Ok, I've tried a few Shirazes (sp?) and none of them taste like anything better than fermented peppercorns. Is it just me? Should it taste fruitier than that??
Also, Shiraz is the same thing as Syrah...right? What about Petite Sirah?
I like them... but it's all a matter of taste. Petite Sirah and Syrahs taste totally different to me, but I can't remember why.... I haven't had one in a long time.
Syrah is also called shiraz. It has nothing to do with the city of Shiraz either, although some people will tell you that it comes from there. It is a natural mutation of a few grapes in the northern Rhone.
Petite sirah (PS) has nothing to do with it. PS in the US has several origins. There is a kind of syrah that has small berries. Back in the 1880s various Americans tried to buy that small berry syrah from the French. The sellers either intentionally or out of ignorance, sold them a variety of things. Sometimes the small-berry vines and sometimes it was just regular syrah and sometimes the small berry syrah was just regular syrah anyway.
There is also a grape called durif, from France, that is no longer planted there. This is what petite sirah really is. It is a blend of peloursin and syrah. Many vineyards have a mix of all three, but by law in the US, if you want to call it petite sirah, it must be durif.
There are a few Australians who now bottle durif. That grape is very tannic and bitter and is mostly used in small quantities for adding color and structure to something like zinfandel.
However, there are some people who are fans of the grape and you can find some bottlings that are very interesting. If well made, it can actually age for many years, becoming a very interesting wine. But generally petite sirah next to syrah is like an old muddy dented pick-up truck next to a new Mercedes. Not in the same league.
Syrah is one of the world's great grapes. If you spend a lot of time around the $10 - $15 shiraz from Barossa Valley in Australia, you will think it is a fruity, jammy, and eventually an uninteresting wine.
The Barossa is hot and the fruit gets ripe, so you get some wines that come in at 16% alcohol and they are almost like Port. They can be great if you are in the mood. Two Hands makes a number of examples, so does Peter Lehman - his low end at $15 is a classic example, but he makes some more expensive ones too. There are too many to list here, but it is easy to find good examples.
In cooler places, it becomes a different grape. One of the best things about it in my opinion is that in certain locations, it develops great black pepper notes over the fruit. The Cote-Rotie wines from the Rhone have this character and they cost a lot of money. E&E Black Pepper from Australia has it, even more does Mt Langhi Victoria Cliffs (but the 2000 version lacked it). And one of my favorites from the US is Pax Castelli-Knight Ranch. Pax makes very very good syrah in the Sonoma region but this is his best IMO. Super ripe and rich fruit but it has that definite pepper on top. What a great wine! Goes for around $60 or so and worth every penny.
My suggestion is that you try a few from various places. Guigal 2003 Cote-Rotie is about $18. At that price, a VERY good example of the type that made the Rhone famous. Should be relatively easy to find. 2003 was a great, but very hot year, so watch the vintage when you buy from France because other years will be nothing like it. Then try the Peter Lehman Barossa shiraz for the other end of the shiraz/syrah spectrum. Then explore further.
Here is a link that might be useful: Some facts regarding petite sirah
But will it taste like fermented peppercorns? Bleh! (sorry, not my bag!). I'm afraid I don't remember which ones I've tried. I think one was a 'Little Penguin'.
Thank you again to RosesinNY. I appreciate all your time/info/effort. What exactly is your profession??!?