Wine with Food: Petite Sirah
By Paul Kalemkiarian Sr. |
Petite Sirah varietal wine suffers a personality complex! It is passed up by beginners and connoisseurs, for different reasons.
The person new to wines is usually enamored with the big name varieties, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Johannisberg Riesling spending most of his or her efforts studying them. (I just hope the word ” petite” which means small in French is not the reason. Petite Chateaux wines from Bordeaux are usually wines with a lesser reputation. This wine is really not “petite”… in fact it is “big” in wine vernacular.)
The connoisseur skips over it because it has no pedigreed credentials. “Nothing spectacular has come forth from this grape,” he says. So the lowly Petite Sirah is practically relegated to the ranks of jug wine.
The shame of it is that it is a delightful wine when made well, and a true food wine.
The name Petite Sirah is unique to California. The grape is not the same as the “Syrah” of The Rhone Valley in France. (Also known as “Shiraz” in Australia, and traced back to the “Shiraz” from Persia.) It is the “Duriff” grape from that region. For many years, our California vintners used the grape for blending purposes. It added color and tannin to jug wines that needed more depth. Only in the last decade have they given this grape serious attention, and have made some astounding varietal premium wines.
The typical, well made, California Petite Syrah demonstrates a color intensity approaching blackness, with an aroma of black currants, and some say, fresh pepper. The taste is massive, burly, and mouthfilling. Big in fruitiness and tannin. When the wine is aged and mature, it develops a smoothness that is rich.
So, do not pass this label up next time you see it. It is an experience in taste. And if you happen to have a bottle on hand, or are going to obtain one, be sure and serve it with food. In fact, with a meal, at the main course.
The intense nature of the wine dictates that it be served with beef. I will go as far to say, that it is the ideal wine for Texas barbecue. (Even with the chili sauce, if it is not too overpowering) Serve it with steaks, particularly if you are cooking them on a fire. A roast beef will also be very compatible. For all these, a young Petite Sirah will be idea.
In another vein, a different series of meats would be very suitable. Game, like deer, elk, bear, buffalo, could be considered as satisfactory accompaniment I realize these are not everyday meats, but it takes a special meat for a special wine, or vice versa (My son just came back from skiing at Jackson Hole, Wyoming and brought back two dozen frozen Buffalo meat hamburger patties. A local firm sells them by mail order. He said a small restaurant there was serving them. His friends liked them so much that they are going to have a Buffalo burger party soon. It was his question as to what wine to serve at the party that triggered the topic of my column this month.)
At the down to earth level of cuisine, another series of dishes to serve with Petite Sirah is the beef stews. Particularly if you like to make them hearty. Use some of it in the stew, it will add zest. The next suggestion will not sit well with the Burgundians! Make Beef Bourguignonne using Petite Sirah as the wine instead of Burgundy or Pinot Noir. Then, serve it as the wine to accompany it. It will do very well and at today’s prices for Burgundy wine, it is a shame to cook with it.
Some exceptional Petite Sirahs I have had recently are: Parducci, Picont Roudon-Smith, Cilurzo, Callaway, Firestone. Give one a try.