Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

Hello Prince Albert! Surely, you’ve heard of the grape varietals Shiraz and Syrah? Make way for another similarly named grape called Petite Sirah! What is this strangely named grape and why should you try it?

Despite the name of the grape saying “petite”, aka “small” in French, the flavors of this varietal are huge! The grape is named from its small dark berries which is the offspring of two Southern French grapes: Syrah and Peloursin.

Wine enthusiasts may have encountered this grape without realizing it since it is regularly called Durif or sometimes Grand Durif. Brands you’ll find at the liquor store in Prince Albert which contain Durif or Petite Sirah are 19 Crimes from Australia (blended with other grapes), the Crusher from Californina and Caymus from Napa Valley which makes a Grand Durif that is so dark, it almost appears to be black in color.

The brand which produces the Petite Sirah I tasted this week is famous in its own right as it was included in the 1976 French wine tasting competition where several California wines beat their French competitors in a blind tasting. Stag’s Leap won for its amazing Cabernet Sauvignon and has continued to create age-worthy, intensely flavored wines.

Stag’s Leap is located perfectly in the Napa Valley where thick-skinned grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah thrive. The hot California sun combined with elevated vineyards transforms long-ripening grapes into powerhouse wines with an incredible balance of fruit concentration, strong tannins and the proper acidity to support the heavy flavors.

Why should you try Petite Sirah or Durif? Most Cabernet fans will enjoy this varietal due to its high intensity and concentration. The high level of tannins in this wine makes it an ideal companion for prime rib dinners or cheese platters/charcuterie. These wines will also cellar well and develop complexity with time in the bottle. Resting the wine in the cellar for a few years will also allow the heavier tannins to soften which will lend a silkiness to the wine.

Served young, Petite Sirah can seem harsh at first but a bit of decanting and food pairing will almost always take that edge off.

Since Stag’s Leap is a famous winery much like Caymus, the prices of their wines can fluctuate wildly from year to year. For example, the bottle featured this week used to cost around $45, then it jumped to well over $55 and within a year the price has crept closer to $70! Keep your eyes out for this grape varietal and give it a try if it fits your budget. Here are my wine picks and whisky of the week!    

Stag’s Leap Petite Sirah 2017: (Napa Valley, California). Dry red, deep purple color. The nose is packed with earthy dark fruit, intense blackberry, black currants, earthy truffle and tar, forest herbs, cocoa nibs and balsamic dark cherry. The wine is less fruity than expected on the palate with fine, high tannins and a combination of dark fruit and spice on the mid-palate. Medium body with medium acidity and medium-plus concentration. Dark grape skins, chopped walnut, dark cocoa and delicate pepper and clove are found on the long, drying finish. The fruit flavors are focused around blackberry and black currants with a slight twang of cola. This wine is still tight and restrained but has hints of complexity. A few more years of bottle age may soften the tannins and enhance the more intricate flavors. Very good! $68, 14.1% ABV

Orofino Hendsbee Vineyard Riesling 2018: (VQA Similkameen Valley, BC). Off-dry, medium lemon color. Crisp and sharp on the nose with notes of petrol smoke, slate/granite rock, bouncy ball rubber, green apple and lemon/lime fruit. To the taste, this medium-minus bodied white delivers a refreshing blend of limestone and mineral slate, clean lemon/lime zest, tart green apple and a wisp of petrol. The finish is medium-length with the cleansing sensation of medium-plus acidity. Clean and refreshing, this Riesling will pair perfectly with spicy Vietnamese dishes, fatty foods, key lime pie or try a low-brow pairing like fried chicken. Deliciously balanced Canadian wine. Can age another year or two. Very good! $28, 12% ABV

Kilkerran 12 Year Single Malt Scotch Whisky: (Campbeltown, Scotland). Smoky whisky, light butterscotch color. The bouquet is bursting with delicious scents including red apple skins, bruised apples/pears, smoked meats (salmon) and sweet spices like cinnamon and cardamom. A huge rush of flavor on the palate starting with malty digestive biscuits, caramel, orchard fruits (fresh apples, pears) and earthy peat with a follow-up of black licorice bitterness. Gripping tannins and hot/sweet tingling spice (pepper, cinnamon) come with the long finish. A drop or two of water releases honey, vanilla, more malt/biscuit flavors and then dark earth, salted licorice and Baker’s chocolate. The peaty flavors build quickly and stick to the sides of the tongue. You can taste this one for quite a while. Makes for a great fall-time sipper! Very good! $90, 46% ABV 

Cheers and thanks for reading!