This week we look at a red wine that’s perfect for these cool fall days and the foods that go with them, and a grape variety that might seem at once new yet familiar. How many wines can you say that about?
Don’t forget the Eureka Springs Food and Wine Festival begins November 7. My Spain trip report is almost finished, I promise. In the meantime, keep trying those new wines!
Petite Sirah was developed in the 1870s in France’s Rhône region where it is known as Durif. Very little of it is grown there today. After years of uncertainty about its heritage, DNA testing finally determined that this grape variety is a cross between Syrah and a minor Rhône variety called Peloursin.
Its small berries (some believe that led to its name) mean a high skin-to-juice ratio, and that allows Petite Sirah to produce wines with a dark, inky color, full body, high tannin levels and the ability to improve with aging. Its wines are often described as having flavors of blackberry and other dark fruits, with black pepper notes on the finish.
In California it was long considered a minor variety, but prized for its deep color and high yield, as well as its resistance to a vineyard malady called downy mildew. Early in the 20th century it was one of the three most widely planted wine grapes in California (Zinfandel and Mourvedre, known then as Mataro, were the other two). Today it’s enjoying a resurgence of popularity, which began as a “cult favorite” and now becoming almost mainstream.
This summer I found one I liked enough to bring to Arkansas. Vina Robles, from their estate “Jardine” vineyard, near the California Central Coast wine town of Paso Robles, is a big red wine, with a deep, inky purple color and plum and black cherry flavors with spicy oak notes. It retails locally for around $25 a bottle.