Acidity: Medium to high
Age: Best within two to five years of the vintage, but the finest wines can improve for ten years or more.
Other: Varietal examples are generally high in alcohol.
Petit Verdot (puh-TEE vehr-DOH) is a grape whose origins are uncertain, although it is believed to be native to Bordeaux in southwest France where it has long been one of the six classic grape varieties permitted in the region’s famous red wine blends (the others being Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Carmenère). It is a very late ripening grape and requires a hot climate with a long growing season. For this reason, in its Bordeaux home it is only grown on the left bank (Medoc and Graves) where the gravel soils retain heat far better than the cooler and damper soils of the right bank.
Even so, Petit Verdot will not achieve full ripeness every year in Bordeaux making it a risky proposition for the grower. Yet this risk is worth taking because the powerful characteristics of Petit Verdot are highly valued in blending (the art of the Bordeaux winemaker) and can have a significant impact even when making up less than 5% of the blend, as it generally does in the Médoc and Graves. The contributions it is prized for in blends are color, aroma, tannic structure and spice.
After many decades of decline in Bordeaux plantings have begun to increase again, but it is in the New World that Petit Verdot has started to come into its own. In warmer climates it can fully ripen and has proven its ability to retain acidity even in hotter conditions. This has enabled Petit Verdot to reveal its full potential not only as a major blending partner but also as a very interesting varietal wine with a distinct profile.
These varietal wines are dense and powerful with aromas of violets, dark fruits, black pepper and vanilla, followed by flavors of blackberry, cherry, plum, cassis and dark chocolate, as well as strong spicy notes. As they age, they develop additional smoky aromas with hints of clove, licorice and tobacco. Australia is currently the largest producer of these varietal wines, followed by California, with many vineyards still at the experimental stage. Interesting blended wines are also appearing which indicate that Petit Verdot can be a very successful partner with varieties such as Malbec and Merlot, as well as Cabernet Sauvignon.
Most of these wines are best within two to five years of the vintage, but the finest can improve for ten years or more. It is generally a good idea to decant these wines an hour or two before serving to allow them to open up and reveal their full flavor profile.
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