The Petite Sirah grape variety was a new immigrant to Israel in the 1970s, but
was initially used as a blender in simple wines to provide color and
However, it has recently undergone a quality revival, not
unlike the Carignan I wrote about a few months ago.
The change in Petite
Sirah’s fortunes began when boutique winery owner Yair Margalit insisted in
using 15% Petite Sirah in his rare Special Reserve. He insisted that this
addition, to 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, was what made the wine
Then two boutique wineries began to make Petite Sirah varietal
wines. They were the Sea Horse Winery at Bar Giora in the Judean Hills, and
Vitkin Winery, at Kfar Vitkin in the Sharon Plain. Both wineries decided to
specialize in more unusual varieties.
The pioneering larger winery, which
decided to rejuvenate the variety, was Carmel. A large proportion of the Petite
Sirah vineyards in the country were theirs, but had previously been used for
entry level blends. However the winery chose a 40-year-old vineyard in the
Judean Hills, with thick-trunked, low bush vines, almost on the ground, and
drastically reduced yields. The results were that the unfashionable Petite Sirah
was found to produce wonderful wines, which were totally
International recognition followed. The Appellation Petite
Sirah 2005 was awarded four stars by wine critic Stephen Brook in Decanter
magazine. Last year the Appellation Petite Sirah 2006 was awarded Wine of the
Month by the same magazine.
Now wineries such as Chillag, Dalton, Ella
Valley, Tabor and Tishbi have all began to produce good wines from this variety,
and Avidan and Recanati have excellent blends, in which the Petite Sirah is the
Despite its name, until the late 1990s, Petite Sirah
(sometimes spelled Petite Syrah) was thought to have nothing to do with the more
noble variety Syrah. It was first known as the Durif variety, in southeastern
France, because it was propagated by a Dr. Durif.
However, in 1997 its
parents were identified by the University of California at Davis as Peloursin
and… Syrah! As it started life in a Mediterranean climate, it is no surprise
that this variety is extremely well suited to Israel’s eastern Mediterranean
It never caught on in France, but Petite Sirah has a growing
following in California, and it also grows well in Australia.
Sirah produces very dark, inky wines, with black fruit and a tantalizing aroma
of violets, with a backdrop of black pepper. The wines are tannic, with a
plummy, meaty flavor. The wines are usually full-bodied and suitable for the
largest steak or a selection of grilled meats. Petite Sirah is a wine for
Experts from abroad are more interested in tasting an
old-vine Petite Sirah or Carignan, rather than yet another Cabernet Sauvignon or
Merlot. If Israel is looking for regional identity, then Petite Sirah is a wine
that is reasonably unusual, the variety is perfect for our climate and the wines
produced are original with strong regional character.
There is no reason why Israel should not become known for its Petite Sirah. The
country may not produce the finest wines, but they are certainly amongst the
For the Israeli wine drinker they provide a welcome
Some of the best Petite Sirahs in Israel are listed
BEST VALUE, NIS 50 TO NIS 75
Dalton Estate Petite Sirah 2009
very deep-colored red wine, with an aroma of violets. Very concentrated, with
balanced aromatic oaky flavors and a long finish. Great value.
QUALITY-TO-PRICE RATIO, NIS 75 TO NIS 100
Carmel Appellation Petite Sirah Old
Almost black in color, with a delicate hint of violets. Very full
bodied, with an earthy animal character. Shows the alternative style provided by
Recanati Special Reserve Petite Sirah Zinfandel 2007
blend is included because the Petite Sirah is dominant. The wine is fruity, with
good balancing acidity and soft tannins. A refreshing, flavorful
SPECIAL PURCHASE NIS 100 TO NIS 125
Vitkin Petite Sirah 2007
a big wine. Blackberry and blueberry aroma with hints of bitter chocolate
and mocca. Firm and concentrated.
Tabor Adama II Petite Sirah 2009
Deep-colored red wine with a black fruit and peppery aroma. Produced by
Tabor Winery in the Lower Galilee.
Tishbi Estate Petite Sirah 2007
horse from Tishbi Winery. The wine is deep with a concentrated sweetness
of fruit that is attractive.
LUXURY NIS 125+
Sea Horse Munch 2008 (Not
Wines from this winery are always individual, interesting and
challenging. Rare wine, limited production.
Chillag Petite Sirah 2006
Rare Petite Sirah produced by Chillag Winery. Very heavily oaked
wine, aged for 24 months in barrel.
Ella Valley Vineyards Petite Sirah
Very firm, concentrated wine. Chewy, full bodied. Needs a big
steak. Impressive wine. Adam Montefiore works
for Carmel Winery and regularly writes about Israeli wine for both international
and Israeli publications. email@example.com