• Syrah, Shiraz and Petite Sirah

    What’s the difference between these? Is Petite Sirah just a small Syrah? Is Shiraz any different from Syrah?

    When I first started learning about wine I was rather confused. it took me forever and a day to notice the fact that Petite Sirah had an I instead of a Y. This was largely because I (no pun intended) was more concerned with my ability to tell the difference between wines then what their names meant. Many years later I started recognizing how different the flavors and aromas of each grape were. This was when I said “What the hell!?! is the problem with these wine names?” (I really didn’t say that, but I was put off by my ignorance.)

    I found out fairly quickly that Petite Sirah is a whole nuther grape. It’s a descendant of Peloursin (father) and Syrah (mother) originally called Durif in France and was then raised in CA. Much later it was dubbed the baby or Petite Sirah.

    I then asked many questions. The first of which was what the difference between Syrah and Shiraz was. Evidently the difference is… wait for it….   wait some more…   nothing. I know not worth the wait. If you wanna get technical the location is the only difference according to grape DNA results, and while the location change creates a large catechism of changes in the body, aroma, palate and finish only some of these are due to the land they are grown on. The changes are often a result of the climates and wine making choices in the various places they are grown.

    Yesterday I tasted a 2009 Syrah from Sonoma Coast. The producer was Peay and the name given the wine was Les Titans.

    It was one of the lightest California Syrahs I have tasted, but it still had a prominent fruit palate lacking tertiary flavors such as mineral and leather. Later I tasted a Syrah from Northern Rhone, France that was light to medium bodied (to the point of almost being mistaken for a Pinot Noir by a fellow cohort) with overwhelmingly sour cherry, bacon fat and increased acidity while Austrailia is often HUGE fruit with lots of spice and eucalyptus.

    All of these wines are produced from the same grape yet can be recognized as being from different places. With the French Syrah I guessed the growing region and the grape without having a single clue as to what it was. So it’s no wonder why the grape has another name in Australia then it does in the US and France.

    The query still remains “how did it get this name?” There are several legends as to why this came to pass. One idea is that a city in Iran called Shiraz which was renowned for its wine called Shirazi started this. Only one hold up to this. The wine was white. Damn so close.

    Another idea was that seeing as how the Brits had first dibs on the name Shiraz before the Austrailians, back in the 1830s, is that it was an attempt to translate a French name to the English language.

    I have my own idea 🙂

    Austrailians love to shorten names and Z it up so to speak. Australian to Aussie, Lauren to Lozza, Sharon to Shaz or Shazza! I mean how much more obvious can it be!?! Syrah to Shiraz! Or it could be that the whole Austrailian style of renaming things happened because of Shiraz, but I guess we shall never know.

    – Jonathan Hood