Durif is famous in Australia for producing robust red wines. In California is better known as Petite Sirah.
This red wine grape from the Rhone Valley is not highly regarded in its native France. It is named after its breeder who established the variety in the late nineteenth century.
It was introduced into Australia by pioneering Victorian viticulturalist Francois de Castella in 1908.
The variety is planted in California under the name of Petite Sirah where there has been some confusion about the variety. Many Californian vineyards have proved to be field blends of Durif and another variety called Pelourisin.
More recent DNA Analysis has shown that Durif is in fact a cross of Syrah (Shiraz) and Pelourisin. Its resemblance to both of its parents has of doubt caused some of the confusion.
In Australia, the CSIRO uses DNA fingerprinting to clear up confusion about similar grape varieties. They report that the grapes imported to Australia are indeed Durif and not Peloursin.
In Australia the variety is most commonly associated with Rutherglen in North Eastern Victoria.
The Rutherglen Wine Region built its reputation around fortified wines - Port, Muscat and Tokay - as we misnamed them until fairly recently. There were also plenty of big age-worthy reds with plenty (probably too much) of body, oak, tannins and alcohol. Durif and Shiraz were the varieties used in these wines.
The wine styles now have probably toned down a little since the 1960s, but these are still impressive wines.
As well as red wines Durif is used, of the blended with Shiraz, to make sparkling red wine.
The list below shows that Rutherglen does not have a monopoly on the variety. It is used in quite a few of Australia's warm climate wine regions, as well as at least one cooler region.
Surprisingly, Durif has also found its way to cool climate areas. John Vale of Vale Wines at Balnarring on the Mornington Peninsula has successfully pioneered the variety. You can read all about his experiences in his article Cool Climate Durif? You must be kidding!
Dan Crane, winemaker at All Saints Winery in the Rutherglen Region has written about how long maceration is used to bring out the best of the variety's prodigious tannins when making All Saints Durif
You can also read this article where Smithy from Warrabilla Wines, Rutherglen has written Confessions of a Durif Tragic
This variety makes full bodied wines so you might enjoy Durif with rich, meaty stews and game dishes. For example, you might like to try my recipe for Braised Oxtail with Black Olives.
Grilled and barbecued meats are another option, but probably not fish or seafood
With cheeses you might like consider something from the hard section. Aged vintage cheddar, Spanish manchego, or the Italian Piave.
Evan Goldstein includes Durif, under its American name Petite Sirah in his book Daring Pairings.
Collins and Co make wine from a range of alternative varieties
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