The depths of winter call for a red that’s equally deep in flavour and intensity. Durif is the drop you need. Durif with all its colour, muscle and power does strange things to people. It seems to excite a passion that is rarely seen. It is for some the only wi variety worth drinking. It is for others an all-out attack on the senses.
Is Durif for everyone? Maybe not…but neither is 99% cocoa chocolate, heavy metal, remedial massage or anything else intense!
Durif is a French variety, the Rhône Valley its home. It is what you call a natural crossing (like Cabernet Sauvignon). Its two parent grapes are the little known Peloursin and the world famous Shiraz. Both parental varieties are known for making wines that possess intensity, depth and flavour length – something Durif shares. The variety was discovered in the late 1800s and was named after its discoverer, Dr. Francois Durif. While it hasn’t travelled as far as its more famed parent Shiraz, it has found a home in California under the guise of Petite Sirah.
Durif was first planted in Australia in the Rutherglen region by pioneering Victorian viticulturalist Francois de Castella in 1908. It suits warmer and drier climates, so is a natural fit for a number of our inland wine regions.
In the heady days of vast fortified wine production, it was found to be of great use thanks to its ability to ripen with high levels of sugar and tannin.
These days, you will most likely see it made into a dry red wine, however, it is also used as an ingredient in Sparkling red wines. Rutherglen is still the region most synonymous with Durif and it makes what many argue are the finest examples of the variety found anywhere, not just in Australia, but the world! The Riverina in NSW is the other heavyweight Durif region, but look out for examples from any number of other warm and cool Australian wine regions.
DID YOU KNOW?
There is actually a fan club for Durif based in California. ‘P.S. I Love You’ (P.S. standing for ‘Petite Sirah’) is a group of zealous advocates dedicated to raising the profile of this dark and mysterious grape variety.CHARACTERS
Durif is a big wine. It stains your glass with its deep and dark (almost black) colour. The aromas and flavours are similar to Shiraz with black fruits like black berry, plum and cherry common. What sets it apart from Shiraz is that it can have various herbal elements and it has a tannin spine that can be intense.
To match the intensity of Durif, you need richly flavoured food. Red meat braises like oxtail or ribs are an excellent match. It works well with game meat like kangaroo or venison. Try it with baked beetroot dishes or mushroom and it suits any dish with black olives.