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Petit Verdot

by David on July 1, 2009

Synonyms: Carmelin, Petit Verdot Noir, Verdot

Petit Verdot isn’t the first variety on everyone’s lips, probably because it’s hardly ever the star of the show. Traditionally, it’s a blending variety that’s used to ramp up the color, spice, unctuousness and longevity of a Bordeaux-style blend.

Conventional wisdom is that the qualities that make it a small, but valuable, player in the blend render it unsuitable for varietal wine – it’s viewed as a bull in the proverbial china shop, lacking in finesse.

As we know, conventional wisdom doesn’t always hold true and while Geoff Gorsuch, our Winemaker, has called it a “blending Goddess”, he’s found that the small amount of it on our estate is much too delicious to be merely a voice in the chorus. The wine produced by our three rows of Petit Verdot demands to be featured as a soloist. A few winemakers around the globe have had similar experiences and, increasingly, varietal Petit Verdot is finding its place on the shelf.

It’s thought to be native to western Bordeaux, and was probably a presence long before Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s been on the decline there, primarily, because it ripens even later than Cabernet and is a risky variety for a cool climate. However, many of the best chateaux find it worth taking the risk. For Bordeaux producers, a little goes a long way and it’s, typically, less that 10% of the total blend.

Here in the sunny Napa Valley, there’s no difficulty achieving ripeness, most years, and the acreage has been on the increase. It’s slowly gaining a foothold in Australia, too. From a warm-climate grower’s perspective, the tendency to ripen late is offset by its tough-skinned rot resistance when it starts to rain.

Hardy but not prolific, the vines produce small, thick-skinned berries with tremendous pigment, very healthy tannins and good acidity all of which add to the wine’s age-ability.

Petit Verdot wine is typically very deeply colored and concentrated with abundant black fruit, a hint of violet, and almost Syrah-like spiciness. When fully ripe, it helps to bring up the alcohol which is beneficial to cool-climate producers.

When you enjoy Petit Verdot as a varietal, if it’s young, it’s smart to decant it for an hour or two before serving and pair it with a substantial entrée to complement those rich, concentrated flavors. It works beautifully with slow-cooked dishes, such as short ribs, and is always a good partner for a nice piece of steak. When you think cheese, think flavorful dry, aged ones, such as aged Asiago or a good piece of cheddar. Cheers!

Flavor profile: Black fruit, black berry, pepper, spice
Weight: Full bodied, tannic

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