Hard as nails but will not get you hammered

Ridge Lytton Estate Petite Sirah 2018 was purchased entirely on a whim; I got two bottles of 2019 for ageing too. I know it to be a tannic varietal that is used as a good ‘stiffener’ for Zinfandel. I imagine it is going to be somewhat tannic by itself.

Lytton Estate Petite Sirah 2018, RidgeLytton Estate Petite Sirah 2018, Ridge

I thought I would give this a little taste well in advance of it being required for dinner, just in case!

Jesus Shit! This is more tannic than a leather factory! It is truly frightening in its hardness and so generally tough it makes me want to throw it at the bastard who has parked in our space, just to irreparably knacker their car.

I get the impression that there is some quite delicious fruit in the Lytton Estate Petite Sirah, but it is so bound up in the tannin and the hardness of youth that discerning it requires more than a little imagination.

This is being double-decanted for three-and-one-half hours before it is required for dinner, and I am still worried our gums will be black for the rest of eternity.

One-and-one-half hours later I double decanted it again.

Dinner is arriving and so I will have some wine. It is very dark, but that tells us bugger all about the wine’s flavour profile.

The Lytton Estate Petite Sirah has a wonderful nose, I am slightly surprised to report. Mulberry and slightly bitter cherry fruit. The fruit is quite Italianate in character.

Despite the Italian similarity is not in the slightest bit too alcoholic. The Lytton Estate Petite Sirah claims to be 13.5% and that seems spot on to me. Good.

I also get the feeling that there has been little messing around with new oak on the Lytton Estate Petite Sirah. There is a mild suggestion of sweet vanilla, but it is understated and lets the fruit and vineyard do the talking.

Adding to my Italian impression of the Lytton Estate Petite Sirah is a rich and polished earthy character. If I were given this blind I would not have a smart arse answer straight off the bat, but once I got around to making a guess, which would be a civilised and quite smart Brunello di Montalcino, I would feel pretty pleased with my guess.

The palate would only add to my irritating smugness. Yes, the Lytton Estate Petite Sirah is still very tannic, but not as uncompromisingly brutal as when I opened it nearly four hours ago. Those tough tannins could be Italian, could they not?

There is also a rich earthiness to this palate. You have to go looking for it a little as all the time you chew this Lytton Estate Petite Sirah around your mouth you cannot get the words, “Hell’s bells this is tannic!”, out of your mind.

The fruit is bitter cherry in character and the Lytton Estate Petite Sirah has generally shows a pleasingly bitter edge to its palate. It is clearly extremely young, with two or three decades ahead of it, but enthusiastic decanting has allowed a chink in its tannic armour to look through and see an entity of a distinctly attractive character.

There has been some criticism recently that Ridge are starting to make wines that are more accessible at a younger age than the wines were under Paul Draper, with the aim that they can chase points and appeal to younger palates. Not with this wine! Lytton Estate Petite Sirah will appeal to younger palates by the time they have grown into distinctly middle-aged palates!

Ridge fans should not find it as hard as this wine to recognise its tough, uncompromising character from the York Creek example of Petite Sirah. You will have to be softer than this wine is on European-trained palates if they make my mistake and guess this as something tough that is closer to home.

The Lytton Estate Petite Sirah is undoubtedly very good, even if it leans toward fascist-aesthetics with its suggestions of leather boots, black trench coats and stamping on people’s necks. It does, perhaps, lack slightly on the deliciousness scale. One thing is certain, you have just got to be enormously patient for it to reach maturity.

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