I mentioned this wine in passing a few weeks ago when mourning the lack of the durif/petite sirah varietal in my local winemongers, and within days I found it again in Wine Rack. A few days ago its moment came when a couple of friends popped over for a drink, he very much a wannabe wine snob, and after he claimed to be a fan of “big” wines I opened it up.
What a fabulous beast of a wine this is. Firstly, it is an absolute bargain, and not only because it only costs a mere £8.66 if you buy three in Wine Rack’s perpetual three-for-two sale (£12.99 on its own). If you give someone who has drunk quite a lot of wine something they’re quite familiar with – a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Sauvignon Blanc, an Aussie Shiraz – they’ve got a vague understanding of what it should be like. They’ve probably had worse ones, better ones and quite similar ones. They can, in short, work out for themselves if it’s up to much. But give them something like this, which is clearly a well-made wine but is also (sadly) so unusual, it just blows their critical faculties away. It could be a £15 wine, or £20, or £40, because hardly anyone knows what a wine like this should cost. So they get their socks blown clean off by a meaty, tannic wilderbeast of a wine, you get to share it with them and as they gasp in gratitude you can chuckle silently at the £1.34 change from a tenner still rattling around your pocket.
You do need to be happy with a big wine to be able to sip this on the sofa, and it would probably be best saved to partner a similarly beastly dinner – the makers suggest lamb chops in cherry sauce, but I won’t because that sounds disgusting. “A classic pairing for our Petite Sirah,” they add, “is Peking Duck.” Now that I wouldn’t mind trying, but I don’t know why they’re so hung up on there being some fruit on your plate – I think it would be great with any kind of cow or deer.
I’m just amazed that you can get an American wine of this quality at this price. A complex blend – the Durif topped up with 2.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 0.5% Zinfandel, 0.5% Merlot, 0.5% Cabernet Franc – 14 months in new French oak, and a dense, berry-packed flavour that lingers on the palate for upwards of a fortnight all adds up to incredibly good value. Perhaps it’s just as well that it’s such an unfashionable grape – for £8.66 you can just about sniff the underpants of a trendy Oregon Pinot Noir. Not that I’m complaining, you understand.