Grape of the Week: Petit Verdot

Pressing

Petit who? Yeah, this one doesn’t get to be the star of the show very often. Many winemakers feel that Petit Verdot is kind of a bull in a china shop as a varietal wine. But when the winemaker wants to pump up the volume of a Bordeaux blend (Meritage wine), single digit quantities of PV can work its magic. A winemaker friend refers to PV as a “blending goddess” in that regard.

We’ve been focusing on Bordeaux varieties to kick off the grape of the week theme, and this’ll be the last of the reds, even though there are a few very obscure varieties that are included in the group.

Roots
Historians believe that it was recognized in Bordeaux before Cabernet Sauvignon, which means its been around since at least the late 1700s, and it has played its part as a minor component in the blend since then. As it gains popularity in the new world, less and less of it is grown in Bordeaux because it’s a late ripener, which is a tricky business in a cool climate. The best houses continue to take the risk because they like the way it ramps up the pigment, alcohol and adds volume to the mouthfeel. It can also boost longevity.

What to expect
If you like a lot of intensity and tannin in your red wine, do a search and you’ll find varietal Petit Verdot made here in Napa Valley and some other –  mostly new-world – wine regions.

It’s been compared to Syrah (we’ll get to it soon) in terms of appearance, structure and spiciness and has very thick skins. So, it’s nearly black in color, often opaque and strongly aromatic. Expect a mouthful, showing intense black fruit – black berry, black cherry, black currant – plenty of pepper and spice, sometimes earthy (cooler climates), sometimes leathery (more so with age). It’s tannic big-boy!

New-world versions will show noticeable oak, so add vanilla, toast, smoke and layer on baking spices.

Good eats
Like Malbec, it does well with big, rustic flavors so fire up the barbeque and bring on the red meat. Slow cooked dishes work well – really any meat dish with a lot of flavor. PV prefers dry, aged cheeses. Cheers!

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