It’s not breaking news that the Texas wine industry has been putting our wine eggs in the obscure grape variety basket for a while now. We needed to find ourselves, to show the world Texas can make stunning wines that rival the best out there. Over the last several years many new grapes have been added to the tool belt so to speak, and a grape called Durif has been well accepted into the repertoire. Who is this Durif fellow you ask?
Let’s talk about what Durif is exactly. It comes from France originally. Botanist Francois Durif crossed Syrah and Peloursin to create this wonderful grape. It was then brought to the USA in the 1880’s by Charles McIver, and it is here in America that it received its new name, Petite Sirah. Most everyone in the new world calls it by the name Petite Sirah, sometimes spelled Petite Syrah.
Durif is a grape variety that is known to produce wines of insanely opaque deep color, and tannins that are equally as massive. This means you end up with a wine that has great extraction of color, aromas, and flavor. You will often see it blended with other grapes, but it is commonly left to show itself as a varietal wine. As of 2015, there were less than 10,000 acres planted worldwide, with most of the vineyards being in California. As you can see, it is not a widely popular grape, versus others like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, but it has its fans and I am definitely one of them. Outside of the U.S., it can also be found in Mexico, South America, South Africa, Australia, and of course its home, France, among others.
Well, the answer is simple. Why not?! When you have a grape that is equally at home all alone in the bottle, or playing with friends as a blend, you can always count on your good ‘ole friend Petite Sirah for a good time. Many winemakers will blend it to achieve more color and concentration into their wines, especially during vintages where extraction may not be as great. This might come as a surprise, but you have probably had Petite Sirah more times than you can remember, only it was blended into a red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon to achieve more power and intensity, yet not put on the label.
What about Texas?
Funny you ask, because vs. California, Durif plays a lesser, but equally as important of a role in Texas wine. For the same reasons the winemakers in California use Durif, we enjoy it for the exact same reasons. You will find it blended into many Texas red wines offering rich extraction. At certain wineries, you will also find it bottled alone as a varietal wine. Texas Petite Sirah, when done well, competes with California head to head in my opinion. You end up with inky black wines that are loaded to the brim with tannins, acidity, and dark, rich aromas. Notes of blackberry, cocoa, espresso, coffee, and leather are often detected. The fact it grows well in our hot climate is a super A+ in the Texas winemaking book. This means we have yet another red grape to help us achieve international status among wine producing regions. That is always exhilarating to think about!
Move over Tempranillo, there is a new sheriff in town! Okay, I’m just kidding. I seriously think Tempranillo will always be a big player when it comes to Texas wine. But keep a keen eye out for Durif, AKA Petite Sirah; you might be surprised at how much you begin craving its dark, intense personality. Drink responsibly my friends, as Durif might lure you into its lair of amazingness.