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Why is Syrah so popular and is it related to Petite Sirah?

Why is Syrah so popular and is it related to Petite Sirah?

Syrah vs. Petite Sirah Flashback: June 2004
"Why have you selected so many Syrahs and Petite Sirahs for the Wine of the Month Club lately?"
– Various Members

These days, many curious wine lovers may find themselves wondering if Syrah is the Next Big Thing in Winedom - the new Merlot or roaring red phenomenon. Many critics and wine aficionados think that indeed it is. With Syrah's immense adaptability and its tendency to produce a good, hardy crop in almost any suitable growing condition, superb Syrahs are popping up not only from the grape's homeland in France (Rhône, Languedoc, Nîmes and the southeast quadrant) but also from Australia, California, Washington State, Italy (Sicily and Tuscany!) Spain, Portugal, South Africa and even Mexico.

Wine Spectator recently reported that Syrah vineyards now total more than 287,000 acres globally. The reason for that is demand. Consumers love the rich fruit, spice, bright acidity and texture of the grape. It is a very food-friendly wine that delivers now or can age quite gracefully. Bottom line is that there is a lot of great Syrah wine out there to be had.

As for the confusion between Syrah and Petite Sirah, they are two distinct varietals. In California the Petite Sirah grape was long thought to be Syrah, but some enologists now believe it actually may be the Durif variety. Other studies have discovered that Syrah has its origins from the Mondeuse Blanche grape and the Dureza grape, two rustic grapes from eastern France. Generally, Syrah is known as Shiraz in the southern hemisphere.