The Tasting Panel magazine

July 2015

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4  /  the tasting panel  /  july 2015 LETTER FROM THE EDITOR IN CHIEF P. S., I Don't Get It One of the primary rules governing criticism of any kind is to be dispassionate and even- handed in one's assessments. It is important to leave personal prejudices and preferences aside and to present a clear-eyed and honest appraisal of things. I have tried to live by this rule in my professional life. That being said, I have one wine question that has troubled me for decades—an enigma that I simply can't explain. Why would anyone grow, make wine out of, or, perish the thought, drink Petite Sirah? Over the years I have grappled with this thorny ques- tion. I have gamely tried to like versions of this wine, but I have consistently found it to be coarse, clumsy and one-dimensional. It's only positive attributes, as far as I can tell, are that it has intense color and is resistant to mildew (is that because no self-respecting mildew spore would bother with it?). First of all, I am offended by the fact that this garbage grape has, by dint of its confected name, tried to trade off the vaunted pedigree of the noble Syrah from which some of the world's greatest wines are made. Yes, this imposter is neither "Petite" nor "Syrah." Instead it is a misguided creation of a benighted Frenchman named François Durif, who in the 1860s created his own botanical Frankenstein monster. The true name of this Edsel grape is Durif which, unlike the car, has managed to live on. It hasn't survived in its native land—there is no Durif left in France—but it has thrived here in the vineyards of California. Is this the European pay back for America exporting phylloxera to them? During Prohibition, Durif survived because it was virtually indestructible and it withstood the cross-country train ride to home winemakers in the East. (I suppose if the choice were between Petite Sirah and toxic bathtub gin, one could choke down this stuff.) But now, what's the excuse? Would anyone in their right mind choose Petite Sirah over real Syrah? Or Grenache? Or Barbera? Or anything else??? —Anthony Dias Blue

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