Just look at this video. It's like watching Discovery channel where the wolf hunts the rabbit in slow motion, and when the wolf catches the rabbit it punches the rabbit with a devastating upper cut. Watching Mike Tyson was a rare sight. Power, finesse and raw aggression all at the same time. Sometimes I feel like my palate is on the receiving end of a spring loaded brick in a boxing glove when I drink Petit Sirah.
Petit Sirah looks like motor oil when it sits in your wine glass. Good Lord just look at it! It's as black as Mike Tyson's boxing shorts. Even around the rim, Petit Sirah is dark as night. When you drink it, your tongue is like the other boxer in the ring and the wine is Mike Tyson. Bam! Down for the count.
There's never been a 100-point Petit Sirah. Why is that? Do wine critics even rate this grape? You don't see collectors lining up to add cult Petit Sirah's to their cellar do you? No and No. This isn't a grape you'd normally lay down for a couple of years and then pull out to impress someone. There's no track record I know of showing benefits of long term aging.
So why do we drink it? Better yet, why spend $75 a bottle on the stuff? Why do dumb asses get in the ring with Mike Tyson? Maybe we're gluttons for punishment, or maybe there's actually some okay wine out there that's enjoyable to drink. I'll take the latter, especially now that it's BBQ season. When all my friends are opening Zinfandel for summer grilling, I'm opening Petit Sirah. You can serve it with most grilled foods like burgers, succulent ribs and of course your favorite cut of beef. Petit Sirah is at its best when it's big and bold, yet silky and sweet. This is a wine that loves to be paired with meat.
Petit Sirah is neither petite nor is it Syrah. The grapes might be small when they are picked, but that's about the only thing "petite" about the wine. The short history of Petit Sirah is that it's basically the French varietal, Durif. Durif is the love child of Syrah and Peloursin much like Cabernet Sauvignon is the love child of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. The varietal was created in the 1880's at the University of Montpellier in France where a grape breeder named Durif was trying to capture certain characteristics of both varieties. What we now have today is a wine that is full throttle, dark and inky and a mystery shrouded in black-as-night opaqueness.
A few gems I like to bust open when there's a brontosaurus burger on the grill:
2007 Girard Petite Sirah, Napa Valley - Melt licorice like a candle, add some cassis and sprinkle in some stewed plums, melted chocolate and North Carolina tobacco and you have a wine that's just begging for some BBQ ribs. The thing is, Petit Sirah is pretty sweet and jammy. That's why you want to add some heat to your meat. Season up those ribs or favorite steak.
It's a good value from a good producer and a good year. Because 2007 was such a big year for red wines in Napa, you'll want to either let this behemoth breathe or use some sort of aerator like the Wine Soiree doo-hickey that'll take some of the sting off that uppercut.
2005 Quixote Petit Sirah, Napa Valley - Way back when Robert Mondavi was just a kid starting out (okay, over 50 yr old man) he used to buy grapes from a man named Carl Doumani, original founder of the Stag's Leap Winery. That was decades before Carl sold Stag's Leap to Beringer, and even then he had visions of something grand. That vision was realized when Quixote opened its doors in 2001.
Doumani's love of architecture is apparent in the winery building and on the label. That art represents the complex tension between elements in the winery's flagship wine. Quixote makes only one wine, and its a doozy. Blackberry jam in a glass with a texture that's as smooth as a baby's butt awaits you. Impeccable intensity and purity of fruit, layered with subtle vanilla blackberry pie notes lull you into a trace just like Mike Tyson bouncing around the ring. Then BAM! You get hit by a freight train. It's Mike Tyson in a glass.
2005 Carver Sutro Petit Sirah, Napa - Lots of dark black brooding fruits integrated with vanilla oak and above average tannins. It's an extracted wine. It's Mike Tyson in a glass wearing black silk boxing shorts. It'll require some cellar time, but when opened it'll take you for a ride. Winemaker, Gary Brookman dry farms the vineyards in Napa Valley stressing the vines so they give him pristine fruit. What I love about the wine is notes of pencil lead and some wet dark colored soil as if you were hiking through Muir Woods and stopped to pick up a handful of earth.
The mystery of Petit Sirah is still unraveling and I invite you all to share you favorite Petit Sirah or Durif wines in the comments below. I'm always on the lookout. And let me know if this becomes your BBQ wine of choice.