Wine Industry Insight.  While American wine lovers are familiar with Syrah – often sold as Shiraz on Australian labels – the popularity of this grape as a varietal red wine has been on a notable wane in recent years.

Petite Sirah, on the other hand, has become more popular than ever.  It is not the same grape as Syrah:  it is a crossing of two grapes, Syrah and Peloursin, originally developed in Southern France in the 1880s, and introduced to California shortly thereafter.  Although wine connoisseurs have always considered Syrah to be the far greater of the two grapes, many American consumers now prefer Petite Sirah over Syrah.

When it comes to wine, as the old Latin phrase goes, de gustibus non est disputandum (“there is no disputing in matters of taste”):  these particular wine lovers know what they like, and their passion is Petite!

In the Lodi AVA – a region typified by a Mediterranean climate that is strikingly similar to original European home of all the classic wine grapes – few wineries have parlayed the recent popularity of this variety as successfully as Michael David Winery.

The largest of Lodi’s premium producers (now topping 400,000 cases in yearly production), Michael David has been bottling two separate versions of Petite Sirah, both highlighting the most appealing aspects of the grape, and both selling like hotcakes.  The two current releases:

  • The inky black-purplish, no-holds-barred 2010 Michael David, Earthquake Lodi Petite Sirah ($26); replete with unabashedly oak driven, blackberry and blueberryish aromas tinged with notes of smoked bacon; big, chunky, even funky in the mouth, yet ultimately compelling, like a big-buckled Elvis painted on black velvet canvas.
  • A kinder, gentler 2011 Michael David, Lodi Petite Petit ($18) – blended with about 15% Petit Verdot (the latter, one of the five major black skinned grapes originating from France’s Bordeaux region) – yet still a vivid black-ruby in color, showing off flamboyantly ripe, plummy aromas infused with notes of peppery beef bouillon and smoked bacon; the exuberant, plummy flavors continuing in a dense, medium-full body, filled out by smooth yet generous tannin.

“People have been loving these wines,” says Michael David President/Co-Owner David Phillips.  “The Petite Petit has the more colorful ‘circus’ label, and brings out the fun side of the grape.  When Petite Sirah is blended with Petit Verdot, the two grapes seem to counter-balance each other.  Each variety produces monster flavors, but together they seem to make each other more approachable.  I don’t understand the chemistry behind it, but it works.

“While Petite Petit has been the crowd pleaser,” adds Phillips, “the Earthquake Petite Sirah is still the showiest wine we make.  It’s just a black monster of a wine – good for cold, snowy evenings by the fireplace.”  Throw in a good roast or some open fire grills, and the crowd cheers for more!  read more