Anyone who knows Jeremy, knows that he likes creating wines that are not run of the mill – Viognier, Roussanne, and Grenache are good examples. When offered a few tons of unusual grapes, he is unlikely to say no. This past week, he took delivery of two types of grapes grown by Pieter Hanekom of Akkerdal – 1.7 tons of Temperanillo (common in Spain and used to make Rioja) and 1.5 tons of Petite Sirah.
What is Petite Sirah?
Petite Sirah, aka Durif, although related to Syrah (Syrah provided the pollen for a cross with Peloursin) was created in the 1860s by the French botanist François Durif. Petite Sirah is no longer grown in France and Peloursin is also nearly extinct in its mother country. Only Syrah (Shiraz) is a major player in the wine world. If the French wine industry rejected Petite Sirah, the new world embraced it, and it became a stalwart in California with Australia coming in close second. It is also grown in smaller quantities in Israel, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Mexico and South Africa.
Why is Jeremy so excited about it?
In the early 2000s Jeremy was working at Fairview and found Petite Sirah on the cultivar list with approximately 10 vines available in country. Jeremy, who started his wine journey at Rosenblum Cellars in California, recommended the varietal to Charles Back. Charles Back took the advice and planted the Fairview mother block of Petite Sirah in 2004. In doing so, the two of them kick started the commercial life of this varietal in South Africa.
Petite Sirah, like Roussanne, is most usually used as the backbone to many red blends. Small tightly clustered grapes produce a high skin to juice ratio which results in a wine with lots of tannin after an extended maceration process. These high tannins mean that the wine aging period is extended.
What will he do with it?
Jeremy is very excited about the analysis on this batch of Petite Sirah grapes. The acid is high, the pH low and the colour is amazing! The grapes have been crushed and are in their fermenters. This is the beginning of an exciting process. As the wine develops, Jeremy will be considering what he will use it for. It’s a small batch that could become an exclusive bottling for a select group like our wine club, or it could provide the basis for another amazing blend… only time and the wine making process will tell.
In the meantime, if you should come across this varietal in the bottle, have a taste. It is well known for its deep rich flavours and aromas of blueberry, chocolate, pepper and spice. Great with rich meaty dishes, aged cheeses and curries.