As I drove into my supplier First Glass in Takapuna the signs promoting Petite Verdot had me considering the varietal as rare and maybe worthy of this challenge. However I once fell in love with an Aussie Petite Verdot called McGuigan. That gold medal winner and I spent an entire winter together so I feel I know it a bit too well to call it rare.
I came home with the lonely bottle of durif lurking on a shelf all by itself between cabernet and merlot - a Morris Durif 2000 from the Rutherglen region of Australia. Within Australia durif is also grown in the Riverina area .....and Vale wines on the Mornington Peninsula have experimented with a cool climate durif. They have produced a more elegant style of red wine with less ripe fruit, less tannins and high spice flavours, not dissimalar to a cool climate shiraz.
In California there has been some confusion over what is durif and what is petite syrah. Google both names and you will finds many sites devoted to the confusion. For the best explanation read the report written by Dennis Fife of Fife Vineyards.
Durif was developed inthe late 1800's by a Dr Durif when he crossed a syrah with a peloursin . In Australia the CSIRO has used DNA fingerprinting to prove the clones imported into Australia are definitely durif.
Because Dr Durif was from the Rhone region I thought I might search Anne Willan's French Regional Cooking book for a matching meal. As nothing from the Rhone section appealed to me I decided to make a casserole using beef, onions, garlic, eggplant, zucchini, tomato and red pepper - a sort of beef with ratatouille.
Although the durif would be served with dinner I opened the wine around lunch time to try it. There were some left overs from my Paper Chef #4 entry and I wondered how the durif would go as a match. Pretty darn good actually.
I was disappointed with the lack of fruit aromas when first poured. However the wine had some really nice vanilla oak smells . When I sniffed the empty glass a little later I could smell coffee, chocolate and some blackcurrant. It has reasonable legs, and as expected the colour was an intense purple. Soft tannins (it was a 2000 vintage) made it very drinkable but the tarish aftertaste was not pleasant.
Staying with the French theme maybe some Serge Gainsbourg would be a suitable match for this wine.
This durif has sparked my interest and I will search out others. I'd be interested in trying a de Bortoli from the Riverina region. My thanks to this month's host Spittoon - go to his site to check out the other entries.