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Food and Wine,France,French Wine,Gaillac,Grape Growing,Petite Sirah,PS I Love You,Red Wine,Wine

Petite Sirah in France? A Flip of the Coin at Clos Hirissou

[PHOTOS: gratis Clos Hirissou]

The greatest joy of starting PS I Love You, the advocacy group for Petite Sirah, has been the people I’ve met along the way. People from all over the world have contacted me about Petite, and this is the most recent communication, during the last 18 years of relationships.

This one is one of the most important, also.

Hello, my name is Nicolas Hirissou. I am the owner of Domaine du Moulin and Clos Hirissou, in the southwest of France. Two years ago I had the idea to plant 11,000 plants of Petite Sirah. It’s very unique for France.Recently popping up on the Petite Sirah I Love You Facebook page was Nicolas Hirissou. He began a conversation with a comment:

[He later shared that it took 7,000 plants for one hectare; so one and a half hectares of Petite Sirah equals to 3.5 acres. This is a serious experiment.]

In that conversation, I thought, I been sooo looking for anyone growing Petite in France! Years ago, I had a contact; and hard as I try, I cannot retrace his information. So here I’ve been, knowing there has to be some Petite in its own native land and yearning to know where; when, Nicolas Hirissou just sailed right in from the sky, as if he were on the wings of his golden eagle Cinto.

A VIMEO INTRODUCTION

“My family and my two passions help me in this adventure. Falconry and Corsica are my two sources of inspiration: The search for polyphonic wine ………”

Polyphonic wine, indeed. Now I’m inspired to explore more. I’m going in…

[PHOTO: Amazing doors are just part of Frances’s cultural architecture.]

The conversation began:

Jo: Hello Nicolas, thank you for your E-Mail. Yes, Petite Sirah is very unusual for France. I would love to speak with you about your vines. I have been wondering what it is like to grow Petite Sirah in France. I believe this is very historic.

I also shared my personal blog URL with him, telling him I wanted to write about his Petite Sirah vines. I can’t help being really curious and wanting to know if Petite will be considered in France, ever, as its climate is beginning to be more like California’s, due to more heat and less rain. When I was in France last July, I even had one vigneron mention a possible, future return of Petite Sirah to France, given the climate changes. This is what has most recently piqued my curiosity, about Petite. And, now, I’m able to dig deeper.

[PHOTO: Domaine du Moulin]

Domaine du Moulin and Clos Hirissou

While Domaine du Moulin and Clos Hirissou are both wine companies of Nicolas Hirissou, the focus for today is his vineyard and his future Clos Hirissou Petite Sirah. This location is the commune of Gaillac, France.

WIKI: Gaillac is a town situated between Toulouse, Albi, and Montauban. It has gained much recognition due to the wines that bear the town’s name. The Tarn river runs along the border of the town by the south, east to west. It lies 50 kilometers north-east of Toulouse. It is a market town and is the commercial center of the north-west of Tarn.

Notice the thin, black line? This is the vineyard’s outline.

As difficult as it was to find rootstock, in 2019, Nicolas Hirissou planted those 11,000 Petite Sirah plants in the vineyards of Clos Hirissou. He’s now working toward and anticipating his first harvest; which will be 100 percent Petite Sirah, in 2021. He believes that he’s alone in his endeavor, because Petite Sirah is considered a table wine, not in the AOC (Appellation d’origine contrôlée, a protected area with rules and regulations).  Nicholas also believes this grape is perfect in his native, Gaillac’s climate, because the terroir it’s less hot than in the south of France.

To further complicate it, there’s no market for Petite Sirah in France… at all. He’s all alone on France’s limb of the Petite Sirah family tree. Sales in France? He doubts it, but wait! He knows that if he makes a very good Petite Sirah, he’ll be able to sell it in the US.

[PHOTO: Future label]

This is his label,  The wine will be made like a grand cru; and it’s organic, in limestone soil. Limestone is one of the known choices for producing great wines.  It has favorable nutrients for wine grapes and allows for good drainage. The grapes also retain moisture in this terroir, especially in dry weather.

“The grape variety Durif is certified in my area, and there are only 30 such plants. I have 1.5 hectares and next year I will plant 0.5 more. After that will depend on sales, but my dream is to have more hectare.”

What draws Nicolas Hirissou to Petite Sirah?

In 2001, he worked in Napa and had tasted Petite. He was 21 at the time and has never forgotten the experiences and the flavors.

“Five years later,  we had a grape field museum in Gaillac. The organizers experimented with Petite Sirah, because 100 years before this time, we had a lot of Durif in Gaillac. The experiment stopped, but I tasted lots of bottles from this experiment and love them. Here, in my area, they don’t care about this grape. Every year I come for three weeks to USA, and every time I taste some Petite Sirah. Last year I visited Stags’ Leap Winery, with the winemaker Christophe Paubert.”  [Christophe Paubert is the winemaker and general manager at Stags’ Leap Winery, in Napa Valley.]

“I love the power, the colour, and the fact you can keep it a long, long time in bottles.

“I hope with my soil and my climate I will have more acidity with a wine more fresh.”

I hope you do, too, Nicholas. I have a feeling you’ll be keeping me in your loop.

Until then, people, birds, food, and wine… four of my favorite things.

Special thank you to Wine Industry Insight for publishing this story.
Special thank you to Wine Business for publishing this story.

4 Responses to “Petite Sirah in France? A Flip of the Coin at Clos Hirissou”

  1. Jo, this is really exciting, PS vines coming home to roost, so to speak. You turned me onto PS, my now favorite grape and wine for its deep complexity and soft intensity. Richness. When you get a bottle from him, let me come taste it with you to be able to capture its inner signature, its visual expression. His wine will be unique, not only French born, but organic. Are there American organic petites?

  2. Jo Diaz says:

    I’m sure there are. I’ll canvas the members for you.

    Also, wouldn’t it be incredible to get his fingerprinting for you? That’s one piece of art that would be spectacular!

  3. Dave Pramuk says:

    Jo, thanks for sharing this nice story.
    Falconry, Petite Sirah – Nicolas is a most interesting fellow!
    And, he is pursuing a variety that is not embraced by French winemakers to boot.
    I would not bet against the success of his vineyard project considering what a hardy and adaptable cultivar Petite Sirah is and its demonstrated long term success in California across a myriad of soils and microclimates.
    I wish Nicolas bon chance and bon voyage on his Petite Sirah adventure!

  4. Jo Diaz says:

    Great thoughts, Dave!

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