Petite Syrah is called that because:

A. In France, the Petite Syrah crop is smaller and lower yielding than regular Syrah

B. The variety is considered somewhat inferior to Syrah

C. The grapes on the cluster are small

D. The variety possesses only a small amount of the usually dramatic flavor of Syrah


Petite Sirah has grown in California since the 1880s. In the early days some of those vines were probably a type 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.) From a flavor standpoint, however, there is nothing petite about Petite Sirah. The wine is mouthfilling and often hugely tannic. In the early days of grape growing in California, Petite Syrah 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, Carignan, Zinfandel, Barbera, and Grenache.

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