Petite Sirah is a clone of Syrah that has small berries.
Petite Sirah (sometimes spelled Petite Syrah) is not the same as Syrah and not a clone of it, but the histories of the two separate red grape varieties are interwoven. Vines called Petite Sirah have grown in California since the 1880s. In the early days, some of those vines may have been a clone of Syrah that had small—petite—grapes. (All things being equal, winemakers prefer small grapes because there’s a high ratio of skin to juice. Since color, flavor, and tannin come primarily from a grape’s skin, small grapes yield concentrated, flavorful wines.). Back then, Petite Sirah was interplanted with other varieties, creating field blends. As more and different varieties (sometimes misidentified) found their way into California vineyards, Petite Sirah’s true identity grew more and more obscure. Eventually, in the 1990s, DNA typing revealed that most California Petite Sirah is the French grape Durif, a cross of Peloursin and Syrah. Today, some of the oldest “Petite Sirah” vineyards remain field blends of many varieties, including true Syrah, Durif, Carignane, Zinfandel, Barbera, and Grenache. From a flavor standpoint, there is nothing petite about Petite Sirah. The wine is mouthfilling and often hugely tannic.