Petite sirah is often lumped together with the more well-known syrah and thought of as some sort of lesser cousin. The reality is they are two distinct grape varietals, each with their own unique profile. Petite sirah is a big, bold wine with a deep hue, full fruit characteristics, and heady tannins. This big wine pairs best with equally bold and rich foods to bring balance to the match.
Getting to Know Petite Sirah
The sirah part of the name isn't totally random...the grape originated in southeastern France as a cross between syrah and peloursin. To confuse things further, while many people are familiar with the name, petite sirah, in France it is known as durif. Today, its most commonly grown in parts of California and South Australia. It produces dense dark clusters of fruit that are packed with notes of blueberry, Italian plum, black pepper, overly steeped black tea, and chocolate. The grapes themselves are on the smaller side, which create a high skin to flesh ratio, in turn producing a wine with high levels of tannins. Petite sirah is a big personality with a rich character. This is not the wine for your light summer al fresco dinner. It's too heady for salads and such. Petite sirah really needs to be paired with equally full-flavored foods with rich textures and aromatics to create a balanced pairing.
Petite Sirah Food Pairings
If you haven't already made some assumptions, meat is on the menu. Big personality cheeses like aged goat cheese and Gouda are also great matches for petite sirah. If you want to stick to vegetables, gussied up root vegetables and umami forward mushrooms can stand up to the wine. Pretty much if you're thinking of a really cozy dish for one of the coldest days of winter that will bring that element of indulgence, it might be a great pairing for petite sirah. Here's a few to get you started.
Slathering a rack of pork ribs with a slurry of sweet, sour, and salty and throwing them on the grill to get some good char is the way to go when serving them up alongside a glass of petite sirah. The rich flavors in the sauce and the char from the grill are balanced by the full-body, heady tannins, and subtle smoky, earthy notes in the wine.
While a young Gouda can work here, an aged Gouda will bump those rich flavors to the next level and be a great match for that full-bodied petite sirah. That caramel nuttiness in the cheese, along with a sip of spiced blackberry, blueberry, and cranberry from the wine, is a winning combination. Want to push your palate further? Try a smoked Gouda. Buttery and creamy, yet with big aromatics and distinct smoke, it can hang with the headiest of petite sirahs.
Sautéed Mushrooms With Polenta
If you want to stick to something vegetarian that can pull its weight in the umami department, look no further than mushrooms. Go with whatever variety is in season and sauté them up with way more butter than you think appropriate. Throw in some crushed garlic cloves and let them infuse. Serve the whole scene over lusciously smooth and cheesy polenta. The richness from the dairy and the umami from the mushrooms need a heavy hitter red just like petite sirah to bring some backbone to the pairing.
A good ol' fashion pork roast surrounded by an extra herby vegetable medley of potatoes, leeks, carrots, onions, and garlic is the perfect pairing for petite sirah. The crispy outside and juicy inside, along with the overall weight of the dish, matches the forward personality of the wine. The earthy and spiced nature of petite sirah really complements the dish quite well.
This semi soft, Southern Italian cheese is relatively young cow's milk but packs a real punch in flavor and texture. It's firm and stringy with an obvious smoked component. Where the smoke would quickly overwhelm other wines, petite sirah can stand up to it and match it with the powerful tannins, good acidity, and full-fruit notes.
Grilled Lamb Chops
You don't need much to make lamb chops stand out. A little olive oil, a lot of fresh rosemary, and some garlic. You can prepare this anyway you like, though that grilled flavor adds a little something extra that plays well into the notes of petite sirah. The stronger gamey flavors and herbaceous notes need a power player like petite sirah to make a good match.
The take away here should be that petite sirah is a full-bodied wine with heady tannins that pairs best with bolder, richer foods. When you get the match right, each will shine, and the wine will cut through some of those rich flavors and textures in the food. So when you're planning the next heavy weight dinner, be sure to pick up a bottle of petit sirah to go with it.