Why we are making the distinction
When you think of Durif it might conjure up thoughts of big, deep, dark brooding wines filled with black fruits and robust tannins, more often than not, hailing from Rutherglen.
My Durif is not like that.
When in 2006 I "dared" to plant Durif in the cool climate of Great Western (still the only grower in the Grampians and Pyrenees regions, as far as we can tell), it was evident straight away how different our Hard Hill Road Durif was to many of the big robust Durif wines on the Australian market at the time.
Ever since my first release in 2012, I have spent years explaining how and why our version of Durif was different in approach and style to the “standard” Aussie Durif. So, I decided to separate it; by re-naming the wine as Petite Sirah from the 2018 vintage onwards.
Back in my US winemaking days I spent many years making countless versions of Petite Sirah in California; especially for Concannon Vineyard, who were the first to produce Petite Sirah in the US. My experience there taught me that it’s not just the pursuit of ‘big-ness’ that’s important, but finding balance by allowing the more subtle complexing elements to have a say in the final wine.
From the get-go I set out to craft a wine that was reminiscent of my ideals and experiences, regardless of the Australian “standard”. I wanted to create a Grampians version of the variety that although considers Durif’s boldness, is not dominated by it. Rather the tannins are complex and fine, the fruit is intense but not overly heavy or ripe.
One of the ways I achieve this, is by using 60-80% or more new American oak. This amount of oak is surprisingly easily absorbed into the structure of the wine, softening, and drawing out the floral and vibrant elements of the palate rather than adding a clunky layer of oak flavour.
If you’ve never tried a Petite Sirah, then now is the time to give it a go and do let me know what you think!
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