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The Petit Manseng Grape

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About Petit Manseng

(Synonyms: Escriberou, Ichiriota Zuria Tipia, Mansein, Mansein Blanc, Manseing, Mansenc Blanc, Mansenc Grisroux, Manseng Blanc, Manseng Petit Blanc, Mansengou, Mansic, Mansin, Mausec, Mausenc Blanc, Miot, Petit Mansenc, Petit Manseng Blanc)

Background

Petit Manseng grapes Map showing the Jurancon area

Petit Manseng is a white-wine grape originating in southwest France; while it populates that entire region now, it is thought to have begun in Jurançon. It is generally considered one of the dozen and a half or so of world-class red-wine grapes (those in boldface in the varietals list to the left of the page), but almost entirely because of its role in the classic dessert-wine blends of the region. It is only rarely bottled as a monovarietal, or even dominating ingredient of a blend, except as sweet wine.

Petit Manseng grapes are naturally very high in sugar. If they are grown to anything like ripeness (as they must be for the wanted flavor), they simply cannot be vinified "dry", else their alcohol content would reach the 16% to 17% range. Thus, vinification is stopped when the alcohol is at an acceptable level, leaving substantial residual sugars and a wine that can only be a dessert wine (or a component of one), though it does have quite high acid levels (which help to partially neutralize the sensation of sweetness).

Petit Manseng is typically associated in such sweet wines with a few other regional-specialty grapes, notably the supposedly less "refined" Gros Manseng, Petit Courbo, and (in Pacherenc du Vic Bihl but not in Jurançon) Arrufiac. There are now plantings in the U.S. and Australia, whose winemakers are doubtless noticing the worldwide trend toward even more sweet wines, at least in mass consumption. At least some U.S. winemakers (the grape is especially popular in Virginia) now produce monovarietal bottlings, and some claim that the acid content leaves a sensory impression of less sweetness than their sugar content implies. (The relatively new "Jurançon sec" wines are typically mostly or entirely Gros Manseng.)

The flavor of Petit Manseng is typically described in the terms usual in wine writing for rich whites. Alphabetically: apricot, baked apples, baked pear, beeswax, brown sugar, cinnamon, citrus peel, green apple, honey, honeysuckle flower, lemon curd, lemon marmalade, melon, mint leaves, orange marmalade, pineapple, popcorn [sic], ripe grapefruit, roasted almonds, ruby grapefruit, walnuts, white peach, and last but not least the inevitable "touch of stony minerality". We reckon you get the idea. (Wouldn't you like to be a wine writer when you grow up? And learn the difference between just plain grapefruit in wine flavors and ruby grapefruit?) All of which can be summed in Isaac James Baker's terse but sufficient "zippy acid and gobs of tropical fruit".

Factoid: Petit Manseng is noted as the only wine used to baptize a king of France: Henry IV, the founder of the Bourbon dynasty, in his native Navarre.


Some Descriptions of Petit Manseng Wines

  • Raffaldini Vineyards

    "Petit Manseng has the potential to produce intensely flavored wines with high acidity, apricot and quince fruit along with spicy and floral notes. The time of harvest will play a large role in the type of wine that the grape will produce. When it is picked at a potential alcohol level of 11.5-12%, the resulting wine will have more delicate characteristics of fresh fruit and flowers. If picked later at a potential alcohol content of 12.5-13.5%, the flavors will be much more intense and powerful."

  • Snooth

    "The vine originates in the Jurancon region of southwestern France, where it is highly regarded. Wines made from this variety in the Jurancon are typically of exceptionally high quality and can be very aromatic. Aromas of the wines are suggestive of cinnamon, peaches and pineapple."

  • Viticulture Notes, Virginia Cooperative Extension

    "Wines made from Petit Manseng were very aromatic and were of very high quality. Petit Manseng wines fit a particular niche market, I believe. Finished with some residual sugar, they make excellent dessert wines. Dry Petit Mansengs are sort of like dry Rieslings or dry Gewurztraminers - if you aren't certain where to serve the latter two, you might have the same dilemma with a dry Petit Manseng."

  • Wine Trail Traveller

    "It is very versatile. It offers a wonderful aroma of floral, citrus and tropical fruit. The taste will often suggest apricot and grapefruit, however when harvested late and made into a dessert wine there are honey notes. The acids are usually high enough to provide a crisp finish."

  • Reading, Writing & Wine

    "Petit manseng's small berries and thick skins translate into bold tropical and floral aromas. On the palate, the wines frequently show zippy acid and gobs of tropical fruit."


Some Petit Mansengs to Try

(About this list.)

There are very, very few actually dry (not "almost seems dry") monovarietal Petit Mansengs avaialble, but their number is starting to increase. Curiously, one reputable specimen of a dry Petit Manseng comes from, of all places, Italy.

If you want to sample some Manseng blends (Petit with Gros), we list a couple, but reckon it would be hard for even an experienced hand at Gros Manseng to pick the contributions apart, especially in vintages where the Gros Manseng dominates. And even such blends are hard to find in the U.S. for under $20.

(There are several monovarietal Petit Manseng bottlings at under $20 from Virginia wineries, but so far as we can determine, they are all sweet wines, with which we do not deal here; but some dry bottlings may now be appearing, and we will be tracking those.)

The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
  • Casale del Giglio Petit Manseng, $19 - $25.
    (100% Petit Manseng; Lazio, Italy.)

    Some quotations and facts:

    Who would have thought it? Here's a really satisfying dry white made from an indigenous Basque variety grown just north of Rome…To produce [this wine] the Petit Manseng berries with their thick skins are kept on the vine until well after most other grapes have been picked and, as in Jurançon vineyards, are encouraged to shrivel. Petit Manseng…keeps its acidity particularly well so this wine is much nervier than one would expect for the latitude. The grapes are given a bit of skin contact before spontaneous fermentations and the wine aged for a few months on the lees before bottling. It is still delightfully fresh and really offers some substance to chew on. I mean flavour – somehow attractively reminiscent of furniture polish – rather than astringency.

    [Google-translated from Italian] Initially fruity aromas of yellow apple and then tropical papaya and similar to those of the aromatic Traminer, but then surprisingly turns with a final note of hay that reminds me of some greek tuff [sic]. Magic Petit Manseng grape variety can express a good level of acidity even at very ripe grapes. A full taste, what can be said of Petit Manseng Lazio IGT Casale del Giglio is that even in this case has a double face, warm and strong at the beginning…fresh on the finish that still maintains a good flavor.

    [Google-translated from Italian] Golden color, nose reminiscent of the sweet tones mate achievements: yellow apple, pineapple and papaya in the first impact, then hazelnut cream, floral qualities and yellow tones cereal. And 'giallissimo in the mouth, of good structure and well integrated alcohol. It does malolactic (otherwise svaccherebbe) and drink, not very long, gains. It reminds me of some Falanghine flegrei but with less momentum acid. But 'I'm Petit Manseng, we need or do not need it?

    Intense ripe fruits with aromas of lychee, peach and sweet pineapple. The palate has a wonderful freshness with hints of earl grey and a soft finish.

    [Google-translated from Italian] The wine is made in black with short cold maceration (7-8 ° C) for 10-12 hours. The pressing is very slow and soft, so as to respect the fruit. 10-12 hours. Start spontaneous fermentation (to enhance the varietal characteristics and aromatic) with yeasts on the second day of fermentation. After 10 days, at the end of fermentation, the wine is poured and cooled to avoid malolactic fermentation. It is bottled after a long stay on the lees, in March and April. Tasting: It has a bright straw yellow, intensely fragrant, spicy and aromatic. It is fresh, fruity and well structured.

    [Google-translated from Italian] Yellow STRAW bright, very intense aroma, Aromatic and spicy; taste fresh, very mineral, fruity, well-structured.

    This wine is 100% Petit Manseng that was de-stemmed with fermentation started by indigenous yeasts followed by added yeasts 24 hours later. It was aged for several months on the lees. This is a pale straw color. The nose is a touch floral. In the mouth there are rich white fruits with a creamy mouthfeel. The fruit starts off a bit ripe mixed with dusty stone flavors before the wine firms up. There is a persistent almond-like flavor in the aftertaste which is supported by acidity.


  • Chateau Jolys Jurançon Sec, $14 - $16.
    (Blend of Petit Manseng &, Gros Manseng, proportions vary immensely by vintage.)

    Some quotations and facts:

    [Google-translated from French:] The colour is medium-full yellow and the bouquet evokes citrus blossom, honeysuckle and many other appealing fragrances. The palate is delicate, seamless and gently fruity, with a trace of sweetness early, then a clean, dry finish, with balanced acidity. It's a lovely wine but drink it soon because the synthetic stopper is not designed for cellaring. 13 per cent alcohol.

    A golden brown with flavors of white wine honey, quince and ripe peach. Mineral, fat, dry and quite long. Flavors of very ripe apple.

    ♣ Decanter (2013), Gold Medal, Best in Show (White Blend Under £15)

    Fantastically fruity with a rich concentration of limes, satsumas, apples and grapefruit supported by fresh acidity. Apple tart and peach aromas, and a finish of river-washed pebbles and flint. Superb.

    [Google-translated from French:] Explosively aromatic with floral and fruity notes: honeysuckle, jasmine, grapefruit, citrus.

    This wine is a winner. . . The 2010 vintage of Chateau Joly's Jurançon Sec is a very attractive wine indeed - almost like a better version of a sauvignon blanc. Bright and a pale intensity gold in colour, it opens to a pronounced intensity aroma of grass, gooseberries, lemons, jasmine, with just a slight touch of exotic paw paw fruit. The palate is held together well by its firm acidity, it is dry, with medium body, warming alcohol and pronounced intensity flavours that are similar to its aroma, though more firmly seasoned with spices. The length is between medium and long. At [AUD]$18.99 a bottle for this good level of quality, this wine deserves to fly off the shelves. 89 points (very good)

    On the bouquet were aromas of lemon, melons, almonds, yellow flowers, grapefruit and mineral. The palate was well balanced with good acidity and minerals, citrus fruits leading to a dry, tangy salty finish. Quite a interesting wine and works well just as an aperitif. 50+4+13+17+7 = 91/100

    Fans of sauvignon blanc looking for something new to try will love this well-priced French drop. Like the ubiquitous Kiwi white, the Chateau Jolys Jurancon Sec ($17.99) is dangerously easy to drink—crisp and dry, but not overly so,with a more elegant fruity flavour than explode-in-your-mouth sauv-blancs.

    Fairly deep, burnished coppery golden color. Piercing nose of apricot and grapefruit nectar, toasted almonds, herbs, and roasted corn. In the mouth the wine is well-structured with a round, chewy core and flavors of crystallized ginger, apple and lemon curd. The wine finishes long with delicate tea notes and pale Scotch whiskey flavors. Pretty exotic stuff.

    Emphasizing the herbaceous nature of Gros Manseng, this is a ripe, full and fruity wine. The flavors of fresh citrus combine with herbs and broad beans to give a wine with some weight, although with taut final acidity. 88 points


  • Lapuyade Jurancon Sec, $14.
    (Blend of Petit Manseng &, Gros Manseng, proportions vary immensely by vintage.)

    Some quotations and facts:

    Sorry, no meaningful reviews found; but it's out there if you want to try it.


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