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Petite Sirah,Wine

Important Historical Petite Sirah Update from Plant Geneticist Dr. Carole Meredith about its Crossing

Since 2002, I’ve been gathering information about Petite Sirah, with one item being a bit sketchy; namely, did François Durif know what plant he crossed with Peloursin? The original info given to me came from an old family’s oral history and it now it needs updating. I’m also simultaneously updating the PS I Love You Website, for complete accuracy.

It all began on Facebook… Like lots of things today, right? I had written:

Petite Sirah is on my mind, Facebook. I’ve been learning, traveling, educating, and enjoying being the international rep for this variety, since 2002. In the words of Rich Mauro, recently regarding Petite Sirah… It’s robust.”

Indeed it is. And so I found this image to go with it.

[PHOTO purchased, please do not copy:]

My friend and wine colleague Paul Moe asked:

Why are so many facial pictures of women taken from her nose to her chin? Serious question, thanks.

I answered:

Paul, it’s a good question. As a photographic choice, it’s very useful and can be dramatic, as it significantly alters the compositional choices of the picture. Eyes always pull focus, so not including them can help to bring focus to other elements of the picture.

The remaining facial features are also enhanced, permitting a greater appreciation for the lips or nose, for example. It can also heighten the artistic element of the shot, since the face becomes slightly more abstract.

Then, there is the possibility of maintaining a model’s relative anonymity. Now a counter-question: do you really see it often? In what kinds of photos? I like to think that I pay attention to composition in photos, but I haven’t noticed this kind of photo as being overly common. Nor that it is primarily of women.

So, we got that out of the way, then onto Petite Sirah’s lineage. One person mentioned Carole Meredith, and the door was then opened widely. I tagged her, as she’s always been my “go-to” for updates, and I wanted her to be involved, as she had already been mentioned.

[Jo Diaz PHOTO OF PETITE. It is copy written. If you would like to use, please contact me.]

Co Owner at Lagier Meredith Vineyard, Dr. Carole Meredith is the geneticist, from the University of California at Davis, who discovered the DNA fingerprinting of Petite Sirah. To this point in America’s history, there was one elusive detail for me. The following information simply closed that gap; mystery solved. History continues to be written about this orphaned grape from Montpelier, France, as Carole Meredith has now succinctly clarified Petite Sirah’s history. The following are Dr. Carole Meredith’s words with a couple of questions from others.

Question: Did Francois Durif know both parents of Petite Sirah:

Carole Meredith

If Dr. Durif had deliberately pollinated Peloursin with Syrah, he surely would have mentioned it when he released the new variety, because Syrah was a well-known variety even then, and Peloursin was more obscure. Instead he reported only that his new variety was a seedling of Peloursin. He had a number of varieties growing in close proximity at his nursery, so many natural cross-pollinations would have occurred.

Deliberate crossing of grape varieties did not begin until the 1800’s, so all the old varieties that are known to have existed long before the 1800’s would necessarily have arisen as chance seedlings.

There is no disagreement among researchers as to how these crosses happened.

Mentioned: Early plant breeding dates back 11,000 years…

Carole Meredith

Selection, yes. Hybridization, no…the earliest plant hybridization was in the 1700’s. But, the first grape hybridization was not until the 1800’s, because grape flowers are tiny and difficult to emasculate prior to pollinating. But Francois Durif did not make a deliberate cross, because if he had he would have described his new variety as such. But, he described it only as a seedling of Peloursin, and did not even mention that the pollen parent was Syrah, a fact that we discovered in my lab at U.C. Davis in the 1990’s.

So, there it is… reported only that his new variety was a seedling of Peloursin. Durif most likely didn’t know what he was using to cross Peloursin. Durif had a number of varieties growing in close proximity at his nursery, so many natural cross-pollinations would have occurred. And, he didn’t record that he crossed with Syrah. In 1996 – At the University of California at Davis, Dr. Carole Meredith and her colleagues determined by DNA comparisons that:

  • Almost all (more than 90%) of the vines in Petite Sirah vineyards are Durif and the rest are Peloursin (the mother of Durif).
  • Durif is the offspring of a cross-pollination between Peloursin and Syrah, which means it received half of its genes from each of these varieties.

2 Responses to “Important Historical Petite Sirah Update from Plant Geneticist Dr. Carole Meredith about its Crossing”

  1. Well done! Your commitment to accuracy is greatly appreciated.

  2. Jo Diaz says:

    Lucia, Thank you for your kind words of commitment to accuracy. History is a very important aspect for Petite Sirah, and it’s champions like you that bolster our passions! Thank you for YOUR commitment to encouragement.

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