What’s the difference between Petite Sirah and Syrah?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

What’s the difference between Petite Sirah and Syrah?

—Peter, Centerville, Mass.

Dear Peter,

Petite Sirah and Syrah are both red wine grapes, and if they sound like they’re related, that’s because they are. For starters, both grapes are native to France. Petite Sirah (which is known as Durif in France and other parts of the world) is actually a cross between Syrah and another French grape, Peloursin; the hybrid grape was possibly created by accident and was identified by French botanist François Durif in the 1880s. You might also see it spelled “Petite Syrah” here in the U.S., where it's rumored to have gotten its name because its small grapes reminded people of Syrah.

Syrah is the lead grape in France’s Northern Rhône Valley, where it serves as the backbone for some of the world’s most revered wines from the Côte-Rôtie and Hermitage appellations. The Syrah grape is also known as Shiraz, primarily in Australia, where it yields many world-class collectible wines.

Despite its French origin, Petite Sirah (Durif) never took off in France, but it did in California, where it has a strong following. And in spite of its name, Petite Sirah is anything but "petite." Much like wines made from its parent grape Syrah, wines made from Petite Sirah are big and structured, with rich flavors and powerful tannins. In fact, Petite Sirahs are typically even more tannic than Syrahs.

—Dr. Vinny

Ask Dr. Vinny Red Wines petite-sirah Syrah / Shiraz

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