When you talk to people about wine, most people will shrug their shoulders if they aren’t big on a particular grape. You might hear “I can drink that” or “Eh, it’s ok” to soften the blow of a wine they aren’t particularly fond of but can tolerate. Then there’s Petite Sirah.
The polarizing, divisive, turn-your-teeth-purple wine seems to leave no one on the fence. The small grape packs a walloping taste. After all, the smaller juice-to-skin ratio means there is that much more flavor packed into each grape.
Right out of the gate, the wine doesn’t really have any bright fruit. Its plum, spice and blackberry not are not bright flavors compared to melon, roses or cherries. It’s rustic, can be earthy, and usually has a fair amount of tannins when first released.
I can’t blame Petite Sirah for being this way. It often gets it’s name misspelled and is being too closely associated with Syrah, a beloved grape by many (even if they don’t know their drinking it, as is such the case with blends).
Given that it’s not as beautiful as Pinot Noir for instance, has its name misspelled, and suffers from small-grape syndrome, I can see why it pushes so much strength into itself. It strives to stand out amongst the big three—Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
A strong bold wine with not many bright flavors can drive people away who aren’t ready for it. A Petite Sirah doesn’t mess around. When you sip on a Petite Sirah, it literally leaves it’s mark on the sides of your wine glass and usually all over your teeth.
Even young Petite Sirahs can display an enormous amount of complexity. More so than some people expect. This is why I say that people aren’t ever on the fence with Petite Sirah. Either you love all that full-strength plum and earthy goodness or you’re much happier in the shallow end chilling with a Merlot or Pinot (new-world Pinot, not old-world). They love it or they’ll have something else.
If you are part of the Petite Sirah lovers group, check out Petite Sirah, I love you, an organization that promotes and educates on all levels of Petite Sirah. It’s still one of best named Wine organizations with an even better domain name: http://www.psiloveyou.org.