by Fred McMillin
for June 24, 1998
Banned in France
The Rhone's Durif varietal makes a very ordinary wine. Consequently, it has been banned in most of France.
...1979, Pierre Galet, famous French ampelographer
The Petite Sirah is actually a grape known in France as the Durif, named after a Rhone nurseryman who developed it in the 1880's. It has all but disappeared in France, but has enjoyed a steady popularity in California.
...1992, New York Times
So why does the Durif, alias Petite Sirah, make such a poor wine in France and such a popular wine in California? That's easy. It turns out that they are not the same grape afterall. Petite Sirah has Rhone origins, alright, but the Sirah seems to be a new breed that's evolved in California. As critic Bob Thompson said, DNA analysis now has established what the grape isn't, though we're not yet certain what it is. You can taste a good example of this California original for less than $10...by Bogle.
1995 Petite Sirah, California
Speaking of the Rhone, it is rich in legends. For example, my wife and I stayed at a hotel where in 39 A.D. someone committed suicide by leaping from its tower into the Rhone. The Romans had transferred the administrator from Israel to Gaul two years earlier. The name of the hotel was the Castle-Hotel of Pilate and Fontager. The name of the suicide was Pontius Pilate. (from the hotel's brochure)
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