Saturday, April 11, 2009

Lessons about Shiraz/Syrah/Petit Sirah

Shiraz/Syrah grapes

A couple of weeks ago, I headed out to another wine class at Vienna Vintner dedicated to the differences between Shiraz/Syrah and Petite Sirah wines. It was such a terrific class and I'll share as much as I can remember here.

First up, the grapes! The Shiraz grape is dark in color and grown across the world but may appear under different names depending on where you are. For example, Shiraz is what it is known as in Australia but it is more widely known in Europe, parts of South America and in sections of the US as Syrah. Petite Sirah, on the other hand, is very different and is otherwise known as Durif -- a descendant of the Syrah grape but blended with Peloursin plants.

Next up, bouquets and profiles. Shiraz/Syrah wines can be ruby red and dark in color and their bouquets can have a myriad of smells and flavors present depending on the wine maker's practices and soil quality/location. The dominant taste is usually black pepper, dark ripe cherries, blackberry, current, leather and truffles.

Petite Sirah wines usually will be darker in color, almost an inky purple, than their Syrah counterparts. The bouquet can have herbal, black pepper and, sometimes, if they are aged in oak, can develop the aroma of melted chocolate.

Last, the wines we tasted.

1. "Piping Shrike", Shiraz, Barossa Valley, Australia, 2006. A combination of white pepper and baked blueberry pie filling...really!

2. "JT Cellars", Petite Sirah, Lodi, California, 2006. I described it as being: earthy, smoother than #1 with a fuller body than a Pinot. Damp dirt and chalky..."lead pencil". Great for steak and lamb.

3. "Zaca Mesa", Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley, 2004. Black cherry and current.

4. "JT Cellars", Syrah, Lodi, California, 2006. Smooth, like the Petite but still different...very opaque in color, almost inky and fruity. Bruce Walker is the winemaker.

5. "Barnwood", Petite Sirah, Santa Barbara California highlands, 2006. Mineral taste but also the quality of damp earth.

6. "Plaisir des Lys", Minervois, France, 2003. Very distinct taste but with an aroma of end of season roses and lavender.

7. "McCrea Cellars", Syrah, Walla Walla, Washington, 2004. A really good Syrah...strong and just a tad sweet.

***Stay tuned...this week I will be posting on food/wine pairings and about my class on Italian wines from the Tuscan region. Look for updates to this post, as well...I need to find my additional set of notes but thought I'd at least start with this.