives, because what is being written isn’t necessarily fact checked? I certainly hope what goes around comes back around, eventually… Like DNA evidence, for instance.

The irony?

I’ve spent the last week working with a wine blogger writing a story about Petite, and she’s been asking me to fact check copious details. So, maybe this new generation of authors will eventually bring it all back around. One can only hope.

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4 Responses to “He Wrote, “This is troubling indeed.” I agree, it’s a sign of the times…”

  1. Blake Gray says:

    Jo: You need to out the media organization in this case, because it has made a choice about how to cover wine. I’ll do it for you: the Chicago Tribune (I googled the whole quote.)

  2. lynn says:

    What you say is true about not only print journalism, but all types of journalism. A year or two ago I heard an NPR news report on a viticulture conference in SAC (might have been a presentation at Unified) saying that “new vine varieties were being imported from South America”! My guess is they pulled a reporter off of the current events beat and sent him or her to Unified. Tight purse strings.

  3. Jo Diaz says:

    Thanks for your input, Lynn.

  4. Jo Diaz says:

    Blake,

    It takes a journalist to go get that one. You’re awesome 🙂

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