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The Petit Verdot Grape


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About Petit Verdot

(Synonyms: Bouton, Carmelin, Heran, Lambrusquet Noir, Petit Verdau, Petit Verdot Noir, Verdot, Verdot Rouge.)

Background

Map showing Bordeaux

Petit Verdot is a red-wine grape originating in the Bordeaux region of France (but see the "Factoid" below). Though traditionally used almost exclusively in small amounts in the traditional Bordeaux blends, it has acquired a second life in the New World, and is now often considered one of the dozen and a half or so of world-class red-wine grapes (those in boldface in the varietals lists up the the page). Its popularity with winemakers in its native region had declined severely owing to the vineyard difficulties it presents in that climate; but, in the much more beneficent climates of the New World, it is almost a diferent grape, coming to a late-season maturity that allows it to express itself in impressive monovarietal wines.

Varietal Petit Verdot is distinguished by a deep violet color (one U.S. Winery calls its PV "Inkblot"), high tannin levels and acidity, and a strong, rich flavor. That flavor is variously described as involving notes of dark fruit, cedar, tar, and spices (typical of Bordeaux varieties), as well as less typical overtones, such as (especially when young) banana and vanilla. It is often compared with Syrah for the sorts of wines it makes.

To be a success, a monovarietal bottling requires not only good grapes, but some care in the vinification: the high tannins typically want to be tamed a bit with some oak aging, but if such oaking is overdone, it can easily obscure the fruit and other inherent flavorings of the wines (a problem with oaking not limited to PV wines, but especially problematic here). But, to repeat, grapes grown in warm, long-season climates present distinctly fewer such problems, allowing substantially less oaking and decidedly more exciting wines.

Factoid: There is much speculation that PV was brought north to Bordeaux from an original warmer Mediterranean home by the Romans; that makes sense, as it seems unlikely that the grape developed in a climate so ill-suited to its growth as Bordeaux.


Some Descriptions of Petit Verdot Wines


Some Petit Verdots to Try

(About this list.)

Regrettably, the superb Escafeld PV is no longer made, but here are some well-respected specimens of Petit Verdot. The grape is now mainly Argentine, but we include samples from the U.S.A. and France as well. We found that while there are quite a few Petit Verdot wines with nice reviews, very few of them are both within our price limit of $20 and reasonably widely distributed. That means that if you see a varietal Petit Verdot at your favorite wine merchant, don't hesitate to give it a go; but the ones listed here all have at least modest availability.

Because Petit Verdot is still under-appreciated—at least in the U.S.—in many cases there was something of a paucity of reviews for some of these wines. But here they are anyway.

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.
Luzón Petit Verdot
(Jumilla, Spain.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Inky ruby. Blackberry, blueberry, licorice and cracked pepper on the nose. Juicy, gently sweet and focused, offering good depth to its dark berry and bitter cherry flavors, with a hint of licorice coming up with air. Chewy and structured but not at all hard. The cherry notes repeats on the finish, which is firmed by dusty, slow-building tannins. 89 points. [International Wine Cellar, September/October 2014]

Dense, dark, almost black colour. Violets, plums, black fruits and currants. Plush, rich and glossy.

The young unoaked 2013 Petit Verdot has been produced again after almost six years since last released. It has a combination of black olives, coffee and cherries. The palate shows some bitterness and polished, fine tannins that would feel softer with proverbial lamb chops. 86 points. [Wine Advocate, February 2015]



Finca La Luz "Callejon del Crimen" Gran Reserva Petit Verdot
(Uco Valley, Argentina.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

This wine has an incredible deep color and concentration with a plush, velvety body. Good development in the nose gives aromas of cedar, graphite and banana and in the mouth you get ripe black fruit with nice oak characteristics like toast and cigar box. Finca La Luz has been making excellent Petit Verdot since forever, and I wonder if this could not become the 3rd “new” varietal to come out of Argentina.

Rich black fruits, with hints of tobacco and dried fruits. Dry and intense, a wine that would be best with food.

The 2008 Callejon del Crimen Petit Verdot Gran Reserva is the most dense and full-bodied of these wines. Powerful, structured, and packed with savory black fruits, it will require extended cellaring to reveal its full potential. It seems to have all the right stuff, so for those who think bigger is better, this is the wine for you. 93 points. [Wine Advocate, December 2011]

[L]ike the man says, there’s nothing “Petit” about it. This rocket fuel wine, not for the faint of heart and perfect for those Summer drinkers looking for something that can stand up to barbecue sauce. Petit Verdot, typically a blending grape in Bordeaux, takes the bigger is better game to a whole other level in this massive, crowd pleasing wine.

[A]ll kinds of cherry is unpacked in the mouth; pretty and pleasant. (*** 1⁄2+)

Finca La Luz Callejón del Crimen Reserva 2012 was awarded a Double Gold Medal at the CWSA [China Wine & Spirits Awards] 2013.

Sight: Dark cherry colour. Nose: Aromas of candied fruit and mineral. Tear wide. Mouth: Very tasty palate. Intense tannins.



Ruca Malén Reserva Petit Verdot
(Mendoza, Argentina.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

[T]heir Petit Verdot has always been memorable. .  [It] is certainly a nice wine with rich flavors. Dark ruby in color with notes of red fruits, plum and blackberry with hints of caramel and pencil shavings. In the mouth, a nice fruit and oak balance is struck. This wine has a bit of grip to it, with a medium finish. This is a nice example of an Argentine Petit Verdot.

Vibrant and vivid mouthful of dark and ripe berry, plum, cherry and pomegranate flavours with hints of earthiness, finishing with fresh liquorice and mineral and rich, full tannins. Rated: Very Good.

Mendoza, Argentina is one region that has great potential. Ruca Malen, a modern enterprise founded by French partners in the Uco Valley is one winery taking a serious shot. The 2010 Ruca Malen Reserva Petit Verdot is a huge wine, thick and drenched with flavour, yet still unmistakeably sinewy on the finish. Stick some in the cellar.

Lots of violets and inky lead on the nose. A big, well judged wine showing lovely juicy tannins, black cherry, clove and chocolate flavours.

Interesting Petit Verdot from Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza at a great value. Nice fruit mostly black cherry and berry with chocolate and cacao notes. Mostly initial and middle palate with short finish. Somehow boring in terms of complexity but attractive. I´d say 86 points. Hardly good value.

Unfortunately, this one was not as good as we expected. It showed just a hint of tobacco and mature fruit aromas on the nose and it was hard on the mouth, with astringent tannins and a salty aftertaste.

This was a bit lighter with riper tannins than most renditions that I have had with aromas and flavors of red fruit, caramel and pepper with a long spicy finish.

[It] was black and concentrated with hints of herbs and black currents and was nicely balanced.

From a low-yielding single vineyard, this is a superior petit verdot that shows ripe, complex flavours with structure and consistency. The balance is well done, and there’s a frame of firm tannins enabling you to enjoy this over the next five or six years. ****



For a Song Petit Verdot
(Columbia Valley, U.S.A.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Brooding aromas of dates, herbs and cherry lead to full-bodied coffee and pit-fruit flavors that show a sense of balance and finesse. 89 points, a Best Buy

Dark cherry notes are prominent on the nose, joined by notes of blueberries, coffee bean and a dash of black raspberries. Silky, structured tannins support intense blueberry, milk chocolate, coffee bean and tobacco notes. Licorice sneaks in on the mid-palate into the finish with milk chocolate notes lingering. Tobacco and coffee bean notes lie underneath front to finish with balanced acidity. This is a lot of wine for the money and will age nicely over the next 3-5 years. (B/B+)

The…2012 is a bold and irresistible red wine. Powerful aromas of sweet tobacco, soy, blackberry, and rosemary pour from the glass. Texturally firm in the mouth, a luscious streak of WA ripeness is balanced by fresh acidity that highlights seductive black fruit. 89 points.

Aromas of coffee bean, currants and baked earth with hits of violets and blueberries. Smooth and polished notes of blueberries, currants and coffee bean on the palate. Nice flow across the palate with notes of tobacco and white pepper joining up on the mid-palate. The finish is medium to long with violet notes lingering on the back-end. This is a great price for a quality Petit Verdot. (B+/A-)



Chaman Petit Verdot
(Mendoza, Argentina. Cut with some Malbec, perhaps 15%.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

♣ Possibly because PV is not a well-known variety in the U.S.—but for some reason—there are very few reviews of this wine, even though it seems generally liked by critics. (They just don't say so in remarkls extensive enough to quote.)

Raspberry and plum aromas are earthy, intriguing and suggest fresh cement. This PV feels a bit clampy and syrupy in weight. Flavors of herbal berry, plum, toast and pepper finish with manageable tannins. Overall this is uncomplicated and quite good for something that's off the grid. 89 points.



For a Splurge

A good choice would be the Marqués de Griñón Petit Verdot Dominio de Valdepusa.

• That wine at 1000 Corks
• That wine at Wine Searcher
• Its Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.
• Its CellarTracker pages.

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